UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Teen Issues: Friendship, Dating and Sex




Questions from real-life teens with answers from well known columnist, Tim Stafford.

Content originally appeared in Campus Life magazine. Copyright © 2001-2005 by columnist, Tim Stafford. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Teen Issues: Friendship, Dating & Sex

Teen Issues: Friendship, Dating & Sex

Questions from real-life teens with answers from well known columnist, Tim Stafford.

Lesson 8: Kissing and Limits

Kissing and Limits


What About Kissing?

Question: I am 16, and I have been going out with my girlfriend for almost a month and a half. I can say without a doubt that I love her. We have a great relationship, and we talk about anything and everything. We have set physical boundaries, agreeing that we will not go beyond kissing. I was wondering about kissing. What would you say is right and wrong in this area? Is French kissing OK? How long is too long for kissing? I just want to be safe.

Answer: Kissing somebody you love feels good, but I'm glad you're thinking this through.

When kissing begins to dominate your time together, or when it is just the beginning of a physical relationship that will go further, kissing can become more hurtful than helpful.

Two bad things can happen when you try to make a kiss more than a kiss. Trying to get a sexual charge, a couple is likely to keep going further, becoming more physically intimate. And even if they don't go further, they spend so much time kissing that they miss out on developing their friendship. If you spend a lot of time with your lips locked, you certainly aren't talking. Anything that keeps you from talking together is a mistake!

As for French kissing, it's certainly very intimate. And I'd say too intimate for unmarried teen couples.

I also think you need to seriously evaluate the amount of time you spend kissing. Once you get beyond a minute or two, I think you're asking more from a kiss than a kiss has to give. It could be lust leading you, not love.


Will Kissing Get Boring?

Question: My girlfriend and I have been going out for almost a month and a half. Last night we had our first kiss. It was really awesome. But I don't want to get much more physical than brief kisses and holding hands. I am pretty sure she feels the same way, but now I'm afraid that eventually our relationship will become boring. How can I keep this from happening?

Answer: If kisses are the biggest thrill in your relationship, you'll get bored soon. Kisses are a wonderful way to express affection and appreciation, but by themselves, they aren't much to appreciate. Kissing does get boring, if that's all there is between you. To keep your relationship alive and growing, learn how to communicate with each other in ways that encourage and comfort each other. Pretty often, kissing and other physical expressions of love get in the way more than they help.

Become a good communicator. Learn how to ask questions that go beyond facts. Learn how to listen. Learn how to talk about more than just superficial stuff. Learn to be kind, appreciative, complimentary. Find ways to comfort each other with your conversation. If you do these things, and your girlfriend does the same, you will rarely be bored together. If you can create such a positive, healthy relationship, your occasional kisses will be sweet, marvelous and never dull.


Is Kissing All There Is?

Question: I'm confused about why the Bible says premarital sex is wrong. I'm not in a sexual relationship, but some of my Christian friends are. They say it's OK because they had dated their boyfriend or girlfriend a long time and felt that they were ready for the next level of commitment. In a way, I agree with their decision.

My question: Is kissing the farthest your relationship can go physically if you believe premarital sex is wrong? How are you supposed to grow closer together if you can't show your love, affection and commitment to each other in a more passionate way than kissing? Besides, in most relationships, kissing comes into the picture within a couple of weeks.

Is there a way for people to grow closer to someone physically and emotionally without going against their Christian values?

Answer: Those are great questions, and I thank you for asking them. You've posed the dilemma well. And yes, you've understood correctly. The Bible very clearly views sexual intercourse as an expression of love belonging only to married couples. Sex is not merely a physical way to express love. It's also a spiritual interchange that binds two people's hearts and souls together. When you have sex with someone, you're supposed to stay together forever. And that means you should only have sex with the person you have married.

So what happens to people who are, as you say, "ready for the next level of commitment?" Are they condemned to a second-rate relationship? I certainly don't think so. Your question points out a problem with the way we think about relationships sometimes. When we define a relationship by what goes on physically, we forget the qualities that really make for a healthy, lasting relationship—qualities like compatibility, respect, and shared values and interests. These parts of a relationship are more important than sex, whether people are married or not. When we overemphasize the physical ways of expressing love, we start to undervalue other ways to show love, like listening when someone is speaking, or giving a sweet smile or gentle hug. We stop looking for creative ways to show love. Instead, we simply feed our desire to go further physically until sex is the only thing left to do.

You're right that people will need to control themselves by choosing not to have sex. That's not easy. And kissing is OK for unmarried couples—as long as they are kissing to express affection and genuine love. But please don't underestimate the value of a kiss—or its power. When deep, passionate kissing goes on for long, it's simply a warm-up for sex. When couples place themselves in intimate settings with no one around, they are likely to find that French kissing leaves them sexually excited and they simply want to go farther and farther. No wonder even Christian couples "feel" that sex is OK! Their runaway feelings tell them it's OK.

I'll be honest: Unmarried couples who choose to have sex probably feel more physically satisfied at first. But the more important question is, Do they really grow closer in lasting and important ways beyond that physical relationship? I think a sexual relationship between people who are dating can contribute to the breakdown of those relationships. It's well known that couples who live together and have a sexual relationship before marriage are more likely to divorce. The fact is, sex before marriage isn't good preparation for a marriage. That's especially true if you have two, three, four or a dozen sexual partners by the time you find the person you want to stay with forever. Most people who make sex a part of dating relationships will have several partners before marriage. They think a relationship will last, but it doesn't. So they go on to the next partner. And the next. And the next. That mindset—and the consequences that follow—can be difficult to overcome, even after a person is married.

