Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

Is Physical Touch in Courtship Wrong?

Perhaps everything you’ve thought about touch in courtship is incorrect. Or at least incomplete.

When Teresa and I first started dating and were deciding whether or not to be “hands off,” we asked our Dad’s about what they thought. But they didn’t have a strong opinion. They blessed us to do what we felt was best.

I think Teresa’s Dad requested that I honor her wishes, which was perfectly appropriate. However, I was looking for more definitive answers. I thought our Dad’s would make the decision for us, but that’s not what happened. We could do whatever we wanted.

What’s right? Is it okay to have physical touch with your girlfriend? Or should a dating couple not touch at all?

There is a lot of teaching out there that promotes hands-off courtship. While I’m confident the motives are right, many people have developed the idea that if a couple has any physical touch in courtship they are giving in to fleshly desires, and sinning. Which simply isn’t true. Not in every case.

4 Misconceptions about Physical Touch

As I’ve listened to conversations about physical touch, I’ve discovered several misconceptions we have about it when it comes to courtship.

First of all, many believe that physical touch in courtship leads to sexual sin.

Touch doesn’t lead to sexual sin. Lust does. (Check out James 1:14) And it’s possible to touch someone without having lust in your heart.

On the other hand, the second misconception is that physical touch is harmless.

It’s not. When it comes to romantic relationships and physical touch, it is never fully satisfied until sexual intercourse. And we have to be real about that in order to truly understand its place in courtship.

Thirdly, some people say that touch during courtship lessens the meaning of touch after marriage

That’s only half true. Obsessive touch when dating is often because of something unhealthy in the relationship. When that couple gets married, touch no longer fills the void and something else becomes the obsession, maybe even leaving touch out altogether. Not all dating couples use physical touch to fill an unhealthy need in their relationship. In fact, for some it may be a proper complement that only deepens meaning after marriage.

Lastly, people also say that a couple should set a standard early on and commit to it for the rest of the courtship

This can be problematic because when a couple makes a declaration like that, they will likely quit communicating about it. A healthy couple needs to constantly communicate about touch even if they make a specific commitment. I’ll share why, later. It can also bind the couple to a commitment that isn’t necessarily needed for purity. Sometimes commitments like this give a false sense of maturity. However, if the couple feels like setting a commitment would be helpful to them in keeping it in the right focus, that’s great!

The Short Answer

So, is physical touch in courtship wrong?

For those of you that don’t enjoy reading long posts, I’ll give the short answer now. For those that do, keep reading.

No, it’s not wrong. But,

  • Honor your parents
  • It depends on the maturity of the couple
  • Be sure to constantly communicate – even if you’re “hands-off”
  • Don’t go beyond your level of commitment

Now let’s take a deeper look at all of this.

What the Bible Tells Us about Touch in Courtship

Scripture doesn’t really address physical touch. It has plenty to say about marriage, immorality, sexual sin, and purity; but it doesn’t really go into details about physical touch in courtship. I wonder what Isaac and Rebecca did, since they’re the classic example of courtship. Or Boaz and Ruth. She slept at his feet before they were married! Can you imagine that happening today?

A common passage used against touch in courtship is 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. But let’s look at what Paul is really saying.

“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: [It is] good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” (KJV)

The word touch in this passage means something more than holding hands or placing your arm around her shoulder. It literally means “to have sexual intercourse.” Paul is actually quoting what they had written him about: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” He responds in verse two by saying “to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife and every women her own husband.”

This passage isn’t talking about simple physical touch, but is acknowledging the temptation to sexual sin and that it’s good for a man to have one wife and a woman to have one husband because of it.

A More Biblical Way than “Hands-Off”

I think there’s an even more biblical way than just declaring “hands-off.” Though scripture doesn’t address touch in courtship directly, there are numerous key principles we can pull from it to help us sort through this issue.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12,

“’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” (ESV)

“All things” is pretty broad.

Physical touch is lawful for me, but not all physical touch is helpful. Physical touch is lawful, but I will not be dominated by it.

How do we know if it’s helpful or if we’re dominated by it?

In Ephesians 5, Paul talks about how we imitate God and walk in wisdom. In verse 15, He says,

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. . .” (KJV)

I never understood exactly what Paul is saying here, until I thought about it terms of my life—past, present and future. Circumspectly implies that I’m carefully looking at my surroundings. What if by looking carefully at the times surrounding me I could see if physical touch in courtship is right or wrong?

