Today's post was written by Linda Hall who works with our Young Single Girls' Small Groups at Brook Hills.

We've all heard it many times before... "wait until you're married," "put boundaries in place to protect yourself," etc. So why another blog post on this? Well, it seems that sexual and intimate boundaries in dating can be vastly different from guy to guy and girl to girl and can sometimes even shift when in a dating relationship. A reminder every once in a while is always good for the mind, the heart, and the soul.

First off, let's make something clear. God intentionally made us all - men and women - with sexual desires and as sexual beings. But those God-given desires are to be acted on only in the context of marriage; thus, the need for boundaries in dating (and engagement) to help keep us from sin.

What should boundaries look like? According to Merriam-Webster, a boundary is "something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent." So in dating, how does one "fix a limit" when it comes to sex and intimacy? Let's take a look.

Fixing a Limit

  • Pray and think through what the limits or boundaries should be before you enter into a dating relationship. Maybe you're currently not in a relationship or maybe you've never even thought through sexual intimacy in dating. Well, don't let it slip up on you! Decide what the intimacy limits are way in advance. Holding hands or not, kissing or not, intimate conversations or not - make firm decisions now about what you will and won't do in a relationship. Then stand strong in sticking with those pre-made decisions. If you're already in a relationship where the boundaries are too loose, it's never too late to confess that and put boundaries in place now. (For more about how far is too far when it comes to relationships, check out this sermon by David Platt or Sex, Dating, and Relationships by Gerald Hiestand & Jay Adams).
  • Know yourself and your weaknesses. Don't fool yourself into thinking, "Oh, I/we can stop if the situation escalates." No! You may think you can, but why test it? Sexual temptation is real, and physical attraction is strong. Put measures into place early on in a dating relationship to ensure that situations don't escalate or put you both in a vulnerable position.
  • Value yourself and your brother in Christ. God gave us the gift of sex and intimacy within the context of marriage. Don't de-value yourself by pushing aside sexual limits in a relationship. No matter how good it may feel to cuddle or kiss, (or more), wait for God's perfect design. You don't have to look far to find women who wish that they had waited for these intimate times to be had with their husbands rather than moving forward outside of marriage. It will be worth the wait. And your brother in Christ? Value him. No one wants to be the stumbling block for another's sin. Sexual sin in dating is a huge stumbling block on many levels - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take precautions and steps to avoid stumbling yourself and to help him avoid stumbling as well.

Putting Feet To It

  • Talk about boundaries with your guy. Make a plan and put it into action. It would be even better if he initiated the conversation.
  • Will he ever be with you at your place when no one else is around or vice versa? Being alone can put you in peril really quickly, so make the decision that you won't be in any private setting alone or at least not for long.
  • Ask for accountability and prayer from trusted friends in regard to your dating relationship. Welcome hard questions from these friends, and be honest with yourself and with them in your replies.
  • Save deep conversations until the relationship is headed towards marriage, and even then choose these conversations wisely. Some things are not necessary to discuss until it matters. Intimate conversations can fuel fires that can be hard to put out. Emotional connection can be just as strong as physical attraction.
  • Physical touch can lead you down a path you never intended to go down. Be careful how close you sit, how long a hug is, where your hands are, etc. A quick peck on the cheek is one thing - a long kiss is another. Ladies, it doesn't take much to stir those deep desires. Don't test your limits - his or yours.
  • The way we girls dress can be another point of temptation for our guys. Be sure you're covered up and not too tightly! Guys are visual, and a quick glimpse of your thigh can send him down the wrong road in his thoughts and even in his physical state. Protect your brother in Christ. Whether you realize it or not, wearing short skirts, short shorts, tight tops, low-cut tops, tight pants, see-through anything can send a guy to the moon. God's Word says that if we think it, we've committed it (see Matt. 5:27-30). Don't make your brother stumble because of something you're wearing.
  • Remember that there are other people watching you in your dating relationship. Again, stumbling block comes to mind. Does your relationship in any way cause another to suspect inappropriate intimacy? Or to think that since it "looks" like you're being intimate, it should be ok for me as well? As believers, we are always on the stand. Our testimony can be verbal and visual.
  • Even when your dating relationship moves into engagement, you are still not married. And the temptations can grow even stronger. Keep these safeguards in place until the "I do's" are said.

Scripture to Consider

  • "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) How are your treating your body that is not your own?
  • "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12) You think you can go to a point and stop? Better take heed.
  • "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31-32) Somebody, somewhere is watching your dating relationship.
  • "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) A promise to you if you are obedient to God's Word with the Spirit's help. How's your walk?
  • "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:22-24) Boundaries help with self-control, not to mention passions and desires.
  • "...Walk as children of light .... and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:7, 10) Discern what God would have you do so you can be pleasing to Him. Don't hide things in darkness.
  • "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." (Hebrews 13:4) Think now about your future marriage bed. There's not a lot of room for baggage.
  • "Therefore, beloved, ... be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace." (2 Peter 3:14) Diligence, diligence, diligence.

What if I've Already Committed Sexual Sin?

Sisters, we have a loving and forgiving Heavenly Father. Just tell him about it, ask Him to forgive you with a contrite heart, and accept His loving and permanent forgiveness. Then walk on in that forgiveness with a heart that wants to please Him in all that you do, putting boundaries in place so you don't fall again.

  • "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
  • "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:11-12)

One Last Word

Sex starts way before intercourse. Foreplay is the beginning of the sexual act, and it can be anything from kissing to touching to intimate talking. So don't go there! Instead, look forward to the day when you will be free (and married) to be intimate with your guy. Marriage is a wonderful, loving gift from God. Sex is a wonderful, loving gift from God. When they are both done His way, you will not regret it, and it will be beautiful, satisfying, and pure pleasure. Just you wait and see!

For helpful article on dating, read this Q&A with Matt Chandler.