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Emotional and physical boundaries in a Christian dating relationship

Discussion in 'Courting Couples' started by Missangela, Jul 14, 2012.

  1. Missangela

    Missangela Newbie

    In Relationship
    My boyfriend and I have been dating for about 6 months and I'm looking for some direction in boundaries in our relationship. We are both incoming sophmores in college and 19 years old- for some perspective. I prayed for quite awhile about if it was Gods will for the two of us to date and if god wanted me to be a part if this boys life. Both of us are Christians, we both know, follow and love the lord with our lives to the best of our ability and I feel incredibly blessed with the spiritual growth that both my boyfriend an this relationship have brought me. We freely share verses with each other to encourage one another as well as pray together as a couple and I find joy in our growing relationship as a couple within the lord.

    Lately, though, I've started to become concerned with the emotional boundaries that we set in our relationship. I find myself more and mOre attached to him every day, I feel like I am fortunate enough to be dating my best friend- someone I can confide in and pray with about anything at all. In my past relationship (no plural here) I was waysvery conscious about guarding my heart and making sure that I was careful about the amount of attachment that was built in my relationship since #1 the nature of dating, rather than courting, is that it will most likely end #2 i am very afraid of emotional investment because it can totally end up with intense heartbreak. But in this relationship I'm finding that guarding my heart is intensely difficult. I am aware that I am very early in the relationship, but I find myself intensely emotionally vulnerable with him more and more often and the amount of time I spend with him is very lengthy.

    Both of us also struggle with Anxiety and he is diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). I struggled very badly with anxiety attacks in my early childhood and struggled very seriously with anxiety attacks and the spiritual warfare that comes with it in my freshman year in high school. My boyfriend just began struggling with it this last year or so, and was going through his roughest time when we met. When he explained the numerous doctors visits and mood swings I was eager to share with him my identical struggle and how God led me to the light on the other side. I have been blessed enough to work and pray alongside him and watch him slowly recover over the last two months. This occurred very early in the relationship and pushed our relationship to become stressed and emotionally vulnerable probably a lot sooner than most relationships normally develop. However, in the long run I've found that its has brought crazy strength and endurance to our relationship that we wouldn't have otherwise seen so early on. So as you can see, our relationship has been emotionally jump-started from the beginning.

    Now, my parents comment that I spend too much time with him and text him all too often (we text daily, and on our summer break I see him about four times a week). The conflicting messages in my head are these - Half of me says that god designed our hearts to be loved and To give out love. That it's extremely hard to develop friendship or emotional intimacy with someone if you keep your heart locked up and 'hold out on loving'. And that it's important to tell those that you care about that you love them, and often. Also that the experiences that we have gone through (although not hugely difficult but still stressful) have brought us closer as friends, an often we communicate and talk like best friends. The other half of me has the conflicting messages that I've heard told to me all my life- my parents see my relationship as trivial and feel that attachment is not a smart thing- I don't believe they see the possibility of my relationship lasting ( or they dislike the idea of their daughter dating, most likely the latter) so therefore dont see use in encouraging the relationship very much. Many of the pastors at my church, including my college pastor, believe in courting- so very limited or no one on one time or 'dating' interactions, so obviously teach that even the dates we go on are not what God intended for relationships. Some of my friends even date on the basis that they will not say 'I love you' until they are engaged. ]These conflicting Ideas oftentimes leave me increasingly uncertain on how I conduct my relationship.

    Besides this fact, for some reason I struggle with trust issues a lot, every time i feel close to him i feel myself push away emotionally and become distant and I hurt him badly in the process. I pray about this but I'm stillso unsure, am I brushing away the spirits natural tug at my heart to guard it or do I truly have trust issues?

    So, i wonder, Is it smart that I'm being so cautious? I want so badly to go about this relationship in a way that glorifies God. Is it wrong that I am even dating rather than courting him? Is emotional attachment on such a deep level so early in the relationship a red flag? How can I better guard my heart without struggling with trust issues or hiding my heart?

