I didn’t even know them that first day they came to my office for an appointment—but they immediately gained my respect. Sam and Karen,* two young college students, were concerned because their dating relationship was going too far too fast.
Since they’d begun so intensely, I suggested that they go backwards—to start over emotionally and physically. They needed to know each other’s minds and hearts, not each other’s bodies.
Two days before Valentine’s Day, they came back with a self-written “Starting Over Plan” as well as “Dating Rules for Sam and Karen.” Here’s what they were:
Starting Over Plan:
Weeks 1 and 2 - No touching of any kind – just talking
Weeks 3 and 4 - Holding Hands
Weeks 5 and 6 - Side hugs, arm around shoulder when walking or sitting
Weeks 7 and 8 - Full body hugs
Weeks 9 and 10 - Kissing on lips only (5 minute limit!)
1. Curfew at 11:00 p.m. - Saturdays at 12:00 a.m.
2. No loitering during walks
3. No going into empty, dark rooms together
4. No visiting friends homes while the occupant is gone
5. No staying home alone with parents gone
6. When visiting each other’s homes, say goodnight before preparing for bed
7. No getting in bed with each other
8. Consequence for breaking rules: one-week regression in Starting Over Plan
At the bottom of the document was a place for each of their signatures, plus mine; they wanted to be accountable to someone.
Did it work? They broke the contract the first week. But that’s not what matters most. What matters is that the next day they came and told me, gave themselves the regression consequence and started over. Not many couples would seek help and strive to rebuild a relationship that started backwards. I only wish they would have set their boundaries before they’d gotten into a physical relationship. It’s pretty hard to go backwards once you’ve experienced those powerful feelings.
My husband and I set boundaries when we began steadily dating. He brought up the idea first, and I really respected him for it. It wasn’t a “dorky” thing. In fact, I was more attracted to him for it. We decided that we would stop at kissing, and save the rest should we get married someday.
I’ve never regretted that decision. I was glad for it on our wedding night. I was glad when a girl in my youth group asked, “How far did you go before you got married?” And I was glad when I talked to our own teenage daughter about dating. I’ve never met a couple that said, “I wish we would have had sex before marriage. I really feel we missed out!” But I’ve lost count of the ones who’ve said, “I wish we hadn’t….”
I hope that you’ll set age-appropriate boundaries in your relationships--spending your date time getting to know each other, with friends and just having fun. Nothing to hide. No regrets.
*Both names were changed
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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.