Culture implies that once you “go all the way,” you can’t go backward, and most people would agree that it can’t be done.
As believers, we know that God forgives us and promises to forget our sin when we confess and repent — but do we really identify with that kind of freedom? And can we walk practically in that truth?
We (Eric and Erica) have asked all the same questions of our own relationship. We dated for what felt like a very long five years, and crossed more physical boundaries during our first couple of years together than we’d like to admit. Then, after two years of dating, God helped us to understand His will for purity in our life. We weren’t perfect in fulfilling our commitment to purity, but with God’s help and the right focus we were able to back up in our level of sexual involvement so we could get to a place where our purity honored the Lord and strengthened our dating relationship.
During the next three years of dating, we learned a lot of valuable lessons about what it takes to go from promiscuity to purity. So from our personal experience, as well as from the subsequent years we’ve spent helping other young couples travel the road back to purity, here are some tips on how to back things up sexually:
Have a unified vision for purity
The only way you can be successful in reestablishing boundaries once you’ve gone too far sexually is for both parties to agree that purity is essential and that it is God’s will. During the first 18 months of our dating relationship, I (Erica) felt convicted about our sexual promiscuity. I occasionally brought up the topic of purity in conversation with Eric, and he would always be open to the discussion. Unfortunately, things wouldn’t really change, and we would find ourselves right back in sexual sin. It was not until both of us were fully committed to honoring God in the area of sexual purity that we made strides toward our goal in the relationship.
If you aren’t both fully on board in the fight for sexual purity, then you will usually push the boundaries. God’s Word should be the standard for Christian couples, and it is clear that there should not even be a “hint of sexual sin” (Ephesians 5:3, NIRV).
Another part of having a unified vision for purity includes the need for you to have repentant hearts. Repentance means turning 180 degrees and walking away from sin. When both of you are able to see sexual activity as sin and ask God for forgiveness, then you can start moving back toward your original boundary for purity.
Reestablishing sexual boundaries will require that you get comfortable having honest conversations about individual areas of weakness or temptation. You will need to talk about different settings, situations, touches or kisses that need to be off limits.
Verbalize practical boundaries
This step is what really empowered us to walk successfully toward
Practical boundaries to consider:
- Alone time — Is it OK to be alone in a room together or does that create too much temptation?
- Curfew — Is there a certain time in the evening that you need to stop being together or talking on the phone?
- Physical contact — What kind of touching is OK and what is not?
- Social activities — Are there certain parties, social activities or group gatherings that you need to avoid to limit temptation?
- Media — Are there certain television shows, movies, music or printed material that take your mind to the wrong place?
Recruit friends or mentors to help
It’s important to have trustworthy people in your life who will help keep you accountable regarding your commitment to purity. During our dating years, we each had pastors and mentors whom we met with on a weekly or monthly basis to talk about life. We gave these designated individuals the right to ask us about how we were doing with the issue of purity. These leaders were a great source of encouragement, strength and accountability, and they helped us to stay true to our desire to pursue purity.
Call time-outs when necessary
At some point in your dating relationship you will probably cross a boundary that you originally did not want to cross. It is extremely important that you verbally acknowledge to each other that a boundary has been crossed. Well-meaning couples often start cutting corners in their pursuit of purity, never addressing the error of their ways, and they end up back where they started with sexual compromise. If a sexual boundary is crossed and never addressed between you, then essentially you are non-verbally saying that the original boundary is no longer valid. Don’t hesitate to call a time out, address the error, repent and discuss how you can be more intentional about protecting yourselves from temptation.
Celebrate your victories
When you begin to make strides toward your original sexual boundaries, make sure you celebrate the little victories. The “praise what you want repeated” concept can really help to reinforce your commitment to pursue purity. Look for ways to encourage each other and keep positive momentum going in this area of your relationship.
Commit to starting anew
When it comes to your sexual experience, you can either choose to identify with your past mistakes or identify with the Word of God. You can identify as “a new creation” because the Bible says that in Christ, the old has gone away, and “behold the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Psalm 103:12 reminds us that God has removed our sin from us “as far as the east is from the west,” and the writer of Hebrews comforts us with the assurance that God will remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12). If you have sexual regrets, choose today to identify with the freedom and newness that Christ’s sacrifice bought for you, then return to your original commitment to purity.
We are called to honor the Lord in every area of our lives, including our commitment to sexual purity. Yes, reestablishing sexual boundaries when you’ve gone too far will be hard work, but it is worth the effort. The sacrifices you choose to make today as you maintain purity in your dating relationship will produce good fruit in the present as well as in your potential future marriage.
Copyright Eric and Erica Giesow 2016. All rights reserved.