Tom & Catherine
One of the most important things a Christian couple can do is to stay sexually pure for each other, for themselves, and for God. However, there isn’t a lot of practical information out there on what can be done to make sure you don’t go too far. Temptation can be really strong, because, after all, the person you’re engaged to is the person you plan to have sex with for the rest of your lives. Most engaged couples spend a lot of time kissing and holding on to each other, and so it would be easy to move just a few steps farther and get into trouble. It’s often difficult to keep your thoughts and actions pure, but there is hope. Here are a few things I’ve discovered in the 10 months I’ve been engaged, and the time I spent dating before that.
1) Keep your focus on God. It is God who gave you your fiancé(e), and God who commanded you keep yourselves pure. It is also God who should be first and foremost in your life. There are a few ways to do this:
-Start a Bible study together. Not only will this help you remember to stay sexually pure, but it will help you build your relationships with God and with each other.
-Pray together. You can do this any time you eat together, or at the start of a Bible study, or at any time you feel it’s appropriate. It helps to do this regularly. You can pray silently or out loud or any combination of the two, as long as you get into the habit of standing together before God. Make sure to pray specifically for your fiancé(e), that (s)he would be able to stay pure, both in mind and in body.
-Attend church together. If you come from different backgrounds, this will help ease the transition and make it easier to decide which church to attend after you’re married. Spending time worshipping God together is one of the best things you can do with your time. And, it gives you extra motivation to remain pure.
2) Always be prepared to stop. If you start to feel like maybe you can’t control yourself, or if you see signs your significant other is having trouble, stop. Pull back from whatever kissing or other activity you’re doing, and clearly state that you think you need to stop before you go too far. Be ready to do this yourself, and be ready to back off if your fiancé(e) asks you to. I generally recommend that if you have to stop, move a little ways apart, and don’t do anything more than holding hands until you’ve had a chance to cool off a little bit and talk to each other about what was getting you into trouble, and maybe set a rule to keep it from happening again (which brings us to…)
3) Lay down ground rules. Don’t be afraid to modify them if you find they’re inadequate, but be very careful modifying them if they seem too restrictive. When you make changes to your rules, it’s good to make additions when you realize they’re needed, but it’s not good to remove any rules until you’ve had the chance to think through the consequences, talk it out, and sleep on it. Here are the rules my fiancee and I use:
-on her: anything covered by a modest bathing suit or a modest pair of shorts is off limits. Back and shoulder massages are OK, but kissing should be limited to the neck and above.
-on him: anything covered by a modest pair of shorts is off limits. Kissing should be limited to the neck and above. She should be able to rest her head or hands on your chest, but because the male chest is quite sensitive to caresses, she should be very careful.
-for both: if you find you’re getting really aroused from some activity, place limits on it. If you feel uncomfortable with the way you’re being touched, gently move their hand away and ask that they be more careful (if a problem persists, break off the encounter entirely.) Don’t be shy asking if your fiancé(e) feels comfortable, and if you can’t figure out where to rest your hand, don’t be shy asking for help placing it somewhere safe (my arm happens to be the right length that, when she leans against me a certain way, no matter how I bend my elbow I’d end up resting my hand somewhere I shouldn’t. Usually she’s able to shift her position just a little and guide my hand somewhere safe.)
Finally, *DON’T* try to push your limits. I hate to use the old cliche, but it really is playing with fire.
4) Limit your own privacy. I know it’s great to spend time together in private, but make sure there are people nearby. I always like to know her parents are in the next room and could walk past at any moment, since it adds extra motivation for being careful. If you’re going to have the house to yourselves for a while, get out of the house. Spend time in the park, or at a restaurant, or in the McDonald’s playplace if you can get away with it. If you’re going to be in a bedroom for *anything*, leave the door wide open, and scatter some papers or books across the bed so they’d get in the way of inappropriate activities. Make sure your private time is never so private that you feel you don’t have to be careful.
