Whether you are following the advice of Patti Stanger who says “No sex before monogamy”, Steve Harvey’s, “Keep the cookie for 90 days”, wisdom from your elders, or the Torah’s (and most religions’) “no sex before marriage,” the decision to remain (and define) abstinence in a new relationship is tricky.
I wish I could tell you there is an easy way, but there isn’t. Here are some tips to entering into a relationship with abstinence: My next blog will be some coping mechanisms, so to speak. This one, is about the decision itself.
Even for people who are religiously motivated to live abstinence until marriage, maintaining physical distance in relationships is difficult. If you are not religiously motivated, think about your reasoning. Are you saving yourself for marriage? Are you nervous about getting pregnant or an STD? Do you want to stay focused on your work, classes or other life goals? Are you still healing from the pain of a past relationship? Whatever your reason for choosing abstinence, it has to be YOUR REASON for CHOOSING ABSTINENCE; meaning, you have to understand that you are embarking on a sometimes uphill battle. You will be tested. Be strong. Work out an “elevator speech” on the topic – a sort of short, rehearsed way to explain your basic boundaries to someone you are just meeting (if they try to cross the line).
Once you have figured out why you are choosing not to be physical, you have to figure out what your boundaries are. If you are coming from a strictly religious mandate, the boundaries may be clear to you already. If not, you have to decide where you want to draw the line for yourself and make sure that your partner understands.
Be clear that you aren’t judging anyone for their past behavior, but simply clarifying your personal boundaries for physical intimacy before marriage. Make sure your partner understands that this is a commitment you have made to yourself and, especially if they aren’t committed to this lifestyle, that you need his/her support in keeping true to it.
Here are some of our suggestions:
- Commit to the goal together – Whether your partner is committed to abstinence for their own sake or just agree to respect your decision, you have to both agree to it. If someone tries to pressure you even to cross the slightest boundary, you should end it.
- There will be times you are strong and there will be times you find it hard to summon that strength. Before it happens, discuss how you will handle these times. Consider possible scenarios and plan how you will respond if you end up in that situation. This is definitely a place where prior planning can be very helpful.
- If there is chemistry between you, admit to it. For some couples, sharing thoughts of affection eases the desire. For others, it adds to the frustration. Find out which one you are and which one your partner is and move forward accordingly. But don’t misunderstand: I am suggesting you consider sharing thoughts of affection – NOT thoughts of physical intimacy.
- Set clear boundaries for your relationship. If you are both commited, don’t assume you are committed to the same rules. Our general feeling is that in this realm, in each relationship, the strictest definition of abstinence wins. Meaning, if one person is not comfortable with any physical contact at all and the other person would be okay with a little smooch woochy, the second person has to agree to the first person’s boundaries.
- We strongly recommend the 48 hour rule. After you agree to your boundaries, commit that if there are any changes made to your agreement, You have to wait 48 hours before they take effect.
- Produce intimacy without sex. True intimacy is built by showing your commitment, trust, respect, emotional vulnerability, and supporting each other’s goals. Sex should be an expression of intimacy. It is not a creator of true intimacy.