How Far Is Too Far: Part Two


How Far Is Too Far: Part Two

So apparently I'm not the only one.

The only what, you ask? The only single Catholic who has been looking for the 'How Far Is Too Far List Of Rules.' Preferably issued by the Church, but if not then perhaps something from a single Catholic writer who has been dating since the Vatican II Council. (Not the case for me, although I might come close if you count my childhood crush on David Cassidy.) You know, a list on a scroll, with lots of calligraphy, saying things like 'Thou Shalt Not Kiss for More than 15 seconds.' With a nice big imprimatur at the bottom.

Yeah, sorry. No such list exists. We sort of have to figure it out on our own.

I took a running start at it last month. I gave the rationale — that 'using' another person's body for our own personal pleasure doesn't just happen in 'going all the way,' but in all of the easier-to rationalize in-between stuff as well. I talked about how the hormone oxytocin, the 'bonding hormone', is secreted in sexually arousing activity, and how that can mess up relationships even if a couple doesn't actually have sex. I talked about how the body is programmed to move forward sexually. I even gave one good 'rule' — that private body parts are off limits.

But apparently that's not enough. You all want a list.

I did, of course, leave some pretty big questions dangling out there. Like 'what do we do with the fact that we're attracted to each other, and supposedly that's how God made us and the way it's supposed to be, and yet it has the potential to get us into so much trouble?'

Many good Catholic people, given the absence of a list and the presence of strong sexual attraction, decide that the best rule is the 'ultimate' rule. They'll just abstain from all affection. They won't kiss. They won't hug. They won't hold hands. Makes sense, doesn't it?

You would think so, but as much as I admire the intent of people who go this route, I actually don't think it's such a great idea.

Here's the problem. Affection is a good thing. We are bodily persons — we encounter life through our bodies. We express ourselves, and our feelings, through our bodies. We express love through our bodies, through affection. John Paul II said in Love and Responsibility that sharing affection 'has the power to deliver love from the various dangers implicit in the egoism of the senses.' As I said last time, I'm Italian and a big fan of physical affection.

I get that affection in dating, with someone to whom we're attracted, requires self-control. But when couples go too far the other way, when they abstain from showing any physical affection until they consummate their relationship on their wedding night, I get concerned. My concern is that there is a subtle but very real implication that all affection between them is sexual. It becomes merely a form of foreplay. They are only physically affectionate with each other when they are about to have sex. They lose any appreciation of the beauty and importance of physical affection for its own sake.

In addition, sometimes a person — because of issues in their past or some other problem — has an actual aversion to physical affection. Completely abstaining from physical affection, while seeming very righteous and holy, actually masks that problem until after the marriage. And after the marriage is a very bad time to discover a problem like that.

So what's the answer? Where's the line?

Look, nobody — myself included — has the nerve to say definitively What You Should And Should Not Do. But I am willing to pass on a few recommendations that I've found to be helpful:

  1. Avoid the long make-out sessions.
  2. Avoid lying down together. (Which, it goes without saying, also means you shouldn't be sleeping in the same bed.)
  3. Keep the kisses 'domestic.' As opposed to 'foreign.' You know, like the kind originating in European nations where they eat croissants and pommes frites

I know, you still want to know exactly how far you can go. I can't tell you. But you can tell you. You have to follow along with a brief little story first:

Imagine that you're a guy, and you fall in love with the most wonderful woman in the world. She's your best friend and your soul mate, and you propose and she says 'yes' and you get married and she gets pregnant and you're in the delivery room and you're the first one to see your beautiful brand new baby girl. And you're madly in love with her. She looks kinda like you, and kinda like your wife, and she's a miracle that came from your love. She grows up and she's a daddy's girl and you take her to her first day of kindergarten and she cries when it's time for you to leave and you worry all afternoon that the teacher doesn't understand her sensitive soul or doesn't know that she needs to go potty after her snack. Then she's in fourth grade and she's at her piano recital in her frilly little dress and her curly little hair and she plays her little song and dedicates it to Daddy.

Then she's in ninth grade and she comes home from school all excited because she has a date. With a senior. Who drives a van.

How far is too far?