5) Plan activities together. If you don’t have any plans, you’re likely to spend the vast majority of your time kissing and caressing each other. Too much time doing this will leave you in an extremely aroused state, and so you place yourselves at risk of going too far. Instead of spending all of your time like this, do other things together. A few suggestions: Go for a walk in the park, watch a movie (make sure it’s appropriate), look for constellations, play some mini-golf, do a puzzle, play Monopoly, have a nerf/water fight (no white T-shirts), help either set of parents around the house (they’ll appreciate it), go to a concert, help each other with schoolwork or job-related tasks, or just talk. There are so many ways you can spend your time together while showing each other how deep your love is, and most of these ways don’t involve kissing.
6) Stay awake and alert. You tend to do stupider stuff when you’re tired or otherwise out of it. Don’t drink, do drugs, or take any medications that you know will compromise your ability to think clearly. If one of you has to drive home after you finish your time together, that usually helps, because it means you’ll plan to be awake enough to do so. If you start to feel tired and it’s late, go to sleep. If you start to feel tired in the middle of the day, go take a nap. Men, if she needs a nap, let her fall asleep in your arms while you sit on the couch (note: this requires a lot of trust. If she’s not comfortable with it, don’t push it.) Remember it’s your responsibility to treat her with respect whether she’s awake or asleep. Finally, for both of you, learn to recognize when your fiancé(e) is getting tired, and when that time comes, say “good night” and go back to your respective homes.
7) Keep your mind pure. Men are very visual, and so should avoid spending their time looking at scantily-clad members of the opposite sex. Women are a lot more responsive to stories, and so should keep away from romance novels. Both should avoid any situations that will make them think about sex (you know yourself, and what gets you into trouble, better than I do), and both should be willing to break a date if their thoughts are such that they think they’ll get into trouble.
Following these rules, plus any others you find appropriate, will be a good start toward maintaining purity in your relationship. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I believe it’s a good basis for any couple to begin their walk together until marriage. May God bless you in your relationship.
In the few months I’ve been engaged to my fiancé, and in the time before, we have struggled a lot with maintaining physical purity. Sometimes it’s very hard to know what is OK and what isn’t. Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is that staying pure is not something that can be passively done–you can’t say, “We just won’t do that”, and go on with life. You have to be constantly watching for temptations, actively shooting them down, setting up rules and tactics for defeating them, praying to God for help and wisdom, and above all, watching yourself.
Now, the core of the issue is a heart one. Do you want to stay pure until you’re married, and why? A desire to please God and remain pleasing for Him and a desire to respect your beloved and keep him pure as well should be the core of it–and really, I believe nothing short of that will work. The temptations that come are *really* strong ones, and you need a higher allegiance to navigate them. That is to say, I’ve never done it for any reason other than what I mentioned, but I know staying pure is a lot of constant, hard work. I think it’s like worshipping God; if you do it for any other reason than the desire of it itself, you aren’t going to do it right. (Don’t take this as discouragement–take it as encouragement to fix your eyes on the right things!) One of the suggestions I have in this respect is to read Song of Solomon, to see how God desires to have things, and to know an old and godly couple in your church. And then shoot for nothing less. 🙂
The first thing that my fiance and I did, before we were engaged, is set down ground rules, before the first time we met in person (we’d gotten to know each other on the internet). We stated what we were comfortable with, and what we weren’t. Originally, I thought this was a silly idea–surely if our hearts were right, we wouldn’t try anything inappropriate, would we? The rules turned out to be fairly common sense (and minimum decency, if you ask me!) but they have been such a blessing. In the heat of the moment, it’s possible to justify *anything* to yourself, and something concrete to hold on to will help you both. The rules have been such a blessing to us, I cannot underline this enough. Very, very little holds water at the ultimate test, other than some concrete rule.
Something else that has been a great blessing to me has been to find a heart-inclined way for deciding when something is too much. The best borderline, for me, has been this one: if what I’m doing makes me *desire* to do something I shouldn’t, it’s wrong. I want to stress that you shouldn’t rely on this, and should have some concrete definitions for this recursive case to end on. But this has been very helpful at times. My fiancé and I had never kissed in our lives when we made up the rules we did, and we didn’t know how powerful a lot of things were! Heart-rules have helped identify problems that slipped through the holes of our concrete rules.
