When it comes to saving sex for marriage, often we hear that many people follow the footsteps of their parents. “I did this because my parents did this.” “We lived together first because that’s what my parents did.” The excuses of, “None of my friend’s are waiting,” or “they did it so I can too.” Certainly, we are all free to make these kinds of decisions, however, this sort of thinking is not taking into consideration the risks or consequences that can come. Our so-called encouraging friends and well-meaning family members will not be the ones living out our struggles because of our own poor or unhealthy choices.
We all love to have choices in our life, the freedom to choose. What kind of ice cream to pick. What toppings on your pizza. What career you will choose. But often, the idea of saving sex for marriage is not offered as something to consider as having a choice in. We grow up not knowing or realizing that there is more than one option when it comes to sex before marriage.
Interestingly, one of the other comments we have heard numerous times over the years is, “No one ever told me.” Frequently, we are told stories of a people who, quite literally, had never been told the idea of saving sex for marriage. Someone who had never heard that not having sex as a teen was actually a decision they could have made. Included in the thought of “No one ever told me”, could also be having the ability to set boundaries for relationships. The other, and possibly even more important idea, is many have not ever heard that you can start over!! That if you have made choices you regret in relationships of the past, you can make different choices for the future. You can have a do over!
One of our most crucial goals is to share with you life stories, examples and information that will keep you from risk of the “No one ever told me” kind of thinking. We want you to know. We want you to know you have choices. And we certainly want to stress the importance of actually making these choices in your life and not just leaving things to chance, timing, and peer pressured decision-making.
There is a story we would like to share with you in order to encourage you, strengthen you and give you hope. It is a story of a boy and how he grew up, how he was influenced by those around him and made his own choices that led down a certain path. He is a boy like many other boys. Both of his parents loved him very much, but they were not following God and both chose to not love each other. Like everyone, he had choices put before him that would direct where his life would go. As with us all, what he based his decisions on determined how he would respond to these options.
As this boy entered into the teenage years, he was challenged with creating a list for himself. This list would be his own guidelines that he would set for himself as he went through the next decade and more of his life. It would help him make decisions when it came to relationships, sex, drugs and more. As he was challenged with this list, this boy had to decide how and why he would make the choices he was going to make when it came to sex, partying, alcohol, drugs, popularity and self-control.
Again, like all of us, he had many different areas from his life to look to in order to make this list. Was he going to look to the world, or to what he saw on TV? Was he going to look to his peers and others like him? Would he look to his parents or find books to read? Would he just go with the flow, live in the moment and see where it went?
His parents both chose not to use drugs, and he used their decisions as a basis to make a positive choice in that area. However, when it came to relationships and sex, his parents did not show him a great example. Would he follow their choices or make his own? His father was in college and his mother had just graduated high school when he was born. They did not get married to each other. As he entered into his teenage years, he was living with his mother and step-father. There was very little contact with his father. He knew how old his parents were and that they were not married when he was born. He knew that they had both lived with people they had been in relationships with without being married. This was his example growing up, his reality.
There are many of you, or you know someone in this same situation who follow in their parent’s footsteps because, well, that’s what their parents did, so why not! Then there are those who claim they won’t follow in their parent’s steps, but without setting any boundaries or having a plan in place, end up in the same position. We justify our decisions telling ourselves that it’s just “easier” to live together. “We can save money this way.” But really…is it easier? Does it truly save you from something in the long run? We would argue that it is not, and it does not.
Regardless if you are a teen or an adult, if you have never been married, not planning on getting married, or if you have been married, but now are living a single life once again, you too will have decisions to make when it comes to relationships and sex. In order to get the desired result out of your relationship goals, it is better to have a plan that will lead to that result. So then the question becomes how do I make a plan?
So this boy was faced with the challenge and he created his relationship standard list. There were times when he wanted to stray from the guide he had created, but he ended up not. It wasn’t until he entered college that he met the girl that matched up with his lists. And we say lists because he had written a list of what he wanted for a relationship leading to marriage, views on drugs and alcohol, and later also wrote a list describing the characteristics of what he desired in a wife. He had made a decision to not have sex until he was married and even that he didn’t want to kiss until marriage. She agreed, although not kissing wasn’t necessarily something she had considered to set as a standard. She had decided to keep sex for marriage, but this was new and interesting thought to also save her first kiss for her husband.