Take a look at ways you have failed in the past and ask yourself, “In light of that, what is the wisest thing for me to do in relation to physical touch in courtship?” Think about your current circumstances and again ask the question. What are your future hopes and dreams? Considering the marriage you hope to have, what is the wisest thing for you to do now in courtship?

By looking at the past to see what temptations you usually give in to, and acknowledging your current circumstances along with expressing your future hopes and dreams, it helps you as a couple discern whether touch is something that has the potential of dominating you or not.

6 Conclusions I Came to about Physical Touch in Courtship

Teresa and I decided that until we got engaged, we didn’t want touch distracting us from getting to know each other. Because touch is meaningful to us, we knew our relationship could soon become centered around it, even though we were confident we would never commit sexual sin.

We hugged when we greeted each other or said goodbye. We’d lean shoulder to shoulder. I even took her hiking across a stream just so I could offer my hand (how lame is that!). Once we were engaged, however, we had a little more touch, such as holdings hands.

Both of us had tremendous peace about our decision, even though it was not necessarily typical in our circles. As we went through that experience, and as I think about it now two and half years after marriage, there are six conclusions I have about physical touch in courtship that I think are important to consider.

1. Honor your parents’ wishes

If your parents want you to have a hands-off courtship, you need to honor that and trust that they have your best in mind—because they do.

For Teresa and I, we were essentially given the sky as the limit (not really). But I have a friend who I know had the maturity to hold hands during his courtship, but didn’t because her Dad wasn’t comfortable with it. That’s admirable. And if your parents want you to have a hands-off relationship, respect that. Also, skip to my fifth conclusion.

2. Physical touch in courtship is not committing sexual sin

I think the “hands-off” teaching came after the increase of premarital sex back in the sixties, so it’s focused on keeping couples from facing the temptation for sexual sin. But just because you touch doesn’t mean you’ve committed sexual sin. In fact, if the relationship is committed to marriage, holding hands can be an appropriate expression of that commitment.

3. It is like playing with fire

Touching someone you deeply love will arouse you and you need to be prepared for that. When Teresa and I didn’t hold hands, we wanted to. Once we held hands, we wanted to kiss (just to be blunt). It’s not wrong—perfectly good and natural for a couple pursuing marriage. But if our hearts are filled with lust we are playing with fire and will be dominated by the physical touch. That’s when it is wrong.

4. Get wise advice

Don’t just read my post and make your own conclusions, get the advice of older friends who know you both as a couple. Whether or not touch is a complement to a relationship or a distraction is based on the maturity of the couple. And, honestly, other people can tell our maturity better than we can.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

This goes for every dating couple. One of the biggest mistakes a couple can make is fail to communicate about touch—even if they’re “hands-off.” They never know what each other is thinking. What does “hands-off” mean? Can they kiss as long as their hands are off?

Or if they do touch, what are the expectations? Will they hold hands all the time? At the supper table? In front of their siblings? During church? Will they snuggle, or does there need to be a cattle trough between the two of them as they hold hands? Communication about their touch is key to maintaining clarity and safety in the relationship whether a couple touches or not.

If you allow physical touch in your courtship, there may come a time you realize it’s becoming obsessive and you need to gear back.

Several times throughout our engagement, Teresa and I quit holding hands for a while because it felt like we were beginning to rely on it as they primary way of feeling secure.

Or sometimes I put my arm around her too often and it caused her to struggle because it felt closer and more intimate than what we should be at that point in our relationship. So I stopped doing it as much.

This is also why I say you don’t need to lock yourself into a “commitment.” We found that more important than setting a specific standard we couldn’t deviate from was constantly communicating and being honest with other about itIf it was becoming too much, we’d back off. Or when we felt like it was a good time to implement some touch, we did so without feeling guilty.

Constantly communicate. Even about the little things. It helps you both know what to expect, and (guys!) it makes her feel safe.

6. Most importantly, don’t touch beyond your level of commitment

If you’re touching just to touch (because that’s what romantic relationships are all about), you are sending the wrong signal to the other person. If you’re not committed to marriage, holding hands can make it feel like you are.

Here’s why this is so important: a successful courtship is not about getting married. It’s about figuring out whether marriage is the next step. If a couple dates and decides they want to get married, the courtship was successful! Or if they decide marriage is not for them and the separate, the courtship is still successful.

Even more than expressing feelings, physical touch is an expression of commitment. Feelings come and go throughout the journey of courtship, but you want to base your touch and endearments on how committed you are to the other person. If you’re not ready to say “I will spend my life with you even when things get hard and we both become ugly,” you should probably not have much physical touch.