    The second part of this is much more troubling to me, because as I find myself struggling with emotional boundary issues physical boundary issues are following. At first I was cautious about kissing at all, thinking it was sinful to express that kind of affection toward someone I am not married to. I then found myself alright with kissing, which then turned into passionate French kissing. After a few months of just kissing goodbyes my boyfriend leaned over and started kissing me in his car, then tilted the seat all the way back. I found myself lying down and kissing, a position that I always thought of as a boundary you should never cross. I expressed this belief to him and even though he disagreed that it was wrong, agreed to draw the line there. I found out though that things like these are losing battles- and a month later found that every time we started kissing we'd always end up lying down, having steamy make out sessions. There were many times when i found that we were going way too far for my comfort, his shirt came off at one point and hands were wandering. I've also found that being close like this has really not tricked our bodies either- that we react physically in the same way as we would if we were actially having sex. I expressed to him about how I felt like this was not alright, it wasn't pure, and we set boundaries accordingly- where clothes always stay on no matter what and hands don't wander. But even that doesnt help both of is getting worked up. This is where we stand now, and when were close like this I didn't feel like its wrong, but once I get home I find that I am plagued by horrible guilt. So much so that ive had anxiety attacks ( that i havent experienced in years) regarding his guilt. I feel horrible about stirring him up in this way and getting physically close. I feel like I am sinning because I am not being pure in my relationship. I've talked to my boyfriend about this and he will hear me out. I worry because I feel so close when we are physical like this, in the intimate way that God desired- but I feel like I am taking something that is not mine, that this kind of intimacy is designed only for marriage- because it is intimacy brought about by being physical. I feel like it is stirring up desires that can't be fulfilled until marriage and that we're making it harder for ourselves and tempting each other. I also feel a lot of shame. A real, plaguing kind of shame about this. I don't feel like I can share any of this with my youth pastors, as they will surely say that I shouldnt even be dating anyway and even kissing is seen as impure.

    I am also conflicted in this as well, I want to be close to my boyfriend- but I want to be pure as well. Am I sinful for being this physical? If I want I set boundaries That are pure in gods eyes wouldn't that mean that holding hands is the end of it and nothing more?
    I also wonder about this horrible guilt I feel that makes me feel so sick. Is this god warning me about a sin in my life? Is Satan attacking me in my moment of weakness and low self esteem and causing this intense anxiety? Does god use guilt as a tool to catch my attention?

    Or am I Overthinking all of this- our clothes stay on and nothing more happens- our boundaries are firm and we know where both of us stand. Passing those boundaries are not an option for the two of us. And going all the way is not even a desire on either of our parts because we understand the emotional consequences before marriage.

    I look at all of this and really really wonder if I'm just making excuses for myself or if I'm completely fine and Satan is taking advantage of my anxious tendencies and giving me false guilt.

    I have come to god with this many times but I always find myself uncertain. Above all else I desire for this relationship to be PURE and delightful in gods sight.

    I appreciate anyone who has taken the time to read my story and reason along with me on this, I would love to read your responses to help with this uncertainty.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2012
  2. A2597

    A2597 A Peculiar Person

    Whooow.... lots of text! :)

    My first question in this is...can you two see each other married in the not-too-distant-future? I know many people feel they need to finish college before marriage (I disagree with this, but each their own). If you can't see yourself getting married...what are you doing dating or courting?!

    Soo, I'm going to assume the answer is yes, and go from there. ;)

    For myself, the issue of guarding my, and my now fiance's heart, was a serious one. How to best do that? For us, we felt it was important to deal with the big things first. Our first conversation we covered what our marriage would look like, our big item checklist. How soon to get married, views on religion, alcohol, how a household is run, roles of husband and wife, fiances, how decisions are made, do we want kids, where do we want to live, etc. The sooner you have this conversation the better, as it will give you a *lot* of information about how safe it is to open your hearts.

    With those major points out of the way, I feel it's safe to start trusting each other with more of your heart, and allow the relationship to grow. I don't believe it takes an incredible amount of time to determine if this is the person you want to marry, provided you PROCEED IN WISDOM.

    Now, I'm going to say that initiating in just about *any* physical relationship is going to skew your viewpoint and emotions, making wisdom much harder to find. For this (and other) reasons, my soon to be wife and I set the goal to save our first kiss for marriage. (She thought I was nuts when I said I wanted to do that...but over a couple months grew to like the idea, and became more adamant about it than myself!).

