How Far Is Too Far? Physical Boundaries For Chaste Dating


Editor’s note: Emily is the author of The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years. This Q&A is continued from last week’s discussion with Emily.)


Chapter four, “Sex, Chastity & The Biological Clock,” is a big one – it covers so many key issues for single women. You give clear-cut advice on physical parameters in a chaste relationship, and you write that “If you’re serious about embracing chastity, you have to become a bit of an old fuddy duddy.” You spell out situations to avoid:

Drinking too much at parties, on dates, or during events out; talking too long and too late in the car; talking too long and too late anywhere; sleepovers; laying down together; kissing laying down; kissing sitting down; maybe even kissing standing up; not to mention kissing with any portion of your clothing removed. And backrubs. Definitely backrubs.

Break this down for CatholicMatch members.

Just so we’re clear right up front, I’m not saying everyone should make a hard-and-fast rule to never stay up late talking to their honey or not kiss a guy until they’ve got a ring on their finger. People know their own personal strengths and sources of temptation way better than I do.

I’m just giving a list of situations that can become – or are – minefields for a couple trying to date chastely. Now, a couple of those situations listed are “avoid at all cost” – drinking too much, clothes off. Most are “it’s really wise to avoid.” And one or two are for those who know they’re no good at putting the breaks on once things get going even a little bit and find it safer to avoid letting things get going in the first place.


So with that list, you’re trying to get people to think about chastity differently?


Too often we approach questions about chastity from a negative standpoint. We ask ourselves, “How much can we do before I have to go to confession.” But if that’s the question we’re asking, the battle is already half lost.



Partly because the farther we go, the harder it is to stop, both physically and emotionally. Most of us understand the physical part of the problem. The emotional part is a bit more subtle. A romantic kiss between a man and a woman – as opposed to a peck on the cheek – isn’t just a kiss. It’s the beginning of the gift of self.

For a moment, we share breath with another person. For a moment, we share life. That’s serious business – entertaining business, mind you, but not mere entertainment. We shouldn’t treat it like it is. At least for women, the more serious smooching we do, the more of our hearts we give. And the more we give our hearts, the more we want to give everything else. It’s just how we women folk are wired.


What’s the other part of your reasoning?

The rest of the reason is that such a question reveals we’re not thinking about sexual intimacy properly. The ability to give ourselves, body and soul, to another is a tremendous gift. It’s a sacred gift actually. It’s one of the most beautiful and powerful ways in which we image God, who is self-gift. And when we understand just how very precious that gift is, the goal shouldn’t be to use it and abuse it as much as we possibly can without getting into trouble. The goal should be safeguarding the gift, protecting it as much as possible until we can use the gift the way God designed it to be used.


So that’s where the list comes in?


As I explain in the book, avoidance has always been strongly recommended by those men and women who have “St.” before their name. That’s because avoiding temptation is a lot easier than running from it. If you’re running from it, you’ve already seen it, and its power to stop you dead in your tracks is immense. If you avoid it, however, there’s no temptation dogging your steps. You’re free, at least relatively speaking.

This applies to cookies. If you don’t buy or bake any, you’re not going to blow your diet. It also applies to boys. If you don’t put yourself in situations that can easily lead to sins against chastity, you’re going to have an awful hard time sinning against chastity.



So how has this advice been going over?

The book just came out a few weeks ago, so thus far no one has rolled their eyes to my face. That doesn’t mean they haven’t rolled their eyes behind my back though. I’m sure some have.

I’m also sure some are asking, “But how can you tell if you have chemistry with a person if you don’t [fill in the blank.]”

I think what most of us who’ve been in chaste relationships, including those who’ve gotten married after being chaste, would say is, “You know.”

When you’re not getting too intimate too fast, every little touch and glance take on a heightened importance. You can feel all sorts of sparks without being unchaste. Then, once you’re married and can be intimate, the hormones and sacramental grace kick in and help things along…or so I’m told.

Besides, ask the happiest married couples you know about chemistry and they’ll usually laugh. Attraction matters to a marriage – you need to find your spouse appealing enough to go to bed with and wake up with after all – but it doesn’t matter as much as kindness, generosity, honesty, and fidelity.

