Estimated reading time: 5 minutes:)
I hesitated including this part of the abstinence series because *tbh* Nathan and I sucked at it.
We were not good at setting boundaries, following through, and keeping each other accountable! We made a ton of mistakes, so I feel really unqualified to speak on this subject at all.
But I also know a lot of couples out there struggle with practical, realistic ways to abstain well – and now that Nathan and I are through it, I can at least share what I wish we did better.
If you’re struggling to abstain or have slipped up in the past, I have nothing but grace and understanding for you. Purity is tough. Nathan and I crossed boundaries, slipped up, and struggled so many times. There’s no judgement here!
Hopefully these tips can help you have a stronger gameplan for intimate time with your significant other. Abstinence is difficult, but it’s not impossible – God didn’t call us to an impossible task. My prayer is that you feel empowered and equipped to choose abstinence after reading these tips! Let’s jump in.
1. Know Why You Believe What You Believe
Your actions are only as strong as your convictions behind them.
Let me tell you, when I wasn’t super convicted about abstinence, choosing purity was so much more difficult. I didn’t have a strong reason for abstaining. My motivation was shot.
Be warned, if you’re choosing abstinence simply because that’s what you’ve been taught growing up – this will not be a motivating enough reason for you in a tempting moment. You have to be convicted about abstinence, one way or another. You.
If you don’t really know what you believe about abstinence, I encourage you to check out part 3 in this series, “Why We Decided To Abstain.” I didn’t have a strong opinion on sex before marriage for a long time. But after reading scripture, seeking guidance, & sifting through so many Christian arguments that didn’t make sense – we finally came to a conclusion, and I’m more passionate about the topic now than ever before.
If you have that passion and conviction, following through with the practical steps on how to refrain from sex before marriage gets a lot easier.
2. Have Open Communication About Sex
Talk about sex!!
And not just sex, but talk about all the physical things – kissing, making out, hugging, touching, hands under clothes…
It’s uncomfortable to talk about. But if you aren’t on the same page with your partner, you will fall into temptation so much easier.
Another thing: don’t just talk about physical things the first time you talk about boundaries. Make it a consistent and often conversation. If you are familiar and comfortable with these uncomfortable topics, you will be more inclined to bring up an uncomfy subject on your mind, like how a boundary was crossed or how you think your boundaries should change.
3. Set Clear & Realistic Boundaries
Nathan and I really struggled with this one! We set clear boundaries at the beginning of our relationship, but quickly broke them as time went on, and had a hard time revising our boundaries to be more realistic.
To summarize, Nathan and I agreed in our first month of dating on two boundaries: 1) no spooning, and 2) no making out.
These boundaries were easy to follow for a few months – until the first time we broke them. Caught in the heat of the moment, we made out one night. And while we still “held” our boundaries after that first time, it became so much more difficult to follow them.
We tried tightening our boundaries to “only pecking” for kissing, but that was simply unrealistic and frustrating. Then we tried loosening our boundaries to “making out is fine, but clothes have to stay on.” This left waaay too much room for temptation.
The key is setting boundaries that are tight enough to provide less opportunity for temptation, but loose enough to be doable. And honestly, that differs from couple to couple. Ask God for the discernment to know which boundaries would benefit you most, and try to identify your weak points.
Nathan and I failed at this pretty badly, but here are a few ideas for realistic but strict boundaries that could potentially help you:
- Start each date with prayer/bible study (when your eyes are focused on Jesus, lust & temptation is easier to fend off)
- No making out (this one is hard to keep, but I can’t deny it was helpful for a good chunk of our relationship even though we sucked at it lol)
- Set a timer for 10 minutes before you drive home; once the timer goes off no more snuggling (we tried this and it helped us get home at a more reasonable hour)
- No laying on top of each other/straddling
- Hang out only in public places/limit time alone (this one is super tough, but if you recognize that being alone is a weak point for you, this might be worth a try)
- Once the car is parked, get out right afterwards. No “hanging out” in the car
- Plan an “activity” before each date. Plan how you’ll spend your time – whether it’s cooking, bowling, hiking. Avoid “just hanging out.”
- Anytime you’re in a moment of slipping up – make a habit of stopping to pray. Tell your partner you love this, but you want to stay strong until marriage and ask to pray with them. Do this a few times and it will become your default strategy in tempting moments.