If the first thing my fiancé and I did was define rules, the second thing we did was find out the rules weren’t sufficient! And here is another strong point to me: we changed them. As soon as we realized something should be off limits, we said, “this should be off limits”, and made it an official rule between us. I would like to emphatically encourage this as a habit and a way of living. Add rules if you find you need them, and don’t be shy about it! Furthermore, I often add private rules of my own on top of the set we already have, and I think this is a good thing too.
It takes some courage to be able to tell the other person “stop!”, but it is important to be able to do so. One thing that has been very valuable to me is, if I’m not sure where he stands in how much what I’m doing is tempting him… I ask. When I pause for a minute and ask, “is your heart right?”, it forces me to ask the same question of myself, and sometimes I find my heart *isn’t* right! I think this also makes it easier for one of us to say we should slow down. Even in the most exciting moments, be careful and speak what is on your mind, and don’t be afraid–your beloved loves you. 🙂
In the same vein, it is critical that you and your fiancé be able to talk about this sort of thing. I should say, not only that you are able to, but that you *do* talk about it! It has been a great blessing in being able to set limits, and a good way to understand how not to tempt each other. And furthermore, what a relief it has been to me to be able to tell my beloved, “We shouldn’t do this, let’s wait!”, any time I need to. Women and men really do work differently; being sensitive to how things are for the other person will help a lot in not tempting each other beyond what you can bear!
Which is the next thing I’ve learned. It is crucial to help each other do right. I truly could not stay pure without my fiancé’s help. This is true for men, it is true for women, it is true for everyone–don’t tempt each other, don’t play with stuff that you know tempts the other, don’t try stuff that you think might. That is not love–that is selfish desire. Again, contrary to popular belief, for men and for women both, (but especially, in my experience, for men) a powerful way to show real love to the other person is to faithfully restrain yourself, when you should. (As an aside, days my fiancé and I have talked about such things, and he has agreed to hold back for my sake have been days I leave skipping and dancing, and feeling not just beautiful, but like a respected princess as well! I don’t know if this goes both ways, but it drives home the point: restraint is a marvelous way to show love!)
Watch your thoughts; fill your mind with pure things, of God’s word and his ways, and *not* with worldly things. I mean this quite seriously. There is one online comic strip I enjoyed very much, for its nerdy humor, despite the crass jokes it sometimes made. But when I found the philosophies it had about love were seeping into my own life, I stopped reading it. That has been a blessing! It makes the battle easier. Don’t fill your mind with trash, because you will end up thinking it. And furthermore, don’t contemplate and continuously think of things that you know are wrong–it will only make you want them more. That last one is really hard, but I have found it is also *very* worthwhile. Stay away from wrong thoughts! I am convinced that most of this battle is won in your mind and in your heart. Guard them!
If there is anything you want so badly that you don’t want to officially outlaw it, just remember this: one day you’ll be married, and then you can have it with a clean conscience. I haven’t been married yet, but I have done things with a clean and with a dirty conscience, and I know this is so: things done in rebellion are bitter and sour, and things done in love are sweeter than the physical stuff could ever make them on its own. If you aren’t sure, about *anything*, whether or not its right… play it safe and wait. You’re not missing anything, and indeed, I believe you’re storing up greater treasure for yourself when you *are* married. 🙂
A word of warning which is an obvious one–the farther you go, the harder this becomes. I have heard of couples that did not kiss until they were married, and I have known one that barely touched until the same–this seems to me to be a good and wise way to go! While I have not done it, I’ve heard them speak of the blessing that’s come from it, and I know it would certainly make life easier in terms of avoiding temptation. All of that is to say, choose carefully what you do. My advice (which I do not always follow, of my own foolishness!) is to do the minimum, not the maximum, in hopes of making things easier for yourself and for your beloved.
There are times and situations you’ll find will set you up for trouble; don’t fight them, flee them! There are rules that won’t work, and you’ll have to set up new ones. In all of this advice, the strongest advice I have is to always be on your guard, and do what you know to be wise.
Praise the Lord and pray to Him, and set your heart on being completely pure before Him. If both of you are this way, I am fairly certain you will navigate these waters safely. :).
Copyright © 2001 Tom and Catherine Darrow
All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Image Credit: © xedos4 | freedigitalphotos.net