When we put so much emphasis on the chemistry question, we’re just showing how much we’ve bought into the culture’s understanding of love and happiness. And we all know the problems to which that understanding leads.




Additional reading



  1. Ann-1080387 April 26, 2014 Reply

    My platonic male best friend and I KNOW we have chemistry. (there are legitimate reasons we are friends and not dating). We’ve never kissed, etc. One can tell without getting too physical. In fact in my opinion, maybe if a couple has to get excessively physical all over each other in order to know if they have chemistry, maybe the fact that they have to go so far to find out is itself a sign that they don’t have real chemistry.

  2. Lynea-297530 May 28, 2013 Reply

    Oh goodness, those animations are kind of funny.

    I just wanted to add: holy prudence is not the same as being a prude! No more putting yourself down for seeking to put God first, please! Holy prudence, as living in any other of the virtues (we should strive for all of them, focusing on the one that counters our predominate fault) allows us to be free to give true love and affection, since true love requires right ordered affection and it stems from the supernatural virtue of charity (along with the gifts of the Holy Ghost). We become more affectionate the more we order our affections to God first, and to our neighbor as a result of our love of God. The affection is deeper as ordering it first to God helps us to become less self-inclined, and seeks out the highest goods for our neighbor. It becomes a celebration of God and the freedom that comes from living in His grace. Yay!

  3. Lynea-297530 May 28, 2013 Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article! Yesss!!!
    I was fortunate to get schooled on this from an awesome priest many years ago, and it was basically the same advice. What I have experienced is that there are some men who, although they say they want and respect a chaste courtship, they are so used to getting affection that crosses the line from other women, that they become insecure when they don’t get it from you. It’s so sad, because it is almost as if the other, licit kinds of affection have less significance to them as a result. 🙁 Where, the opposite is true for someone who is chaste: even holding hands becomes huge, sharing a meal, a brief but heartfelt hug, etc. Ordering one’s appetites to God helps you to better fulfill your duties according to your state, and gives you the freedom to fulfill those duties better and without impediments.

    Then, I’ve been complimented for being chaste, but really, it’s all about God and honoring Him. Any virtues that we have are thanks to the Lord, since all that we can really claim as our is our sins. So, just living out the fruits of the Holy Ghost no only make your spiritual life/relationship with God stronger, but they also serve as a witness to Him for others.

    • Elissa-829089 December 15, 2013 Reply

      Yes, Lynea, exactly. Even though guys know I am chaste, they often expect me to behave like other women they’ve dated. Their poor feelings are crushed when I don’t respond as anticipated!

  4. Patrick-341178 May 5, 2013 Reply

    I think each couple needs to figure out boundaries for themselves. When you first start dating, even the most innocent of physical touching should be kept to a minimum. As the relationship progresses, I think those boundaries can start to be lifted (noted exception – keeping the clothes on at all time). You can feel to comfortable with that person in a physical way if you are going to marry him or her. I just have a hard time believing that couples that don’t even kiss until they are married – that everything will just be fine going forward. There are always exceptions, but I dont see anything wrong with kissing. If you want to keep that to a peck fine, but at a certain point in a relationship, longer kisses seem appropriate.

    At first, avoiding temptation to sin makes sense. But, eventually you need to feel comfortable with that person in a non-sexual intitimate way, so if you do get married, the sexual leap won’t be quite as great, in my opinion.

    • Lynea-297530 May 28, 2013 Reply

      Boundaries have to be an objective matter, because we are ALL creatures with wounds of concupiscence. Presuming on God’s grace is not cool, it’s actually a sin. Once we get stirred towards the marital act, we’ve already crossed the line! The objective is to NOT get stirred deliberately.

  5. Anayo-918761 April 17, 2013 Reply

    physical intimacy is very appealing to the body,but only communion with God can counter it. chastity is not just “staying away from physical intimacy but staying in with a clear thought” thanks! matthew 5:27-28.

  6. LuAnn-385566 March 7, 2013 Reply

    I say you’ll all know when the right time is……..

  7. Rollanda-905758 February 11, 2013 Reply

    The book sounds good, mabey I have been a little to hard on myself and other when I see people out and out myself. I am a true prude, might have to change a bit and loosen up just a little. Sorry to hear about our pope please pray for him.