As long as you match your words of endearment and physical touch with the level of your commitment you will not regret it.

Yes, it’s okay to have physical touch in courtship—it’s not wrong. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Hear your parents’ wishes, get advice, evaluate your own personal level of commitment and be sure to talk about it as a couple. That will help you figure out whether it’s right for you.

Question: Have you thought about this issue much? Or maybe you have dated or are dating and have dealt with this issues personally. What are your thoughts? Share in the comments.

Help Support This Work

About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Shawn Weiler

    Touch is not wrong, but a policy of no touch is a very good idea. This is especially because of the effect of oxytocin. This conclusion is based by scientific research (oxytocin), Jewish customs, and the book “Clean Love in Courtship” (TAN books).

  • I wrote this post mid-July of last year and it turned out to be the most-read post on the blog with over 13,500 views so, I decided to expand it into an eBook. Here’s the story behind my eBook and the info on how you can get a copy for yourself: Is Touch in Courtship Wrong?

  • Joy

    One thing my husband and I found when we were dating, and have shared with several dating couples, is that when you “set your standards” in dating, what you are really doing is setting the threshold of temptation. Do you wanted to be “tempted” to hold hands? To hug passionately? To kiss? To get into bed? Wherever you see it as “crossing the line,” be sure to draw your personal boundaries well behind that point. It is a whole lot easier not to cross lines of danger when you have stayed back “50 feet” than when you have crept to within 1/2 inch of the line. You can look at it as “How far can we go without getting into trouble?” (a dangerous mindset, in most situations!), or you can view it as a way to be kind to yourselves, to avoid the torture of making moral decisions when you are caught up in the moment.

    Something else that someone told me, as a “safety check” in courtship, was “Don’t do things in private that you would be ashamed to be seen doing in public.”

  • Ray Shank

    If there is a question of word meanings in the New Testament, it is helpful to check how it is used in other passages. For example, if you are interested in what the word touch means in 1Cor. 7:1, I would recommend checking what the word means in the other 33 contexts where it is used in the New Testament.

  • totally agree with lust being the biggy! Rules won’t fix that but at the same time some good rules and accountability have an important place as few of us have what it takes to go it alone and stick to a good plan. Because rules and methods are used often times as a cover for heart righteousness does not make them bad in and of themselves? Right? A deep longing to honor and respect Gods design should be the motive and I do believe that is what you are saying.

    I am uncomfortable with making it seem like we need to do some touch to show are growing commitment. Conversely I am one that would be ok with married couples showing more public affection for each other but just because i do not see that does not mean they are not committed. Commitment is often times a very private thing.

    Living by the spirit is no doubt very important and what we need to strive for! Very important point!

  • Good remarks here especially Jake, Shannon, Curt and Bradlyn
    Asher I enjoyed the read. It was forwarded to me by my both of my dating daughters. Some good thoughts here and some that really made me think. That’s what you intended to do right? 37 years of marriage and 7 dating or married children later with four yet to go, we see the courtship time as yet ANOTHER, foundation for a good marriage. Young people very much need to think this one through. Respect for Gods design and principles help reduce regrets. It took me awhile to see the mistakes we made but those mistakes helped me form values that we have tried to pass on to our children. Not easy by any means! The fire analogy is a good one but more on that below
    Developing an ethic about purity that makes sense biblically and stands the test it is highly important for young people and all of us. Taking the high moral ground and staying on it is more about choosing the right path, and building a solid relationship than getting into marriage as virgins, though this is very important. As young people and especially in a dating relationship between two people that are looking forward to marriage there is a lot of pressure to conform to the culture around us, especially the loose so called Christian culture we find ourselves in today.
    There is also a fairly high amount of sexual pressure between two unmarried people who are deeply in love with each other and this love yearns for physical expression and rightly so. This is the way God designed it to be and this becomes a great blessing in a Christian marriage but can be very distracting before marriage if you are not very careful. This so called Christian culture teaches that for the most part, you can make up your own mind on things not clearly spoken to in scripture. This is only partly true as it depends whether you think it is clearly spoken too or not? Also important is hearing and heeding the cautions of scripture and parents as you pointed out.
    The analogy that it is like playing with fire is good one. Your boys will soon be old enough to be fascinated by fire and will want to play with it. That is human nature. I do not recommend you let them decide how that is done, if it’s done at all. I also think dating couples need wise counsel on this one. An understanding of human nature is one thing but and understanding of the nature of fire is another. The knowledge of fire that your boys cannot have no matter much you explain it to them, helps you as a father to know where to set the limits and still keep a watch. A walk of faith that is expressed in good works will not only, not play with fire because of Gods ability to heal, but will make safety important enough to stay away from the issues that fire can bring.
    Number one it is important to respect and honor the way fire (sexual pleasure) was created. If we do that we hardly ever play with it in the wrong context, and if we do it is not without guilt. There are good and contained uses for sexual pleasure as in the “marriage bed.” Marriage is like playing with fire inside a furnace where there is a hot burn but it is controlled and a very good thing. And married couples should stoke and play with “each other’s fire on regular basis also according Paul’s instruction”. But… dating couples not so much or rather not at all. “Romantic physical touch” (that I think Paul referred to in 1 Cor 7: 1) goes there and fairly quickly for most, hence the need to “play it safe.” Or we can build one in the fire pit because we need and want it there (as in when we are married). As a father I cannot but teach the safety of I Cor. 7 and use what my understanding of English would teach me that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” except of course in marriage which he makes clear enough. No need to understand Greek, if you understand English. Simple right? Then we complicate by seeing how much fire we can play and still be safe and that has variables perhaps? But… As single but engaged to be married young people, we still are not married and still need to exercise extreme caution. (It’s ok to look radical when you a have desire you cannot and should not express) Totally agree with not being judgmental toward those who see it differently but that does not change the fact that we have strong God given affection that is looking for release and we need to take all precautions to keep that where it belongs. Not fear… but a deep respect should guide our decisions and a firm knowledge that God meant boundaries for our good. He knows what he’s doing.
    Josiah you have a good point as the Bible is it’s own best commentary.

