By Jen Messing
Let’s be honest.
Movies & TV aren’t the best place to get ideas about how to show physical affection or how relationships should start and progress.
If you want real love, you have to build a real friendship. That means not just looking for physical pleasure or emotional comfort.
If you are interested in defending
your relationship against using each other,
“how far is too far?”
may not be the question to ask.
These ideas can be a solid place to start
or deepen a relationship. Get beyond what the culture tells you is normal—take time to actually get to know yourself and each other
for who you are
and see if you enjoy each other’s company!
Laugh together ■talk about your likes & dislikes ■ listen to each other ■ make a mix of favorite music ■ share a malt ■ go to a sporting event ■ watch old movies ■ play cards ■ visit the zoo ■ read a newspaper & talk about it ■ skip rocks at a pond ■ watch the sunset ■ hang out at a coffee shop ■ play in the snow ■ drink hot chocolate ■ learn to dance the waltz ■ go grocery shopping & cook a meal together ■ take a walk ■ volunteer at a nursing home or children’s shelter ■ wander around a college campus ■ dream up travel destinations and look at maps ■ tell the other what you like about them ■ be honest ■ study together ■ sit up talking at a 24-hour restaurant ■ go fishing ■ swing at a playground ■ figure out a puzzle ■ get up early to see the sunrise ■ take an interest in the interests of the other ■ send a funny card ■ learn to surf or sail ■ examine ways you can improve your character ■ pray ■ seek answers to your questions about Church teaching ■ help each other do chores ■ people-watch at the mall ■ share an order of hot wings ■ play a board game ■ make popcorn on the stove ■ read a book to each other ■ look each other in the eyes ■ be best friends ■ hold hands ■ go for a picnic ■ build sandcastles ■ figure out lyrics to songs on the radio ■ look at the stars ■ watch a river rush over the rocks ■ write letters ■ write poems ■ go for a long bike ride ■ ponder life ■ go bowling ■ help serve meals at a homeless shelter ■ hang out with each others’ friends ■ give a thoughtful gift ■ visit your grandparents ■ say ‘hello’ and smile at everyone you walk by ■ smile at each other ■ throw a party together ■ audio or video record highlights from your day and give it to the other ■ blow bubbles ■ run in the rain ■ explore foreign cuisines ■ think and pray about what it means to love a person so you can say it and mean it ■ be trustworthy ■ bake cookies (and share them!) ■ sit on a dock and put your feet in the water ■ watch waves crash ■ admire the moon ■ create a photo album for the other ■ go swing dancing ■ meet the parents ■ play games with younger siblings ■ make up a superhero together ■ make sacrifices for the other ■ go horseback riding ■ learn how to ski or snowboard ■ wander through an art museum ■ don’t be afraid to sing ■ learn a musical instrument ■ go to the library ■ paint something together ■ go out for a play or live music ■ watch airplanes take off at the airport ■ notice what matters to the other■ be fully present to each other by turning distractions off ■ send a care package ■ go ice skating at an outdoor rink ■ build a fire and roast marshmallows ■ fly a kite ■ tour a farm ■ tour the tallest building in the city ■ walk a trail in the woods ■ wash your cars on a hot day ■ rent canoes or kayaks ■ play Frisbee ■ go to the gym and work out ■ plan a service trip with a group of friends ■ be there when a friend is needed ■ give and receive hugs ■ give affectionate kisses on the face ■ be respectful ■ go sightseeing ■ stop to smell the flowers
“OK, SO WHAT CAN WE DO??”
First things first: Examine what is stirring in you. Are you craving contact with another person? Know that the desire to be in relationships is not bad (since we’re made in God’s image, we’re made to love!) but we should not use others to fill us up. The reality is, only God can do that.
If you are asking “how far is too far?” you may have good intentions—but a better question is “how can I really love this person?”
God is the Standard for Love (see back panel) and we are made to love like Him—not to settle for less or to use each other. Know that “rules” are meant to uphold real love and the dignity of every person involved.