  8. Rosanna-564071 December 16, 2012 Reply

    I love this article. Thank you for letting the Holy Spirit speak through you. 🙂

  9. Jacob-920510 November 21, 2012 Reply

    Hahaha! The animations are hysterical.

    • Kelly-984108 July 10, 2013 Reply

      I thought the same! The guys face is so dojy, the dashing &dapper face hahahaha

      • Kelly-984108 July 10, 2013 Reply

        Your number is hilarious too, remember bed hills 90210, look at your number hahahaha!

        • Kelly-984108 July 10, 2013 Reply

          How rude!!! my darn nexus wrote bed hills, this gets funnier on a blog about Chastity, I’m doing a great job of looking like charlaton! Hahahaha 🙂 oh deary me well at least I hope it makes a few people laugh! …. & there I was trying to be as debonair as the guy in the scetch’s… Hahahaha ended up looking as silly as him… Lol well hidy hidy hody ho!! Eh hem! I’ve obviously had far too much coffee this afternoon! Here’s were I make a quick sharp exit…. Toodles 🙂

  10. Okwori-815417 November 11, 2012 Reply

    What a wonderful and mind buggling write up that comes as a rude awakening to this modern generation. What I cherished most in the discuss is the pragmatic approach.
    We must understand that emotion is stronger than reason. Its easy for a person(even the author) to advocate a no to pre-marital sex but in the red heat of sexual temptation brought about by strong libidity driven with the sight of irresistible flesh, nice curves,six packs,entrancing beauty and hypnotizing smooches, errotic caressing,passionate kisses charming huds etc, the story becomes a different book entirely. Women are stronger than men in fighting off pre-marital sex and they should assist the guys in building their strenght in that line. With man it seems inpractical to avoid premarital sex but with God all things are possible. When it comes to sexual sin, the Holy Bible Instructed christians to flee while for other sins it said resist. Hence, let’s not associate people’s official views with their ability to resist sexual sins.

    • Adam-918483 April 1, 2013 Reply

      As it is I’m in confrontation rather than fleeing. Young women with the ‘naivity’ hurts me, when it’s a friend. That closes you out and you want good to win over evil, so you (general yous*) want to react actively because passive has the feel of evil having won. Life turned nightmare, for the sake of my “expectations”…I’ll continue later writing, perhaps. Peace all.

  11. Mary-732729 November 5, 2012 Reply

    I think too that many people may have down they are 7/7 on their profile, but they would be willing to become 6/7. Even if 7/7 is listed, make sure they really are!

  12. Mary-668515 October 11, 2012 Reply

    I had no idea there was so much to read in the Blogs. This subject is so important when
    dating. Age does not make any difference to God. Our minds and bodies are always ready to react and do and be. When God teaches he leaves us room to grow and learn. Reconciliation was instituted by Jesus on earth. Our Bible tells the Gensis story and we learn of Adam and Eve. All roads lead to God. We just have to pack our spiritual luggage and keep God close. There are thieves along the journey and God has set up fail safes for us. I know. Reading all this wonderful information has made me so happy. God Bless all the minds who have shared and may we all journey to our eternity with God. Amen

  13. Leslie-345328 September 30, 2012 Reply

    I came across the book while at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, KS in August. I loved the title & artwork on the cover. : ) It’s a great book! Thank you!

  14. Carlo-530417 September 6, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it !

  15. Thomas L. June 11, 2012 Reply

    My advice to women(from Dr. Loo) is to never let a guy regard you as easy as “cheap meat.”

  16. John L. June 11, 2012 Reply

    Why dont we let women scourge Men against pillars on dates too? And not just with reeds but with cata nine tails like in “The Passion of the Christ.” Since men are supposed to love their wives (future wives in this case) like Christ loved the church, right?

  17. Elida-845373 June 8, 2012 Reply

    I have been blessed today with your analogies and new perspective on chaste dating. Thank you so much for such a great advice!

