In my late teens and early twenties, I lived a pretty wild lifestyle. I had learned early on in high school how to use my body to feel powerful and as an escape from the constant insecurity that really plagued me. I hid behind my sexuality, essentially pretending that I was the confident, carefree girl that I wanted to be. I spent a lot of reckless nights and called them “fun,” but in the quiet moments I was wrapped in deep depression. Ironically, though I used my body to feel in control, I also knew that no one I was hooking up with really cared deeply about me: at least not enough to want to spend time with me if they weren’t getting any action out of it. I even had a serious boyfriend break up with me after I decided I wanted to stop having sex.
When I met Eric I had been out of that lifestyle for a couple of years and hadn’t dated anyone since. I wasn’t sure what a healthy romantic relationship looked like, and to be honest I was a little afraid of screwing it up if I tried. I agreed to a date when Eric asked me out, but I had pretty much already decided that it wasn’t going anywhere. After that, we continued to hang out in the same group of friends and I was surprised to find that he was still interested in getting to know me. Month after month, even though I had essentially rejected him, he continued to listen intently when I talked, asked thoughtful questions about my life and family, and was just … well, an actual friend. Eventually I had to admit that I was completely won over by the fact that he wanted me in his life even if I wouldn’t be his girlfriend; even if he “got” nothing from me but friendship. So of course, I then wanted to date him!
Just in case I hadn’t put him through quite enough already, I told him when we started dating that I couldn’t kiss him. He was surprised, naturally, but when I explained my history he understood and (impressively) accepted it. Like I said before, I really didn’t trust myself not to screw up. I knew he didn’t want to have sex before marriage, and in theory I didn’t either, but I was afraid that once we got started I would cause us to break our resolve. Additionally, I still had some wounded places in my heart that told me no man would want me if I wasn’t “putting out.” I desperately needed Eric to prove me wrong. And he did.
The time between when we started dating and when we married was only 7 months, so it wasn’t quite an eternity to wait to have a physical relationship, though sometimes it felt that way. But those months really did a huge healing inside me, and the fact that my fiancée would make that kind of sacrifice for me revealed to me the essence of true love. At the same time, it felt good to sacrifice for him too: to put clear boundaries on myself (that were stricter than the ones he would have needed) so that he could enter into marriage in the way he always wanted.
I know that not kissing while dating or engaged is pretty extreme, and it’s not for everyone. But discussing and establishing specific boundaries is important for every couple, especially if they’re trying to wait until marriage to have sex. And the respect and sacrifice it demonstrates for the other when you honor those boundaries, well, that’s a pretty good sign of a strong future marriage.