I know, you don't even want Mr. Senior With a Van to hold her hand. You don't want him driving up the driveway. But somehow, I suspect that the basic truth of that story will help you when the time comes. Everyone you date is somebody's daughter, somebody's son, somebody's brother or sister. Everyone you date is created by God, in His image and likeness.

Remembering that will go a long way in helping you to figure out how far is too far.



  1. Joann-451185 September 4, 2009 Reply

    i really liked what you had to say there would be more true love in the world if people would go by the things stated here

  2. Gabriela-480387 September 10, 2009 Reply

    esta historia me gusta…I really think that you can show people love so many ways ….and still fall in love an be romantic, I guess respect, true love and comunication is very important

  3. Bonnie-305136 September 13, 2009 Reply

    Excellent article, great comments, which more older men could accept these thoughts and live by them instead of attempting talk women into places she doesn't want to go. I can't tell you how many men do this. Why do they profess to be Catholic and then not agree with the 7 values of our church??????

  4. Eugene-483503 September 14, 2009 Reply

    Good point about oxytocin…but there's more. As a psy Nurse who has worked with many people (cognitively healthy and not); I would add that men have 20x more tetosterone than woman and almost no oxytocin. Men have 200,000 corpus callosum (tissue that connects the two spheres of the brain) and women have 800,000–so women think spherically and men think linearally. And there's much more…Until we understand the biological differences; most people are clueless.

  5. Oscar-32186 September 15, 2009 Reply

    Great article. Just to contribute, I read that during mouth kissing, hormones are exchanged, including testosterone, which will lead to increased arousal… So there's a biological explanation to why a pries friend of mine who taught me Theology in the university said mouth kissing wasn't a good idea when dating…

  6. John-340523 September 15, 2009 Reply

    So basically we should all pretend we are Rob and Laura from the Dick Van Dyke show.

  7. Steve-235244 September 21, 2009 Reply

    This article insulted my intelligence. Do we really need a list??? Kissing is good, kissing is great. Practice makes perfect.
    Follow Your Heart,

  8. Derek-484872 September 28, 2009 Reply

    This is a very controversial topic. Personally I have been raised in the catholic faith, and I have modeled my conscience off of many of the teachings. However, this can be tough because the Lord created all of us knowing we would have these desires. A long time ago, individuals married much earlier than they do now, and these desires do not just subside. With that being said, I am acknowledging both sides of the discussion. I do believe that sex should be saved for marriage. However, things such as making out and showing control are ways of expressing yourself to your partner. Also, you do not need to go all of the way to feel satisfied, esepcially when you care about the other person. So I respect everyones views, and I enjoy these discussions. Thank you for the discussion starter and giving me a forum to express myself. God Bless

  9. Oma-70790 September 29, 2009 Reply

    great article.

  10. Shirley-476754 October 1, 2009 Reply

    I agree it is a great article. Chastity and Purity is an affirmation of one's love for God. It is saying yes to God and no to self. It is not easy but with God's grace it is possible .One needs a great love for God and strong belief in the Catholic faith

  11. James-488435 October 2, 2009 Reply

    A 5/7 person starts a relationship with a 7/7. Mr 5/7 respects Miss 7/7 so becomes a 7/7 to honor Miss 7/7. Naturally this will work, however what if Miss 7/7 becomes 5/7… can Mr 7/7 revert to 5/7 without losing the honor in the relationship???

  12. Blanche-167373 October 3, 2009 Reply

    That's a great question James. I think you're talking about the 2nd and 5th here on CM? I've never been in that situation (still a 7/7 girl here) but I can tell you for sure that if you revert back to 5/7 because she is losing her resolve, and let's say things don't work out for you two in the end, she will feel sick with regret, and probably revert to 7/7 again after moving on. She may even stay in a 5/7 relationship with you for a while, but she will still be unhappy about it even if she looks happy on the surface. She may even revert back to that same 7/7 girl if things don't work out in the end. On the other hand, if you remind her gently that it was her idea to be 7/7, and question her change of heart, she just might fall in deeper attraction for you for remembering her original ideals annnnnd…you might get a partner for life. :) Just my two cents!