  18. Monica-345711 June 1, 2012 Reply

    Great Article! I would love to read the entire book so please enter me in the drawing. I just said goodbye tonight to a CM man I’ve dated who was kind, loving, etc., but wasn’t interested in chaste dating. He could easily and quickly have taken me down the wrong path. Your article gave me a boost that I made the right choice. Thanks!

    • Thomas L. June 11, 2012 Reply

      Great choices! The worst thing you can do is to present yourself as “cheap meat.”

  19. Carol-540879 May 29, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the article –I’ve been wondering how I will put into action my ideal when I begin to date again.
    The title portrays my question exactly!

  20. Mary-310679 May 29, 2012 Reply

    So, I haven’t been able to figure out what the difference between friend and boyfriend is?

    • Thomas L. June 11, 2012 Reply

      I’m not sure how to answer your question but I do know one thing for sure. Guys may get mad at me for revealing this: Beware of guys who are over aggressive or “pushy”; they are only testing you and want to see how far they can go and how far a girl will allow them to go. They are happy if they can go really far because they’ll feel like they “conquered”; but they are only conquering themselves and are the “losers” because they are cheating themselves. If a girl is “hard to get” she’ll earn great respect and word will get around fast; the “easy” girls lose the respect they want and acquire a cheap image that will get around too

      • Ann-1080387 April 26, 2014 Reply

        Good point about pushiness. I heard someone (he was not religious at all and came from a secular viewpoint but still gave good advice) say something interesting. What he said was: Don’t judge a guy if he tries to get too physical too soon. DO judge him by how he responds/reacts when you say “No.”

  21. Bridget-676758 May 25, 2012 Reply

    This book was terrific, insightful and hilarious. 2 thumbs up 🙂

  22. Carol G. May 23, 2012 Reply

    I’m a renewed “virgin”. This guide to chaste dating sounds great! Looking forward to meeting like minded individuals!

    • Thomas L. June 11, 2012 Reply

      Good for you, Carol! You’re a winner in anybody’s book so may the Good Lord bless and love you for doing the right thing. Guys will respect you, believe me, because they’ll regard you as a respected human being and not a cheap piece of meat or tramp.

  23. Adriana-448920 May 20, 2012 Reply

    So many great comments…it is refreshing to hear these. I am amazed to see how this society has transformed being chaste or abstaining to a “bad” thing when this is actually the right thing to do! It is too sad to see how if you are practising chastity you are viewed as the “alien” or a “fuddy duddy”. It used to be if you slept around you were NOT doing the right thing…so how did the tables get turned? Hopefully the pendullum swings the other way back to the right thing!

    • Marita-847688 June 8, 2012 Reply

      Your guess is as good as mine. I wonder if the pill and the media play a big part.

      • Thomas L. June 11, 2012 Reply

        The pill indeed has played a big part. When guys know that a certain girl is on the pill, what message does that send? It tells a guy that she wants it as much as he does because she’s making sure she doesn’t get pregnant. Now she’s set and ready and will not worry about pregnancy. So then a guy is only doing her a favor by making love to her because she “wants it, bad enough to invest her money to buy the “pill” which aren’t cheap. But the only thing that’s cheap is her image.

    • Thomas L. June 11, 2012 Reply

      PP had a big part in teaching promiscuity. I once found a library book written by PP(Planned Parenthood) and I was shocked to read their advice to pre-teens and teens to experiment in making love and go all the way to be experts in it. Also, it advised: “don’t tell and don’t listen to your parents when they tell you to abstain because they just want to make you feel guilty. So find the nearest private corner where you and your partner can experiment and enjoy. I saw these words with my own eyes and couldn’t believe it. So beware of PP’s books in public libraries.

