This is the third in a short series of reruns of old columns which I wrote many years ago, as the fictional Professor Theophilus, in an online magazine for Christian college students.  Several people have been kind enough to say that my Ask Theophilus columns kept them sane in those days.



My girlfriend and I have been dating for almost a year.  Although we're not yet engaged, we're not just dating for the heck of it -- I think the relationship is marriage-bound.  We're both Christians, and both committed to remaining virgins until marriage.  The problem is that we've become more and more physically intimate.  I'd call the present level “heavy making out.”  This crosses serious ethical and spiritual lines for both of us. 

We know we’ve messed up and can't continue in this behavior.  The question is, what do we do next?  Break up?  Not touch at all?  Or what?



It's nice to have an easy question for a change!  No, you don't have to break up, and you don't have to avoid touching at all.  But you do need to know what to avoid, and you do need to know how to be successful in avoiding it.  You may think you already know what to avoid -- after all, you've just told me that you didn't avoid it.  But let's review anyway. 

What to avoid?  Avoid intercourse (of course), avoid whatever resembles intercourse (for example oral sex), and -- this is the important one to remember -- avoid whatever gets your motor running for intercourse.  The God-given purpose of sexual arousal is to prepare the two spouses for intercourse, and it achieves that purpose so well that once arousal happens, intercourse tends to follow.  Holding hands with your girlfriend while walking across campus probably doesn't put you in that condition, but other things do, and they are the things to avoid.  I know that you know what they are, because, of course, that's why you do them -- arousal is enjoyable.  The problem is that arousal can't be “used” as recreation.  You can't turn on the rocket motors and then tell the rocket not to lift off.  Besides, that behavior just isn't pure; arousal should be saved for your wife.  Why?  For the same reason that intercourse should be.  And your girlfriend isn't your wife yet. 

How to be successful in avoiding it?  Don't wait until you're aroused to ask yourself “Am I becoming aroused?”  Why not?  Because you'll be tempted to give yourself a dishonest answer.  Instead, make a list of things not to do so that your decision is already made ahead of time -- then just don't do them.  Does something get your motor running?  Put it on the list.  Is something difficult to stop doing? That's really the same question asked a different way.  Put it on the list too.  Whatever she thinks gets your motor running and whatever she thinks you find it hard to stop -- don't argue; write those things too.  And of course she follows the same steps, putting herself in your place and you in her place. 

Second, don't trust that will power alone will be enough to keep you on the right side of the line.  We aren't made that way.  Just as the purpose of arousal is to prepare the two spouses for intercourse, so the purpose of being alone together is to prepare the two spouses for arousal.  Logically, what follows?  You should simply avoid being alone together!  Of course I don't mean you can't ride in an elevator together, but you shouldn't be all by yourselves for extended periods of time.  Here are some examples.  Have dates in public places, like restaurants, not in secluded places like her apartment or that lonely spot in the park.  If you want to watch a DVD together at your girlfriend's place, okay, but invite a couple of other friends over to watch it with you.  When they leave, you leave -- and at the same time.  See where I'm going?

I think you'll find that following this advice puts your whole relationship on a different plane.  It makes it possible to find out how you really feel about each other without the fog of arousal -- which is every bit as confusing as the fog of war.



The author of the letter wrote back to thank me for the advice and say “You've probably saved my girlfriend and me from an imminent breakup.”  Isn't that interesting?  People are always imagining that sex preserves non-marital relationships.  Actually, sex confuses them.  Purity preserves them.