As you and your boyfriend fall deeper in love, it probably won’t take you long to realize you need boundaries, and you need them now.
If you’re following the example five-step process for setting boundaries in a long-distance relationship, you’ll see that step one is “Learn God’s perspective on purity.”
God’s desires for our sexual lives form the always-reliable model for boundary-setting. Regardless of what you or I decide about purity, we will be held to the standards of the Creator of our hearts, minds, and bodies.
So, it’s with great reluctance that I’m offering you specific suggestions for guarding each other’s sexual purity. Sexual immorality is a sin for everyone (1 Corinthians 6:9), but the ways each of us is drawn to it can be different.
A Weighty Responsibility
Regardless of whether others condemn or condone something, you have the responsibility to seek God’s will yourself.
James 4:17 tells us clearly, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
That’s a weighty responsibility for a couple, and we must work it out in the tension between receiving abundant grace (Romans 5:20) and not using our freedom as an excuse for evil (1 Peter 2:16).
This is not easy, especially if you’ve never dated anyone seriously before. When my husband and I began our relationship, we struggled to set effective boundaries simply because we didn’t foresee issues that would tempt us later.
So, the reason step two is, “Find out what worked for others,” is not because others are always right, but because they can guide you in the right direction.
If you’re hiking near a dangerous ravine, it helps to ask someone who’s familiar with the area which paths lead to the cliff’s edge.
I’ve wandered those trails with risks and regrets, and I offer you these 9 tips for building boundaries to support sexual purity in a long-distance relationship.
9 Specific Tips for Physical Boundaries in a Christian Long-Distance Relationship
1. Let sexual desire slumber away.
Song of Solomon is all about the beauty of sex. Yet three times in the book, Solomon’s beloved charges unmarried women to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4).
The resulting principle for physical boundaries is this: Sexual desires are natural and good, but they need to be awakened at the right time. Once you wake them up, they won’t slip back into slumber.
For most people, touching genitals, breasts, and nipples is sexually awakening for both guys and gals. You’ll find it much easier to remain pure if you draw your boundaries a healthy distance from these areas.
2. Consider why “sleeping together” is a synonym for sex.
While sleeping is obviously not the same as having sex, the connection exists for a reason. Sexual temptation is generally more pronounced whenever you get horizontal.
In a long-distance relationship, figuring out where you’ll sleep when you visit each other is a key boundaries issue. While you may need to save money while you’re traveling, the price of purity could be a hotel room or sleeping on a stranger’s couch.
If finding somewhere else to sleep is difficult, see if you can take advantage of at least one of these 5 places your boyfriend can stay other than your bedroom.
3. The kryptonite of self-discipline is sleep deprivation.
You are much more likely to break a boundary at 2 a.m. than 2 p.m., and that’s why many dating couples choose to set a curfew.
But when you’re long-distance, every moment together is precious. We decided a good compromise was to establish midnight as our “no-touching time.”
We could continue to talk late into the night, but we were very strict about refraining from physical contact once the clock struck twelve.
4. Wait to kiss as long as possible.
Once you start kissing on the mouth, everything really does start to move a lot faster. Since distance often stretches your season of dating from months into years, I encourage you to wait longer than you think you should.
5. Beware the emotional rush of reunions.
It is such a wonderful feeling to see each other after a long time apart, but reunions can easily turn into the wrong type of pleasure.
Making concrete plans to do fun activities together can prevent emotionally heightened visits from turning into weekend-long make-out sessions.
6. Don’t forget about modesty.
Since you’re not married, the same standards of modesty you follow in public should apply when the two of you are alone. Both guys and gals need to honor God and others with their bodies.
Talking with each other about modesty might also help you see your blind spots. For example, I used to wear shorts that exposed quite a bit of my leg, but I wasn’t comfortable with my boyfriend touching my bare upper thigh. He helped me see this inconsistency, and I realized I needed to start wearing longer shorts.
7. Digital doesn’t make it better.
A lot of long-distance relationship advice online focuses on how to sext and have sex digitally. Stay far, far away from these things.
8. Decide what you consider appropriate PDA.
This isn’t a sexual purity issue, but it can help you avoid hurt feelings later.
I was very anti-PDA when we started dating, but I softened when I realized that simple actions like holding my boyfriend’s hand in public were a powerful way to speak his love language of physical touch.
The key in this conversation is choosing your PDA out of respect for others, not fear of what they might think.
9. Guard your thought lives.
Sexual immorality is not simply physical (Matthew 5:28). If you love your boyfriend as your brother in Christ, you should seek to support him in the struggle against lust and ask him to do the same for you.
Still, while you’re dating, it’s best to save specific details about pornography and masturbation for conversations with mentors and close friends of the same gender.
Only talk with your boyfriend about it in the interest of upfront honesty or if there’s something he can do to help.
Don’t Forget About Emotional Purity
Our hearts need boundaries, too. Learn why and how we defend our hearts from a holistic, Christ-centered view of purity.