  13. Anne-344007 October 6, 2009 Reply

    I am a 7/7 person who just had to be ousted from a 5/7 relayionship—I have been truly blest since then with more and more conviction that I have in fact done the right thing—-my conscience isn't trying to make right what my conscience has determined to be a compromise, and I have seen evidence of God's favor in the recent past. This article was helpful also in confirming a conviction that our present society wants to offer us as passe'—I'm not saying that the choice is an easy one, but making Christian choices is never that easy, and acting on Christian beliefs is harder still. Thank you and keep up the good work—your advice seems real and helpful. Anne-344007

  14. James-488435 October 6, 2009 Reply

    Well I'm not a 7/7 but if I find a perfect match that is, I will gladly adopt the 7/7 life. I have been thinking of how a relationship in a 7/7 would work and how I could be part of it, but really I do feel that it would enhance my faith if I met a 7/7.
    All my previous relationships would have been solved better if I took the 7/7 approach and there certainly would not have been any pain given or taken for another.
    Personally after reflection, if you meet someone that you feel is very special then you have a bond that will last all the way until you die, and so we don't have to wait for marriage for full commitment, as a relationship is the start of the bond and taking decisions early in a relationship can give more longevity than a 5/7 style of relationship.
    7/7 is a perfect way of starting a relationship and only marriage can open the chapter of closeness that we all desire.

  15. Becky-484328 October 8, 2009 Reply

    i keep this new quotes in mind : Everyone you date is somebody's daughter, somebody's son, somebody's brother or sister. Everyone you date is created by God, in His image and likeness.

  16. Susan-479765 October 9, 2009 Reply

    Amen! I have a daughter and that was exactly what I thought of. This is such an important issue. And it needs to be settled before discovering if a "match" is the right one. If one partner is trying to push the other into a place they don't want to be then obviously the match isn't a good one. James said it very well, if you find that special one you should be glad to keep to the 7/7 until marriage. But that doesn't mean you should refrain from showing affection; the question isn't "all or nothing" here, it's "what do I feel comfortable with".

  17. Andrea-368415 October 11, 2009 Reply

    Thank you for this article! For myself, I believe that any sort of kissing (except on the cheek or hand) should be reserved for after engagement. Hugs, holding hands, etc.–everything of that sort is affectionate without being particularly closer than what a friend or brother would receive. I'm an introvert, so I tend to be very conservative anyway, but I believe that it is best to be certain that this one man is the one you want to marry before you share a lot of intimate affection.

  18. Blezel-492981 November 6, 2009 Reply

    It's exactly how I wanted with all the relationships that I've had because unfortunately for me, I never encountered a date that supports with my principle, that "our body is a sacred temple of God" and should therefore always be cared as the living miracle that He had created in this world. Thanks for the article. I certainly believed that there is still someone or somebody out there who shares the same opinion with me that I'm gonna meet someday. Im not opposed to intimacy, but it should be coupled up with a lot of discipline and seeks the will of God.

  19. Christine-495916 November 7, 2009 Reply

    It just gets better and better! This is definately the kind of 'stuff' that makes my day as well as the fact that out there are many more who share the same points of view.

  20. Sabrina-427169 November 11, 2009 Reply

    That's a powerful article, thank you for writing it. God bless!

  21. Monica-507827 November 17, 2009 Reply

    The example you give about a teenage girl is totally understandable. It would be crazy for a girl that young to have sex. However, I know many women who waited until their 30s or even early 40s to have intimate relations and not just with anybody on a one-night stand, but with the person they were in a serious relationship with. I also know a couple of women who waited until the honeymoon to have sex, and believe it or not, they discovered after they were married, that their spouses had performance issues ie, erectile dysfunction! Ironically, one of these women claims that her husband is very affectionate and LOVES to cuddle. He just doesn't like to have sex because he can't perform. She now regrets having waited!

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  23. Christina-615534 September 11, 2010 Reply

    I like the ending. Its true Beth. There is no black and white of how far is too far. God gave that one rule, which is.. No sex before marriage. He didnt give us any rule or He didnt draw any line to how far is too far when it comes to intimacy.. but He did give us free will and our own instinct. Affection is important when the relationship is at a certain level. When we are God centered, we will know where and when to draw the line.

    • Marita-847688 June 1, 2012 Reply

      God did a lot more than say no sex before marriage. He said a man and woman should not know each other in the Biblical sense until marriage. And remember, sex involves a lot more than just intercourse.

  24. Woha T. January 4, 2012 Reply

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