How Far Is Too Far?

In high school, all of us heard about saving sex for marriage. But the question that naturally arises is “How far is too far?”

The problem is, this question assumes that acts of arousal are only more intense forms of affection, that sexual touching is only a more intense form of holding hands. In reality, we express physical romance in two distinct ways: affection and arousal.

The question we should really ask is “What type of physical romance is appropriate in a dating relationship?” Affection is good and appropriate. But if sex is appropriate only in the context of marriage, then acts that bring about sexual arousal (passionate kissing, sexual touching, etc.) should also be reserved for marriage.

Sounds difficult?

John Wooden, a ten-time national champion basketball coach at UCLA, once said, “Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or long-lasting.” While Wooden was talking about sports, love is not any different. An athlete needs to say no to playing video games and eating junk food all day if he wants to say yes to becoming a champion, and a man needs to say no to using his girlfriend for his own pleasure if he wants to say yes to authentic love. The greatness of love is found through effort and sacrifice.

To be fair, a person who asks “How far is too far?” may be asking how to best express his love in a physical way. Affection is a great way to share love in a dating relationship. This includes holding hands, hugs, a simple kiss, a touch on the arm. A dating couple should learn to share affection as preparation for affection in marriage. Even husbands and wives need to share love through physical affection without it leading to sex.

While dating, what is a good way to share affection? Fr. Thomas Morrow, author of the best-selling Christian Courtship in an Over Sexed World, shares his thoughts on saying goodnight:

You might put your hand to her face and move forward ever so slowly, and gently kiss her. Once. Twice. Then give her a big, slow hug, pressing your cheek against hers and feeling the warmth as a way of proclaiming your real warm feelings for her. Then, perhaps say something nice, such as, ‘You are so precious to me,’ and put your hand to her face again. Then say goodnight and kiss her once more, slowly, tenderly, as if you fear she might break if you aren’t careful. 

By no means is this “too far.” This is physical love expressed in an affectionate and tender way.


Chad Etzel is a sports enthusiast, chastity advocate, and aspiring Catholic apologist.  Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, he graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science. He first began his career as a Basketball Operations Intern for the New York Knicks’s minor league team, the Erie BayHawks.  After leaving the sports world to pursue a more exciting career path, Chad has completed two years of mission work.  Last year, he spoke to 11,000 youth in seven states and two countries sharing the richness of living sexual integrity and proclaiming the dignity of the human person.