    • Roman, thanks for your perspective. Great thoughts to consider.

      Because many English translations don’t even use the word “touch” in 1 Cor. 7, it’s unclear as to what Paul is really talking about in that verse. That’s why I found it helpful to consider the original language which would indicate he’s talking about something more than just basic touch. Also, considering the context of the passage (he’s talking about sexual immorality and why it could be good to get married) it indicates something more than basic touch.

      The bigger concern that I have is that while hands-off relationships certainly protect and control from any danger, it doesn’t solve the issue of what leads people to become sensual or compromise sexually in their touch. It’s lust. And I’m afraid we have many people living in a pretense of morality–because they’re hands-off or because they don’t get divorced and remarried or whatever–but are actually quite filled with lust. We need to deal with lust. And the powerful about truly dealing with lust is when we do, we are empowered to truly live by the Spirit of Christ and not be controlled by passions. All of a sudden, desire becomes a catalyst for protecting sexual intimacy and basic touch in a courtship relationship takes on a whole new meaning.

  • Josiah

    I would have a question. You said in the word ‘touch’ in Corinthians would imply sexual relations but the same Greek word is used in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus had the children brought to Him so He could ‘touch’ them. Jesus obviously didn’t do that. So how can you be sure in your definition??

    • You’re right, that word has a variety of implications, but my Greek Lexicon says that in 1 Corinthians 7 it is speaking figuratively of sexual relations between a man and a woman. That’s why several translations don’t even use the word “touch,” but simply say “it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

  • Bradlyn Wadel

    Thank you for your response. I would like to drop by your place in Thailand and discuss this (and maybe some other things) with you for a little. 🙂 It’s so much easier and seems to be more productive than messaging.
    I like your accurate differentiation between Godly desire and lust. I am agreed that there is a difference,but as you said, even though they are right and perfect they must be controlled. So, my main question is not only about whether touching leads to lust, but also about controlling God given desires because during courtship we certainly cannot act on all of those desires.
    I don’t have experience to know how some touch in a relationship affects our desires so I do value what you share about that. Doesn’t some touch between a man and a woman increase the desire for a more intimate level of touch? There are several reasons that I think it would, and if it does, I don’t think I would want touch to be a part of courtship.
    Bradlyn

    • I’d love to have you drop by and discuss these things! 🙂 Again, I affirm your pursuit of purity. And honestly, I think it’s going to be different for each couple. There’s not one right or wrong way. So while my wife and I feel touch was a benefit to our courtship because we could express commitment through the squeeze of a hand in times we couldn’t sit and talk about our commitment (such as the three weeks we were together for our Evening Bible Camps), another couple may find in necessary that they don’t touch at all. And another couple may find it imperative that they grow in touch–not just beneficial. So I bless you in following the Spirit in your own relationship. He’s the one you are accountable to, not me.

