Yesterday Darby Dugger shared a great post about her biggest regret: not staying pure until marriage. I’ve written at length on the blog about why we should wait until marriage for sex, and why God made sex just for marriage. But sometimes I fear that in all of our talk about saving sex for marriage we forget that the biggest sexual temptation isn’t always a physical one. Intimacy before marriage isn’t only about sex.
And so I thought today I’d share the BIG ISSUE that often causes couples to fall in the area of sexual temptation.
Here’s the scenario: a couple decides they want to wait until marriage to have sex. Yay! That’s all very good. And so they sit down and they talk a lot about boundaries. Will we kiss? If so, for how long? 10 seconds? 15 seconds? Can we kiss on the neck, too? What about hands? Where can they go? Just on the back? Nothing under clothes? Can we ever lie down together? Can we snuggle on a couch together? Etc. etc. etc.
I’ve read Christian books that talk at length about which of these boundaries you should have. As a teen, I sat through talks that laid out extremely specific boundaries that couples should adopt (right down to how many seconds you can kiss, as if we’re holding a kitchen timer or something).
We add rules upon rules to what we’re going to do physically–as if that should be our primary focus about intimacy before marriage.
And that’s where we make what can potentially be a big mistake.
When I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (an awesome book for every wife, but ESPECIALLY for those about to get married!), I divided the book into three main sections: how sex works physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. All three go into having a great sex life. And, in fact, all three are highly related to our libidos. Like I shared in the book, the times when I feel most like jumping my husband are the times when I hear him pray out loud for our girls. Hearing his heart for our children, whom I love very much, and going before God together, is seriously sexy.
We tend to think about intimacy before marriage in these terms:
Physical Intimacy = Bad
Emotional Intimacy = Good
Spiritual Intimacy = Very Good!
What are we doing here? First, we’re portraying physical intimacy as a bad thing–it’s dangerous!–which often does a real number on women once they’re married, because it’s hard to flip that switch once you are married and start to see sex as a good thing.
But we’re also turning sex into entirely a physical thing, and forgetting that it is so much more than that.
We’re actually cheapening sex.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praying together before you’re married. In fact, I think it’s a very good thing! We need to know that we can pray together and have a spiritual life together.
But here’s the thing we also have to know:
It is precisely WHEN we are praying together that we are most likely to fall sexually. It is WHEN we are spiritually and emotionally close that we are most likely to experience real sexual temptation.
And all of this applies especially to girls.
Many girls can “turn off” the sexual cues they get when they’re kissing, and can resist. We know that we’re not going to have sex before we’re married, we decide that in our heads, and we don’t let it go too far.
But when you’re praying together and feeling close, all of a sudden those sexual feelings will come on, full blast, when you didn’t really expect them. And if you, as a “good Christian girl”, have drawn up all of these physical boundaries, and have been concentrating on spiritual and emotional intimacy, you may be very surprised when all of a sudden you find yourself in a compromising situation you never dreamed of.
So what am I saying? That we shouldn’t be emotionally or spiritually close?
No, I’m not saying that. Here’s what I’m saying:
Intimacy is a wonderful thing, and intimacy in its fullness is meant to be experienced only in marriage.
It is wonderful to start to feel intimate before you’re married. But be aware that sexual temptation is often far more tied up in emotional and spiritual intimacy than it is in sexually “fooling around”. If you draw all kinds of lines that you “will not cross” physically, but fail to talk about what’s going to happen when you’re praying together or sharing deep memories or crying together and all of a sudden you feel tremendously drawn to each other, you’re likely setting yourself up for a fall.
Certainly talk about what you want to do physically, but I think a better conversation to have is this one: we are going to feel really drawn to each other the closer we get–closer in every way, not just physically. So let’s just set some boundaries like we won’t be in each other’s rooms late at night, or we’ll try not to hang out in an empty house too much, or we’ll have a friend that we text constantly for accountability.
The root of temptation is often not sexual, and if we make everything into something physical, we set ourselves up for inadvertent failure (and a whole lot of shame), and we also don’t present the full picture of who we are sexually.
Does that make sense? Let me know in the comments if this is something that you experienced when you were dating/engaged. When did you feel closest? How did you handle boundaries?