What can my girlfriend and I do on dates so that we don’t end up going too far?

Step number one begins before a date: if you are serious about the virtue of chastity, then pray often for the grace to be pure and to avoid temptations. As Mother Teresa said, “To be pure, to remain pure, can only come at a price, the price of knowing God and loving him enough to do his will. He will always give us the strength we need to keep purity as something beautiful for God. Purity is the fruit of prayer.”[1]

In the words of Scripture, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have laid up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:9–11). Stay near to Christ, since he is the source of purity. Couples who draw near to Jesus allow his love to flow through them to each other. In fact, the closer they get to God, the more they will be able to love each other. They get out of the way and let him provide the love that exists between them. This is purity of heart; a life of intimacy with God.

Prayer is our first priority. After that we need to remember to only date people who share your morals. If you don’t know a girl’s moral beliefs, then you obviously don’t know her well enough to date her. Take your time to get to know a young woman as a friend before you commit to a relationship. During that season of friendship, your values will come to the surface, and you can decide if the two of you would make a good couple. If she doesn’t have strong morals, don’t commit to her, hoping that she’ll change.

Within a relationship, you’ll need to set guidelines in order to avoid temptations. If you are alone at home and kissing your girlfriend on the couch, it is not the best time to start thinking about your boundaries. Know them in advance, because your judgment will be anything but objective during a passionate moment.

What should you do during a date? Here is a great way to get going in the right direction (a friend of mine at San Diego State University went on a date like this and recommended it to me). Pick up your girlfriend on a Saturday afternoon and head off to church. Go to reconciliation, and then take some time to talk about your relationship. Prayerfully set some firm boundaries regarding intimate behavior. Talking about these things will open up communication and contribute to a healthy relationship. Often couples who establish these boundaries and goals feel a new sense of freedom, peace, and security in the relationship.

While discussing your boundaries, you may realize that the two of you are wired differently. For example, a woman needs to realize that a man’s body works differently than hers. She might be content snuggling with a guy, but the guy’s body is working at a much faster pace. Be honest with yourself and with each other, and make your resolutions clear. Men respond and work best when they have a concrete goal and feel they are needed for a task. If it is clear to you that she trusts you in leading her toward God, it will be easier for you to accept the challenge.

After your talk, sit there in church and write each other a love letter promising to lead one another to purity and to God. Vague resolutions do not stand well, so do not just say, “I promise to be more pure.” This kind of resolution is worthless. Be specific. Exchange the letters and read them. You may also want to buy her (and yourself) a purity ring, as a visible sign of your love and your commitment to be pure. If you don’t have any money, tell your parents about this. I am sure your mom or dad would be more than willing to fork over some money for a chastity ring! After giving her the ring, go back to your place (with your parents or roommate home), and cook her dinner. Even if you don’t know how to cook, give it a shot. You’ll at least make her laugh.

I consider this romance without regret. By striving toward God together, you will find a unique bond that is known by few couples. You’ll also begin to see why married couples “who frequently pray together are twice as likely as those who pray less often to describe their marriages as highly romantic.”[2]

Besides the chastity ring and love letter date, I recommend going on group dates, since you are less likely to get into tempting situations with good friends around you. Be careful about spending too much time alone. Even if you do not group date, people are so stuck on going to dinner and a movie that dates can get pretty monotonous. Get creative, and do some service work together for a change. Maybe the two of you could buy groceries, make lunches, and pass them out to poor people downtown. If you are into sports, then try some sport together that you have never done.

The important thing is to plan ahead for a date, especially if it will be in the evening. When a couple has not put any effort into it, it is easier for boredom to set in, and they may become sexually intimate since they cannot think of anything else to do.

Lastly—and perhaps most importantly—avoid places where the two of you have fallen in the past. If you have a favorite scenic overlook, do not expect to drive there late at night with her and end up playing Scrabble. If the two of you always seem to go too far when you are at her house alone, go somewhere else or wait for her parents to get home before you visit. Likewise avoid alcohol and drugs, since these are the gateway to many regrets.

I just rattled off a bunch of useful guidelines, but it is important to recognize that guidelines do not create purity of heart. They create a safer environment in which the virtue of purity can grow. The actual development of purity comes about through prayer. Through our interior life with God, he reveals our calling and mission. This is essential for a guy, because the key to glorifying God in our relationships is to know what our task is with a girl.

Some men go to great lengths to plan a night so that they say and do all the right things to get a woman to hop in bed with them. They know their goal, plan ahead, and achieve what they set out to do. We Christian men have a great deal to learn from these guys—not in regard to their goal but in regard to their focused determination. Before spending time with a young woman, we must have a premeditated agenda and deliberate plans to bless the girl. Instead of being determined to take from the girl—to “get some”—we are called from the cross to empty ourselves and to direct our creativity, skill, and passion toward selfless love instead of selfish lust.

Bluntly, God invites us to come and die. As Christ said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). It is through this emptying of ourselves that we find our manhood.
[1]. Mother Teresa, foreword to A Plea for Purity, by Johann Christoph Arnold (Farmington, Pennsylvania: Plough Publishing House, 1996).
[2]. Les Parrott III and Leslie Parrott, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 145.

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