    So how to keep wisdom in the relationship? Well...my advice there is find a trusted adviser you both know and see if they are willing to mentor you in your courtship. Someone from church preferably, a pastor, etc. And make certain they are someone you trust, and respect. And be willing to heed their advice.

    When my soon to be wife and I were courting, we had issues figuring out where the boundary for us was, I mean, there's a lot of things that can lead up to a kiss! In talking about it with our mentor, our mentor asked us to pray about it, and then meet back up to discuss what we got as an answer. (Write them down before hand).

    We both got answers. And I don't think either of us was happy with the answers we got. And I'll add that *our* boundaries are not *everyone's* boundaries. I see nothing wrong with kissing, putting your arm around each other, hugs, etc. But the answer we got was pretty clear. Up until engagement, no holding hands, no putting our arms around each other, and just side hugs. (!!!)

    Yea. Strict. But we both felt that these were the boundaries God wanted us to have in our relationship, so we followed them. *not* easy, but very rewarding.

    Keeping a strict boundary allowed us to focus on learning about each other on an emotional and intellectual level, with a much clearer mind than if we had been kissing / etc. It allowed us to deal with certain conflicts much easier, building trust while doing so, with a clear mind. We were growing MUCH closer during this time, to the extent that we knew we were going to marry each other. Without even holding hands, let alone kissing!

    Another word of caution, since this can be a trap for some. Not doing something does *not* mean you ignore the physical issues in a relationship. You need to make certain you have similar interest in a physical relationship, the last thing you want to do is find out after you are engaged or married that your new spouse has zero sex drive, while you do! You can have these conversations to make certain that the interest is there, without actually doing the acts. It sounds like you have your answer on this on already, but for those reading this, don't ignore sex in your relationship, talk about it (carefully) and make certain your on similar pages...

    In your case, just remember that everything you do now, will no longer be special in marriage. And everything you do now, is going to make waiting to have sex so, SO much harder on both of you. My advice is pray earnestly, both together and sepratly, on what boundaries God wants you to have in your relationship, write them down, and be willing to follow them. It may be kissing, it may even be french kissing. It may be holding hands, or it may be nothing but side hugs. That's between you and God. But we serve a God that wants good in our lives, so if you get a difficult answer, remember that there is a reason for it. (and that in marriage, those barriers disappear).

    Oh, and if your curious, the same night I proposed, and we got engaged, our boundaries shifted. Holding hands, putting arms around each other, normal hugs, all on the list of allowed. We're almost inseprable when we're together now...just six weeks left until wedding day!
  3. lilshady25

    lilshady25 Newbie

    In Relationship
    Wow... i had a long response to this but i wasnt logged in when i submitted...

    Anyway short version i totally agree with A2597 about having the talk about marriage etc... I had that with my girlfriend early on and it is important and informative to have...

    I am in almost exact same position emotionally with her as you are with your boyfriend... my parents have recently been complaining about spending too much time on phone... Also i feel vulnerable around her and may have put too much of my heart on the line and rely on her too much...But having said that i do have to say that eventually you will have to put it all on the line and put all of your trust in the other individual... and i believe this should happen before marriage because to marry someone you don't have full trust in is just wrong.

    As for the physical aspect i am not on same page... i believe there is nothing wrong with kissing (but you should see where that got me)... anyway in my case i have made mistakes and am just now beginning to call out to God for him to help me figure this out... in my case we are long distance so the physical touch i long for just isnt there and it is far in between them... So we (me more so) have fallen prey to the desires of lust in order to fill that void. We have not had any physical sexual contact and plan not to do any of that stuff until marriage, BUT we have become a victim of "phone sex" and i just dont know what to do now... so as for you situation it could always be worse...

    Good luck and btw sounds like you have a very strict youth pastor...
  4. TheyCallMeDave

    TheyCallMeDave At your service....

    Before any Christian starts dating., they should read this book : Amazon.com: Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships (9780310200345): Henry Cloud, John Townsend: Books

    Get a used copy for $2.97 .