Dating is not supposed to be a state of perfect contentment. It's supposed to be about finding the right one, and preparing for a good marriage. No one should think that a string of sexual relationships will lead to a lasting love during the dating process. If you do, you'll likely deal with a great deal of dissatisfaction and be very unfulfilled.


How Far Is Too Far?

Question: I've been with a guy for almost a year now, and I don't know how far is too far. I'm not going to have sex with him, but there's so much other stuff that people can do. I know I love him very much, but I just don't know what is too far.

Answer: I'm glad you're asking this question. Most people try to figure out the answer on an experimental basis. Unfortunately, they often learn the hard way that what feels good may not turn out to be good.

The Bible doesn't address your question specifically. People didn't really date in those days. In fact, they might not have seen their spouse until the wedding day. In our day, though, most young people meet the opposite sex long before their wedding day, and they have ample opportunity to spend time alone together. Biology being what it is, however, your question is a crucial one.

The Bible does give general principles that help, such as the basic command to keep our bodies pure from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18). As for defining exactly where the line should be drawn, the Bible doesn't say. But I've reached some conclusions based on my understanding and experience—and a lot of data. Thousands of people have shared their experiences with me over the years. And I've spent many years pondering a Christian view of sex.

I'd start by asking: what is the point of physical contact? We know what sexual intercourse accomplishes, but why hug, kiss, touch, hold hands? What's the point?

The only good answer I know is, "To express our love." People will say, "It helps us feel close," or just, "It feels good." When you care for someone, you're drawn together physically. The alternative—not touching—would feel cold.

There's another side to that answer, though, that people sometimes forget. If you love someone, you don't want to do something that will hurt him or her emotionally, or hurt your relationship. So the question becomes, "How do I express my love in a way that's not harmful to either of us, or to our relationship?"

Some basic principles I'd suggest:

basic principles

Don't do anything that either one of you will feel ashamed of. Even if you think you shouldn't feel ashamed, you do—and shame can destroy a person's confidence, not to mention ruin a relationship. Why go there?

basic principles

Don't do anything that tends to dominate your relationship. Even an activity many people consider harmless—kissing—can turn into long wrestling matches that take up all the time and energy you have together. Physical expressions of love should be brief and to the point. They shouldn't eliminate more important ways of communicating, such as talking. If the trend in your relationship is toward less talking and more kissing, you are off track.

basic principles

Don't do anything you're not sure of. It's tempting to experiment. You think, We'll try this, and if we don't like it we'll quit. But bodies don't work that way. They're always pushing us forward, and they make it very difficult to go back. Once you've started doing a certain activity, you'll almost certainly continue until you break up.

basic principles

Don't do anything that makes the other person feel uncomfortable. You're expressing love, remember? How could you express love by talking someone into trying something he or she fears?

basic principles

Don't do anything that would lead you to believe that your body is not precious and private. There's a reason why your sexual organs are called "private parts." They're meant to be private, shared only with the person you commit your life to in marriage. When that sense of privacy is invaded, it hurts the person. When you're dating, you have to know that you might not stay together forever. And how will it be for you or your partner, knowing that someone who no longer cares for you has explored those private places? And at what cost?

basic principles

Don't do anything that could cause you to lose your self-control. It's a biological fact that our bodies want to go all the way. They push forward with just the slightest encouragement. That's God's design, and it's good. It helps create the powerful bonds of marriage. However, it can also be dangerous. It can (and does) make people do things they swore never to do, deeds that make them sick with guilt when they realize what they've done. Don't push the limits of self-control, and ask God to help both of you maintain that control. You don't want to engage in activities that put you into the danger zone.

basic principles

Don't do anything that leaves you feeling frustrated. If you get too aroused, it doesn't feel good to stop. In fact, it feels lousy. What's loving and romantic about doing something that leaves one or both of you feeling frustrated?

basic principles

Don't do anything that you will be ashamed to tell your husband or wife on your wedding day. The odds are very good you will marry someone else. (Even engaged couples break up—and pretty often, actually.) What's loving about an activity that will take away from the joy of the most wonderful day of your life?

When I put all this together, I come up with one simple guideline: Stick to holding hands and occasional brief kisses—no tongues, no frenching. I think that allows you maximum expression of love. It's sweet, heartfelt, and it usually does no harm.

Of course, plenty of couples go further than that and seem unharmed. In my experience, though, their behavior is risky and even dangerous. I've heard from way too many people who've written to say, "I was so sure. Now I'd like to die." And for what? What do they gain? I don't think they really express more love by going further. Usually they only express more lust, which only leads to frustration or worse.

On a more positive note, you can do more than just avoid the "don'ts" mentioned above. Concentrate on the "do's" of a good relationship—thoughtful conversation, fun and creative activities (including with groups!), and time together in prayer and discussing the things of faith.


Questions from real-life teens with answers from well known columnist, Tim Stafford.

Content originally appeared in Campus Life magazine. Copyright © 2001-2005 by columnist, Tim Stafford. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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