Q: I am just wondering if a young couple striving for purity and holiness together should not kiss each other until the altar (or even just until engagement). I’m 20 years old and will soon be discussing physical boundaries with a potential boyfriend, but kissing is one thing I’m not sure how to address.
A: While my answer to this question will likely surprise you, let me first start off by saying that I’m thankful to see a question like this pop up in my submission box for this Q&A series, because it’s yet another reminder that there are some really good people out there, wanting nothing less than to honor God with their lives and relationships. And that is a really awesome thing.
We live in a culture that’s so infiltrated with sex and so immune to the hookup culture, that sometimes I fear Christians lose their way amidst all the noise.
So to you who wrote in with this question – I just have to take a minute and say: way to go. Way to go in thinking ahead, making plans, and setting boundaries in your relationship so that you can honor God and one another in the process. Just by doing those simple things you are way ahead of the game.
And now, to jump right into this question: should you wait until marriage to kiss?
Most recently this concept of “no kissing before marriage” appeared as part of the “courtship movement”, specifically displayed in a mainstream way in the hit TV Show on TLC: 19 Kids and Counting. The Duggar Family practice a “no kissing before marriage” rule for their adult children, as a way to keep their courtships “focused on God and away from sexual temptation”.
Looking back, the first time I ever heard of this concept was actually during one of my classes in Christian college. I’ll never forget that day, because it was something I hadn’t really heard of before. Yes, I grew up in the era where the “purity culture” was being preached from the rooftops, but all in all, the focus was always on not having sex before marriage. Kissing wasn’t something that people really addressed.
I remember hearing my professor talk about how she and her husband decided to save their first kiss for marriage, and frankly, at the time, I thought it sounded like a pretty noble thing to do.
Fast forward 15 years from the very first time I heard about this concept – and my perspective on this topic has shifted. You see, now I’m a licensed professional counselor, sitting in my office, working with hundreds of couples, I actually see the other extreme of these hard and fast rules: more specifically, couples who have come to see me due to the backlash of their lack of comfort with physical intimacy — even in marriage. I’ve seen many couples who really struggle to foster a physical relationship, because for so long they’ve been trained to repress their sexuality and sexual urges rather than to learn to appreciate and take control of them.
It’s almost as though the message of what you “can’t do before marriage” for all those years started getting compartmentalized in their minds as “bad” or “wrong”. And now that they are married, they’re having a hard time breaking free of the guilt and shame that comes with physical intimacy and pretty much anything along the spectrum of sex. Working with these couples was intense, but it opened my eyes to the idea that often times, in an effort to protect ourselves from crossing the line of physical boundaries, we actually shame ourselves toward purity rather than empower ourselves toward it.
There’s so much to be said here, but in an effort to stay away from the “shame-based” approach toward physical interaction – and to answer your question frankly: no, I don’t think you need to wait until marriage to kiss. But let me unpack that a little bit. I think kissing, if done thoughtfully and deliberately, can be a way to add a sense of connection and affection to a relationship that is moving toward marriage.
So, how do you do it “correctly”? One of my favorite quotes about kissing I heard from a pastor somewhere along the way said it like this:
“Make sure your kiss is a reflection of your love – not your lust.”
And the truth is – there is a huge difference between the two. A kiss can be an act of gratitude for this person you’ve been given, or it can be an act of greed to satisfy something inside of you. This is where it crosses the line and has the potential to lead to other self-serving sexual acts. And to be honest, if you feel like you’re not mature enough or strong enough to keep a kiss as a sign of love, than yes, it’s probably better for you and for your loved one to keep away from kissing all together until you can learn to practice healthy boundaries (More details on setting and maintaining healthy physical boundaries in dating in Chapter 8 of True Love Dates).
There are so many ways to show affection in a relationship, and a kiss is certainly one of them. But in doing so, always make sure that the display of your love isn’t entirely based on physical expression, because even in marriage, physical intimacy is a small fraction of a relationship in light of all the other ways two people express love and commitment to one another.
So if you’re going to kiss, let it be an expression of your love – not your lust.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, 21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray For Your Love Life – where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!
Thanks for reading along with my “Dating Q&A” 10-part series here at TrueLoveDates.com, based on the popular portion of my speaking engagements, the “LIVE Q&A Sessions”. You ask, and I answer! If you’d like to host a LIVE SINGLES EVENT at your church, feel free to contact me regarding booking a TRUE LOVE DATES event for 2017 by clicking here or the photo below!