Warning: Personal experience post ahead. Will probably spark some controversy.
(Please note: This topic may be better suited to older readers, but I did my best to keep things rated G-ish.)
In light of Valentine’s Day this past weekend, I’d like to take a moment to speak on something near to my heart when I think of romance and the like. Physical contact is a topic that comes up often in Christian circles. Do dating couples have physical contact? How much contact is too much? Where should you set boundaries? And, for cat’s sake, should you save your first kiss for your wedding day or is that just incredibly old-fashioned?
Saving your first kiss for marriage was a concept I was introduced to fairly early on in life. As a homeschooled tween and teen, it seemed pretty natural, considering I really didn’t know many guys my age (and the few I did know I knew I’d never be interested in). Since I wasn’t a super romantically-inclined individual, I always figured I’d save my first kiss for marriage. Why bother with kissing someone else’s husband? The notion was absolutely disgusting.
Kissing was something that, to me, is pretty intimate. I’d seen my parents kiss, and knew by their lives that they loved each other unconditionally. I knew I wanted that kind of love in my life, if God would have that for me. I wasn’t interested in dating around, or getting intimate with a guy that wasn’t my husband, or even having a first kiss experience that was outside of marriage.
I realize many people consider that really conservative and old-fashioned. And I’m okay with that. I wanted to be able to save myself fully for my husband — and not just physically, but emotionally as well. Intimacy, even with seemingly trivial things like kissing and hand holding, sparks emotions and thoughts, and I wanted to keep all those things for my husband.
When my husband and I started dating (you can read that full story here), we talked through physical contact and set standards for our relationship. We had both entered the relationship knowing that we wanted to pursue — Lord willing — eventual marriage, but in case things didn’t work out, neither one of us wanted to walk away with regrets. Right off, we both knew we wanted to save our first kiss for our wedding day. However, he wanted to take that a step further and save our first hug for the wedding day, too. Meaning we would have absolutely no physical contact until we were married.
Here’s why. 1 Corinthians 7:1b states: “It is not good for a man to touch a woman.” The meaning of the word “touch” there is the idea of touching to light or spark a fire. Arousal. And this is what I was talking about earlier when I said I wanted to save myself emotionally for my husband. Arousal comes with a lot of emotions and thoughts, and they can be difficult at times to restrain. Once you’ve dipped into that pool, it’s very hard again to step back.
It had taken us a while to get to dating, and by that time both of us knew we wanted to be committed to each other and one day getting married. We didn’t know the future. God’s plan could be that we went all the way and got married; His plan could be that we didn’t end up together. We could only take it a day at a time, and follow where God led us. Since both of us already had feelings invested in each other, any touching would quickly spark arousal and lead to things we might regret. If God’s plan was for this man to someday marry another woman, I didn’t want to have memories of hugging and kissing him.
I’ve known too many couples who have — after beginning a relationship — hug and hold hands and kiss and snuggle, and while those things may not necessarily be wrong, after the relationship ended, the thing I’ve heard one of them say most is, “I regret doing that.” So often, couples get caught up in the emotions of the relationship, the touching and the feeling, and neglect the important things like honesty, communication, trust, and kindness. My husband and I both have a number of younger siblings, and we wanted to be able to show them that you can build a successful relationship not on a foundation of physical contact. We agreed that things like fist bumps and high fives were fine, but we wouldn’t go any farther than that.
We dated for 15 months, and then were engaged for 2 more after that. That was 17 months of no hugs, no kisses, no hand holding. I’ll admit — there were times when it wasn’t easy. I definitely had days when I was emotionally and mentally exhausted and depressed, and all I wanted was a hug from him. There were days when he would surprise me with little things, and in my joy I would have to find another way to thank him rather than giving him a hug or a kiss. But God gave strength, every time I prayed for it.
And we made it. On our wedding day, I walked down the aisle and held his hand at the altar for the very first time. I mean, my emotions were haywire at that point, and I can’t recall anything the pastor said, but it was so sweet to say that was the first time we’d actually touched.
When it came to our first kiss, right there at the altar in front of everyone, I panicked. I had no idea what I was doing, and we missed horribly. It was incredibly awkward. I was so embarrassed, and all I wanted was to bury myself in a hug and forget that everyone was still watching us. So, I hugged him. And that was our very first hug.
Now, I’m not writing this post to say this is the way everyone should do it. I realize that physical contact today is considered a very normal part of the dating life. But I cannot even begin to describe how sweet it is to save everything like that for your marriage. On our honeymoon, my husband and I spent a good ten minutes figuring out how we liked holding hands best — and it was so fun. After that awful first kiss, we took our time figuring out how to do it the right way. It was so satisfying knowing that we were both amateurs in the physical contact department, and we were figuring out everything together. And since we were married at that point, we both had the confidence of sharing those intimate things with only our spouse.
I don’t regret doing things the way we did. I’m so happy that we saved our first hug for marriage. Yes, it’s not normal, and yes, it was hard. But it was so rewarding. And we’re looking to celebrate 4 years happily married this summer, and many more anniversaries in the future.
So, let me encourage you reader — whether you’re single and still praying for that special someone to enter your life, or you’re looking forward to beginning a new relationship — consider your standards for physical contact. I don’t hold myself and my husband up as an example of a perfect relationship; we made a lot of other mistakes along the way. But we kept ourselves for each other, pure physically and emotionally. And we have no regrets.
I just want to leave with you this thought: If we could do it, it’s not as impossible as the world makes it out to be. Resolve to be pure.