  • Bradlyn Wadel

    Greetings Asher,
    I really appreciate your interest in the issues that are important to Christian life, and am encouraged by reading your thoughts on these things.
    I have a few thoughts and questions about this post. I am 22 and haven’t ever dated so that is where my view comes from.
    First, as I consider this issue, as well as any other issue of application of Biblical principles, I want to seek what is the best way to address the issue. Just because something is not a sin, or because it is not a sin for someone else, doesn’t mean that it is the best way for me to live. I don’t really like the title as an introduction to seeking God’s will about touch in a courtship but it is a fine title for the part of the article about where you show that there are not specific verses in the Bible that we can point to and say that touching in courtship is wrong.
    There are several things that lead me to think that it is best to not touch in courtship.
    First, I believe touch does increase the temptation to sin, and I believe it is the Christian’s responsibility to flee temptation. In the Lords prayer we ask to not be led into temptation, and we need to do our part to stay away from it. I’m not quite sure from what you wrote if you think touching increases temptation or not. You said touching that is not sensual or lustful does not lead to fornication, but you also said that touching is like playing with fire, and you said it is not harmless and is never satisfied until sexual intercourse. Also in your own situation, when you started holding hands, you said you wanted to kiss, but you think that you were touching with good motives so it seems that all touch is still touch even if you are not having lustful thoughts, and it draws you to desire greater physical intimacy. Along with this, the question that comes to my mind is why wouldn’t you kiss or embrace with pure motives?
    The other question that I have is about the benefits of touch in courtship. I know that we cannot avoid all temptation. Many things that we do during our lives present different temptations to us, but since we are not called to be monks and live in an isolated castle we chose to go and face those temptations. So, is there a reason that touch should be part of a courtship even if it presents a temptation to us? I can’t think of any benefits of touching that would cause me to want to accept a temptation that I am able to stay away from. The only benefit that I say in your post was that you can express commitment by touch. That could also be a problem if you really feel a lot of commitment and you want to express it by touch. I think commitment should be expressed by touch only in marriage. In a courtship, you said communication is very important and I totally agree. I think we should learn to express our commitment through communication and also be learning to understand and trust each others actions and communication without proving it by touch.
    Thankyou for bringing this subject to attention. It was good for me to think about.
    Sincerely,
    Bradlyn Wadel

    • Bradlyn,

      You are asking some great questions! I affirm your desire to follow Christ and live in purity and holiness. In discussing this issue I am not trying to keep you from having a “hands-off” relationship. Rather, I am suggesting that just automatically declaring hands-off is most Biblical without actually looking at the deeper issues is incomplete. So if you and your future girlfriend want to save all touch for marriage, go for it!

      I didn’t expound on this in my article because I didn’t realize there is some misunderstanding about it, but there is a difference between God-designed desire and lust. And that difference is huge. God’s desire is for righteousness, His glory, holiness and so much more. The desires we feel based upon our unique physiology are God-given desires because He created us. They are right and perfect–even when we are not yet permitted to act on them. It is beautiful. God given desire is the motivation for agape love. To serve and protect.

      Lust is rooted in covetousness and entitlement. Lust is Satan’s perverted replica of God-created desire. Lust uses “love” to gratify itself. It is not concerned about the well-fare of others. Satan created lust because He knows that people with strong God desires are dangerous to him. He wants to get people to have strong selfish desires: lust.

      Lust is the issue, not desire. When a couple touches based on lust, they are playing with fire. When a couple free from lust touches, they are free not to go any further. All desire that is aroused within them is the catalyst for protecting their sexual intimacy. They have no desire for sexual immorality and sensuality.

      Not all physical touch is sexual immorality and sensuality. Sexual immorality is sexual intercourse (or the foreplay involved in it). Sensuality is anything done in excess and immoderation. Simply holding hands doesn’t lead anyone to foreplay and sexual intercourse. Neither does it lead them to hold hands excessively. Lust is what leads a couple to take all that farther.

      When Teresa and I held hands and wanted to kiss, that was the natural desire God created our bodies with because we were drawing close together. But by the grace of God we were free not to. Nothing within us wanted to compromise our sexual intimacy that would come later in marriage. In fact, it made me want to protect her even more. The benefit of holding hands for us was that it was an expression of our commitment to each other. Commitment to life-long marriage and commitment to sexual purity. We look back on that with fond memories. There is no guilt associated with that. And I’m not just saying that.