- Keep a jar with pebbles – each time you hang out and keep your boundaries, add a pebble to the jar. If you slip up, dump the jar out. If you have a full jar by the time your wedding day comes around, that’s such a sweet and powerful “decoration” to add to your wedding/future home (this idea is from my wonderful Claire!!)
4. Have an Accountability Partner
Find someone – whether it be a mentor or strong friend – and tell them all the details of your struggle (your weak points, when and how you last slipped up, etc). Ask them to keep you accountable, and set up a schedule to check in on one another.
Just like accountability partners are helpful in beating addictions or sticking to a diet, they help a ton with refraining from premarital sex. It’s doubly helpful if you’re dealing with similar struggles, or your accountability partner is ahead of you in life and can provide advice for when they were in your current season.
5. Treat Righteousness as a Lifestyle
One thing I prayed a lot when Nathan and I struggled with purity was this: “Jesus, I am hungry and thirsty for your righteousness.” And I truly was. I just wanted to do the right thing.
When you pursue God’s righteousness with purity alone, the pursuit can feel frustrating and exhausting. But when you pursue God’s righteousness as a lifestyle, in every area of your life, your focus turns from “how do I stay pure?” to “how do I honor God in everything I do?”
When following Jesus becomes a lifestyle instead of a situation-by-situation behaviour, you will be more consistent with how you follow Jesus. Which makes abstinence easier.
6. Protect the Other Person’s Feelings and Convictions
At the end of the day, your partner’s feelings should come before your own. And if abstinence is truly the best option for your partner because that’s how God designed them, honor them by denying your own flesh.
So what does it look like to honor your partner? Don’t put them in tempting situations. Don’t make that first move, talk about how much you wish you could be more intimate, or pressure them into more intimacy. When you have lustful thoughts, take that to the cross. Do everything you can on your own to honor your partner with your thoughts, words, and actions.
If you both come to a place of choosing abstinence, there will be times you are more convicted than your partner, or vice versa. Rely on one another to encourage and uplift. When one is weak, the other holds fast.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s easier to refrain from sex if your motivation is selfless. Put the other person first. Honor them.
If You’ve Slipped Up Before – You’re Not “Too Far Gone”
You are human. And while we can’t use our “humanity” as an excuse to sin more, there is grace for your past mistakes.
God saw your mistakes before they ever happened – and He still chooses you. He still loves you. He carried that cross and hung himself up to die with you in mind, all your flaws and mistakes included. You don’t have to be imprisoned by your previous mistakes, and you don’t have to live in shame or guilt because of them.
Purity ≠ Virginity
Virginity simply defines whether you’ve had sex before – but purity is far more all-encompassing. And God calls us to purity, not virginity.
Purity is a way of life, and it doesn’t end after marriage. Sure, it includes abstaining from premarital sex. But it goes deeper – it is a way of living that glorifies Jesus. It is a way of approaching intimate time with your partner in a way that pleases God. It goes beyond action – purity is demonstrated through actions, words, thoughts, and feelings.
Purity is much harder than “virginity,” and I’ve been very impure before (as we all have). You can be a virgin who acts in very impure ways – & you can be someone who lost their virginity but pursues purity every day. I’d say the latter person is far more pure than the first.
Purity is a pursuit of God’s righteousness – which means refraining from masturbation, porn, lustful thoughts about your partner or others, and immodesty. After marriage, I still have to pursue purity. I still have to ask God to help me love Nathan physically in ways that glorify Him, keep my thoughts captive, wear things that honor Nathan when we’re in public – the list goes on and on.
God sees your heart. He knows exactly where you’re coming from. He’s not the deity demanding the impossible from you – He is the loving God who is with you, who knows what’s best for you, and who loves you more than you can fathom.
I’m going to conclude this series on abstinence with Psalm 84:18-19 ~ “When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ Your steadfast love, O LORD, helped me up. When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.”
He is with you in the struggle!
Thank you so much for reading & supporting my teeny blog – if you’ve missed the other parts in this series check them out below! Have an awesome weekend friends:)
Abstinence Part 1: The Questions I Had
Abstinence Part 2: Nine Christian Arguments That Fell Flat
Abstinence Part 3: Why We Decided to Abstain
Abstinence Part 4: So, Was Abstinence Worth It?