      • Marita-847688 June 11, 2012 Reply

        WHAT!?! If I had a teen or preteen I’d be outraged by this! Good thing I’m not a father of a little girl…..or some angry emails might go out! 🙁

  24. Mary B. May 17, 2012 Reply

    My now husband and I practiced Chastity the whole time we dated. The graces from the Sacrament of Marriage are so tremendous! I am glad that we waited till our Wedding night. It’s the best thing I’ve ever experienced in a relationship. No sex, not while we dated, and the way that formed our friendship was amazing. We had bumps along the way, when I think the Devil tried to shake the relationship but God’s power to bind together us in the Sacrament as one flesh, amazing!!! This past lent we abstained from Sex too, and even as a married couple, I can tell you waiting makes things better than ever. WoooH HOOO for for your blog. I think more people need to know it’s ok to hold out for the ultimate expression of Love, making babies with the one you Love. And don’t rush in. I was 35 and my husband was 41 when we tied the knot. There’s something to be said for waiting for the one who isn’t out to get in your pants. I found a man who shared my faith, my values, my love for music, he cooks, he does the dishes, and he’s my counterpart… my other. Agape love is so deep and enriches our lives. So don’t sell yourselves short by sleeping around, or hopping in the sack before saying I DO. The best thing I ever did was to wait for God to find my spouse for me.

    • John L. May 30, 2012 Reply

      Ya know Mary, and I mean this is the most charitable way possible, it sounds like you’d rather abstain from sex in marriage then indulge in it, just sayin…….. is it really that insignificant?

      • Tara-916865 December 24, 2012 Reply

        No, I disagree. She seemed to be saying sex was worth the wait, and that she and her husband sacrificed sex during Lent, which made it even better for the Easter season! 🙂

        • Ann-1080387 April 26, 2014 Reply

          Some couples abstain from sex because one of them loses interest. It’s clear that wasn’t the case for this couple. For them it was more of a mutually-agreed upon somewhat heroic Lenten sacrifice. I seem to remember such periods practiced a couple of times by holy people in the Old Testament.

    • Thomas L. June 11, 2012 Reply

      congratulations! If you can do it then others can too; and besides, the goal for couples should be to help each other reach heaven and not to go to “you know where.” Satan is constantly urging us to sin, mind you, so we need to keep a constant vigil. Your story is so inspiring! It ought to be read in all high schools.

  25. Marianne S. May 17, 2012 Reply

    This is great. I can’t wait to buy to the book.

  26. Patrick B. May 16, 2012 Reply

    Maybe you already have dealt with this (or intend to) but of course not dressing provocatively is an important part of chaste dating. As is being careful what you talk about; start talking about sex and you have one foot on the slippery slope.

    • Thomas L. June 11, 2012 Reply

      You’re so right; above all, avoid lying down together because this will only lead from one thing to another if you know what I mean; and if it does, you’ll probably feel guilty enough to regret it. Trust me.

    • Ann-1080387 April 26, 2014 Reply

      Unfortunately, even many devout women who believe in chastity think you are prudish if you talk about modest dressing. This is because (hard as this may be for you guys to believe) most women (in my experience) really truly don’t understand the effect such things have on men.

  27. Joanne-785600 April 21, 2012 Reply

    I believe Blessed Pope John Paul II was way ahead with Theology of the Body, oh I just love it and yes love is worth the wait and the person you wed should be the only one to share that special gift with, your true soul mate and faith friend, how beautful 🙂 thanks for this

  28. Marie-428574 April 12, 2012 Reply

    This story is so true. Where do you draw the line? To many males I have come across do not seam to have any morals at all when they chase you down and what I have referred to hand to hand combat (especially in my college dating years.) Our society pushes the physical and not the spiritual. I wonder sometimes how many guys actually live a chaste life or for that matter the gals. Our music and movies push sex and even the style of dress in the stores. Such does not encourage to live the chaste life. It is great to come across helpful advice to remaining chaste. Here is to living up our Catholic religion and not what society says to do.

    • Thomas L. June 10, 2012 Reply

      Kissing for unweds should be limited to “pecks,” that last a split second.

  29. Kathleen-461953 April 8, 2012 Reply

    I find your advice on dating very sound and simply common-sense. Sometimes it’s tough to be called a “prude” or feel like an old’fuddy duddy” but in the long run it’s better to be chaste than be “chased” by the wrong men.

    • Thomas L. June 10, 2012 Reply

      To act like a “prude” will garner you the respect from men that is so essential in a proper bonding. To act like a “floppy slut” will garner you disrespect and a bad reputation.

  30. Geraldine-838744 April 2, 2012 Reply

    Most man on CatholicMatch think pre-marriage sex is O.K.! How do we responsed to that?
    It seems that’s all thats on their minds. And it’s not only a Church rule but, in the Bible.