If you see people as a means to your own end, you will treat them that way. Purity in action flows from purity of heart and thought. Aim to act as God made us to be from the very beginning: good to the core.
The draw toward physical and emotional expressions of love will very quickly get stronger when you really connect with someone. It’s good to acknowledge that fact and not just push the feelings down—but it’s also not OK to simply indulge. There is a balance to be found.
Rather than being stuck in the two extremes, you can re-focus: pray, think and be creative!
- Thank God for the other person and for the good gift of your desire to love!
- Ask God to show you how to take all that energy and direct it toward loving like HE loves.
- Examine what you have learned about relationships from family, culture, media, etc… you may have some untwisting to do!
- Think about who, why & how you are choosing to love! Let God guide your heart and don’t brush off internal warnings; pray about them and talk them out!
Commit to speaking the Truth with your body! A sincere embrace or kiss speaks a language: it should bless the other with a message of love and commitment. Real love doesn’t push boundaries that warm you up for sexual intercourse. In Marriage, the body-soul union of spouses is a renewal of their vows.
Definitions to think about:
- Friendship between men and women is a great thing, but keep it healthy by also having friends of your own gender. Don’t let it get flirty, just be you.
- ‘Dating’ has classically meant a guy asking a variety of ladies out over time because in order to get to know them, while keeping the idea of marriage in mind. This same intent can be accomplished by hanging out in small groups at church, school, work and with family. One-on-one time (going out on dates) is okay once in a while, but don’t get into the ‘friends with benefits’ or ‘hook up’ mentality!
- ‘Courtship’ is a foreign word to most. Our culture calls exclusive relationships ‘dating’ but usually gives little thought to marriage. A good mindset is to not be wooed into this more serious relationship unless you have already been friends for a while and he or she is the type of person you think you could marry.
Courtship is where conversation and knowledge about the other & yourself goes deeper and deeper. Spending a lot of time around family and friends will help you gain perspective about the other person as you start to pray and talk about marriage.
- Engagement declares the intent to marry but it’s not just about planning the reception. Go on a marriage preparation retreat before you set the wedding date! Get specific in conversations about daily life expectations, finances and family. Take a Natural Family Planning (NFP) class well in advance. Your bodies speak a language of giving and receiving love; this time of waiting for marital union will reveal the variety of ways you bring life to the world through your love for each other.
Public vows of Marriage are meant to protect the intimate body-soul bond of love between one man and one woman so that they and their children have a permanent place to grow in love together! If one of these intentions is missing (to bond permanently or openness to procreating children), the true meaning of marriage is not being upheld. Prior to the vows when a couple declares ‘for better or worse until death do us part’, each says ‘I do’ to the following:
- Do you come here freely and without reservation?
- Will you love and honor each as man and wife for the rest of you lives?
- Wil you accept children lovingly from God?
- A choice to make a gift of yourself to another person.
- To want & work toward the best for someone else, even when it is difficult. It goes beyond emotion.
- A participation in God’s love…the real thing is:
- FREE: not forced or enslaved to urges.
- TOTAL/FULL: not conditional. In marriage, it is not partial or holding back any part of a person.
- FAITHFUL: steadfast; never abandons. In marriage, vows are permanent, only broken by death.
- FRUITFUL: physically &/or spiritually life-giving.
- Shown in different ways to different people! Various ways go giving and receiving love are appropriate between spouses, family members, friends, strangers in need, etc. Though many of us are in this habit, it is not an accurate word to use toward food, animals or objects.
- Not seeing the other as a person but as an object.
- Sexual desire that distorts God’s love. Sexual desire itself is not the sin; it is a gift from God that points to a good desire for love, but it can easily be twisted!
- Using (in thought or in action) someone (body or soul) for your own benefit. (Marriage isn’t an outlet for lust!)
- Can be a convincing counterfeit of real love.
s p e a k e r • t e a c h e r • l e a d e r
St. Paul , MN 612-518-5490