I’ve been dating a really great guy for several months now. He’s pretty much a dream come true (smart, funny, musically talented, sweet, nerdy, reallyreally attractive), and I know he’s crazy about me, too. And…well…therein lies the problem.
We’ve talked about the HND, and come to the firm, mutual agreement that it would be the wrong choice for us, for a number of reasons. (Both of our respective religious viewpoints prohibit extramarital sex; I'm going away to college this year and he is a grade behind me, and we don't want to create a strong physical bond like that before seeing if our relationship will survive the distance; and of course, it's 100% effective at preventing pregnancy and STDs.) I have no question that abstinence is the right choice for us, but it’s really difficult. French-kissing is pretty ubiquitous whenever we're together. Sometimes when we get more heated, we end up horizontal; lately, our makeouts devolve into desperate, horny humping, which is already further than we want to go. We’ve tried to say, “okay, we’re going to scale things back here,” but sooner or later we always slip up again.
How can we control ourselves? Are there any methods—short of shock collars and physically strapping ourselves to our respective seats—to make out without totally losing our heads? I’d rather not give up physical affection entirely, but the slippery slope here is scaring me. We actually haven't gone too terribly far at this point, but the fact that we can't respect our own boundaries makes me very nervous.
Um. You can't? Are you sure, Sparkler? Because as far as I can tell, you've been dating for months, you're crazy about each other, and the sum total of your sexual activities is the occasional dry hump followed by mature communication and a mutual agreement that it was a mistake you'll try to avoid.
I'd say you're respecting your boundaries just fine, darling. It's just that, boundaries being what they are, it was unreasonable to think that you'd never ever slip up and need to re-enforce them — especially when you're up against urges that are hardwired deep down inside your lizard brain. Your sex drive is a biological imperative, like the desire for food or sleep. And despite the obvious differences (you will not personally die from a lack of sex the way you would from a lack of food), it doesn't change the fact that what you're asking of yourselves is really, really difficult. Two horny teenagers trying to control their sexual desires by putting on the brakes mid-makeout is like a starving person trying to control his hunger by putting a cheeseburger inside his mouth and then trying not to chew or swallow it.
So for starters, Sparkler, please adjust your idea of "abstinence" to include something other than a 100% success rate on totally chaste makeouts. Your actual desire to grind on each other is is sometimes going to win out over your theoretical desire not to, because you're human, and that's okay. But if you you want that to happen less often, then you'll need to acknowledge those desires as a natural sign of your sexual maturity, instead of ignoring them in the hopes that they'll go away. You say you want to control yourselves, but true control isn't just about repressing your urges; it's also about accepting them, and expressing them in ways that are appropriate, healthy, and respectful of your body and your boundaries. Your sexuality is a part of you, and the better you're acquainted with it, the more you'll be able to use it mindfully and only when you want to.
It's up to you to decide what that means for you. Maybe you'll keep sex off the table, but allow yourselves to be intimate in, ahem, other ways. (Plenty of abstinent couples hang out very happily on third base, where they learn the ins and outs of each other's bodies without the risks or responsibilities of sex.) Or, if you decide you're not ready to go beyond kissing when you're together, you can get a better grasp on your own urges by doing the DIY HND when you're on your own. You can also find ways to make the boundaries you do agree on logistically easier to enforce, by setting a timer so that you're only able to make out in five-minute increments, or keeping your intimacy limited strictly to venues in which you can't end up horizontal...like armchairs, movie theaters, and the cereal aisle at the grocery store.
But most importantly, you can make sure that you're basing your decision—whatever it is—on good, factual, accurate information.
Because while your choice to be abstinent is a great and responsible one, you seem to be making it based on some peculiar ideas about sex: that it's a dangerous mystery, an all-or-nothing proposition, a slippery slope, a magic bond-making tool. But sex, or sexual activity, isn't magic. And while abstinence can protect you from many things—pregnancy, STDs, the responsibility of procuring birth control, the possibility of being caught with your pants off in a utility closet—it will most definitely not protect you from falling in love, forming an intense connection, and being devastated if and when things end.
So if you truly can't deal with the possibility of being heartbroken, if you can't be comfortable with the reality of your desires and trust yourself to handle them, and if you can't accept that having boundaries, sexual or otherwise, inevitably means that you'll sometimes overstep them...then realistically, having a relationship with another imperfect human probably isn't something you're ready for.
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