    • Fernando-528489 April 5, 2012 Reply


      What is the response to such a phenomenon? Good question. I thank a woman that reminds me with their firmness yet love and kindness that engaging in pre-marriage sex is Not O.K.

      • Marsha-858710 May 17, 2012 Reply

        Ah, so let me understand this. You expect the woman to REMIND you to be chaste? Get over yourself and take some responsibility for your actions.

      • Tanya-860615 May 31, 2012 Reply

        Aww Fernando que lindo, but that responsibility should not be solely put on the female – males need to take initiative and learn on their own that pre-marital sex is definitely not the way to go.

    • Norbert-98169 April 8, 2012 Reply

      It’s not just men who think pre-marital sex is OK. I see plenty of women on Catholicmatch who think the same way.

      • Meesch-691047 April 16, 2012 Reply

        Very true Norbert, which is why it is crucial to find people who are like you and accept you for the child of God that you are. Then, stick close to that fellowship and community of believers who live the truth as well as preach it.

      • Clement-669539 April 23, 2012 Reply

        I second that Norbert. There are so many profiles with only 5 of 7 in agreement with the church doctrines; contraception and premarital sex being the two opposed. I wonder if that is echoed by the guys profiles. It would be interesting to see a poll conducted based on the profiles as they are and not one of those even less scientific on the side. From the comments here it may be even?

      • Thomas L. June 10, 2012 Reply

        I know that it’s hard; but anything worth striving for has got to be hard and not easy. Character and fortitude go hand in hand; you’ll feel better later for acting “chaste” because you’ll have a clear conscience.

    • Thomas L. June 10, 2012 Reply

      If a man really loves you, he’ll want to wait til he’s married. If he can’t wait, then he’s not Mr. Right because he’s only interested in the physical “love” and not in the genuine love that exists in the marital bond. Besides, it builds character and fortitude; the other way builds weakness and a lack of character.

  31. Marta-712868 March 29, 2012 Reply

    interesting….would like to read the whole book!

  32. Christina-519533 March 21, 2012 Reply

    Thanks, all, for the insightful comments and congrats to Bridget for winning the book giveaway! Hope you enjoy it.

  33. Cari-789634 March 18, 2012 Reply

    back rubs….whoa, huge no-no!!!

  34. Bridget-676758 March 18, 2012 Reply

    This was very have to keep yourself in check and I definitely don’t want to be responsible for giving my date suggestive thoughts. thanks for the insight!

  35. Stephen-725391 March 18, 2012 Reply

    Everyone is concentrated on the ‘pre’ as 0% but nothing is ever said about the ‘post’ which by all logic is 100% – but does that happen, or does withholding take place?

  36. Naomi-698107 March 18, 2012 Reply

    Chastity is certainly something that’s viewed with very negative connotations in this society, I thik for the most part its due to people’s inability to accept self-control and to deny themselves. So they view chastity as self-denial and that’s bad.

    Of course, chastity isn’t self denial so much as it is giving and recieving an amazing thing when the time is right. Its like Christmas presents. You really want them before Christmas, and if you sneak a peak or just open them outright, after you feel a little empty and come Christmas day, its like “what’s so special about this”.

    Chastity is about giving ourselves and the person we love everything, but understanding that such a gift should be given at the right time for the full impact.

    • Meesch-691047 April 16, 2012 Reply

      Again, I agree with everything you say Naomi! I need to start a blog of your wisdom!

    • Joseph I. June 2, 2012 Reply

      I liked the analogy you used.

      • Marita-847688 June 8, 2012 Reply

        I found it funny that you are standing next to a Christmas tree in that picture. It’s like you reminded me about Christmas and reinforced it’s meaning and the meaning of the analogy.

    • Billy-88650 December 19, 2012 Reply

      awesome Naomi, well said. Thanks that inspires me.

  37. Emily-662967 March 16, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for sharing! This Q&A definitely piques my interest in Ms. Stimpson’s book … I never quite thought of kissing as ‘sharing breath and life,’ but I can certainly understand how changing one’s view of ‘it’s just a kiss’ can help clarify the need to maintain chaste relationships in this challenging culture!

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