The boy and his girlfriend, did end up getting married. They did save sex for marriage and their very first kiss ever…was on their wedding day! They defied the odds, set their own goals and didn’t listen to any of the haters who doubted they could actually wait.
This story of the boy is one we know all too well because the “boy” is our son. We were the parents leading him towards a path that was not honoring God and, in many ways, was very unhealthy. We had not ever been challenged to set relationship standards, or boundaries, at least not for the right reasons. Our thoughts were shallow, selfish and not realistic to what our actual goals were.
When we were first introduced to each other, Jenna had a list of characteristics in her mind that she was looking for in a guy. Rob fit each of these: long hair, earring and cute. That list was about as shallow as Rob was at the time. And a shallow list is going to lead to a shallow relationship.
We too had choices about what we were looking for, but unlike our son, Colby, who made decisions based on His faith in God, ours were worldly. Colby certainly could have followed in our footsteps and done what we had done, and likely ended up where we did. Broken. Angry. Hurt. And trying to glue pieces back together that never should have been separated.
You too can be just like Colby and our Daughter-in-law, Jennifer. You don’t have to look at the world for your standard or for your direction. It doesn’t matter what your parents did, your older siblings, friends, or how good they make it all look in the media. And no matter where you are today, you can commit, recommit, or stand firm in the choices you make for yourself in the purity of your relationships from here forward.
If you are interested in some tools to put in place that you can use to start to setting those boundaries and to make a plan for yourself, keep reading. This can help you to make sure you keep going in the right direction. Whether you are a teen or an adult, if you have never been married, or if you have been married before and are now living a single life once again, this list is for you:
1) Make a list of qualities/characteristics you are looking for. To determine these characteristics, just don’t use simple ones like “cute”, “nice” and “funny.” Although those may be on your list, they aren’t going to be the characteristics that will help make a good marriage a great marriage. Seek out good biblical characteristics. Not just kind, but having kindness. Not just cute but truthful and honest. Not just funny but tender-hearted, compassionate, faithful, patient, and so on. These are the characteristics that will help strengthen in the rough times as well as build in the smooth times.
2) Set your goals for the relationship and seek out someone who will help you meet these goals. If someone you are interested in tries to get you to stray from this path, then you must be willing to let them go. If you desire to not kiss until your wedding day and your “interest” keeps trying to get you to cross that line, then it is time to find someone who will support you. One compromise can lead to more. Their goal may not include saving kissing for marriage, but if they don’t respect your desire, then it probably isn’t a good match. Your goals don’t have to match the other person’s goals exactly, but you both will need to respect the other’s goals. My goals shouldn’t make you compromise yours.
3) Use the above two as a litmus test for those you meet, even for a friendship capacity. Be truthful with yourself because it will be easy to overlook the fact that so-and-so doesn’t quite have the patience that you are looking for. See a red flag? Don’t think that you can change it. Don’t believe that it will just go away. Listen to those moments and be willing to let that person go. Red flags are a definite warning to you. The Holy Spirit gives us that gut feeling sometimes when we can’t put words to a situation. Heed those signals as they are like alarm bells for trouble. Once you find the person that meets the above two, then that is when you can see the foundation being set and you can move forward in building that trust in your friendship.
4) Have accountability in place for yourself. This is not something to go at alone. Share your lists with someone else. Most likely this will be a person you already know and trust to speak truth into your life because you know they have your best interest in mind. Allow them the freedom to share their views on how people match up. You have to be willing to listen to their feedback and they have to be willing to be honest. If you find yourself trying to hide things about your new friend or interest, then that should raise a red flag.
5) For a dating relationship, be willing to set the standard of only doing things together when there are others around. This will accomplish many things. It will help you both stay within the boundaries. It allows others to see the actions and the interactions of the person, giving time and opportunity for red flags to be revealed.
By using these tools, you will have done your homework, your due diligence, and give enough time for issues to show up that you can, hopefully, either address or decide that it isn’t something for you. It’s better to spend this kind of time and energy at the beginning of a relationship rather that fighting your way through the aftermath of quick decisions and no planning.