      What makes me passionate about this is that it seems in general we have viewed all desire as wrong and bad and something to be eliminated. Sure, somehow in marriage it all becomes good and right. But before hand it’s bad. I believe it is good and healthy prior to marriage. It shows you are developing in love. But here’s the thing: do we know what it’s like to walk in victory and freedom from lust? To desire God’s glory in our relationship? If at any moment there would be temptation and opportunity to commit sexual sin, we would flee.

      When we are busy trying to get rid of bad desire and don’t understand God created desires, we will struggle to feel passion and affection for God. The solution is to repent (if we have lust in our hearts) and then cultivate good desires. God-given passions. That’s how we are able to set our minds on things above and walk in purity and freedom. Being hands-off does not necessarily do that (although if someone is struggling with lust, they for sure better not have physical touch).

      Again, I affirm your choice to have hands-off courtship. But I will tell you that you will still have to evaluate and fight the temptations and feelings of lust. Not touching doesn’t remove that. And that’s the deeper issue I am concerned about.

      God bless you, Bradlyn!
      Asher

  • Curt

    Great article Asher!
    I’m posting because it seems like most everyone else that commented on here was way to perfect in their dating relationship with their spouse. (hope no one takes that personal) Surely theres a few out there that really messed up? 🙂
    I dont remember that hands off was ever even a thought for us?
    Hands off? Dream on………that fad started with my younger brothers generation. 🙂
    I actually feel my wife and I had a great time of courtship/dating. We prayed together, had very deep spiritually connecting conversations, had the blessing of our parents (they never knew how physically involved we were) and we experienced drawing closer to Jesus in our personal lives during the 2 1/2 years from 1st date to the wedding.
    Before you decide that I’m trying to say “touch all you want,” let me expound….
    The one thing my wife and I are really sad about is that during our dating relationship we allowed the touch to go from kindness and affirmation to sensual and lustful. (Unfortunately our guidelines were more like a friend of mine once said when talking about dating guidlines. “I really decided as the man/leader that i was in our dating relationship I needed to set some guidelines and that’s what I did, kissing will no longer exceed 1 min in length) 🙂 I now see it as a huge loss of something that could never be had after marriage. That first time ever. (Never was fornication but non the less, sinful) It was something that happened way to often and then we would talk about how wrong it was ask Gods forgiveness and do better for a short while. During our engagement is when we really dealt with it at a deeper heart level and found freedom through Christ for our sin.
    I’ll never forget the feelings I had at my brothers wedding when he and his bride left in their car with huge smiles enjoying being strapped in the same seat belt after a hands off dating relationship. 🙂 his comment was, this is fun! it was at that point I remember thinking how much I wish I would have done that.
    In testimony of the Forgiveness and Mercy of our God, my wife and I feel we were given an incredible gift of a fulfilling, blessed and happy marriage even though it wasn’t all pretty. As far as the East is from the West, he removed our sin from us. Thank you Lord!

    • Curt, Thank you for sharing your testimony! Praise God for His forgiveness and mercy!

  • Gwen

    Thank you for this thoughtful discussion.

    One more thing, any couple who has exercised purity and godly reserve in courtship, whether hands off or not, should joyfully realize that the union doesn’t have to be consummated immediately following marriage. When a friend shared her story with me, how they took their time and finished the natural progression of romantic physical love over a period of several days following their wedding, I felt a little cheated. Most of us were not aware this was even an option. (How dull is that?) Hence we rushed the bud to full-blown flower and missed a GLORIOUS process.

    Another thought from my own experience: holding hands during prayer is distracting. Appropriate reverence and love for our Holy God should cause us to consider separating our prayers from our touching.

    • Gwen, you bring up a powerful truth: sexual consummation does not have to happen right away the first night. It can, but there’s a lot of beauty in taking time at learning to know and serve each other in that way. Thanks for commenting.

  • Well rounded article. Communication and parental influence is definitely critical. I agree, like you said, one rule or method is not the “right” way.

    I strongly believe how much physical touch depends so MUCH on the emotional and spiritual health of a couple and their individual situation. And I am so thankful that God does lead us through his spirit individual journeys. I think one of the most harmful messages with this whole subject is that there is one way, on either side of the ditch, to do it, and the end result is a happy marriage or a ruined one, depending on what you choose. From my experience, good and bad, there is room in His economy for people who earnestly seek His face, to find whole, fulfilling marriage no matter how perfectly or imperfectly we stumble through courtship.

    • Good word, Esta. Thanks for sharing!

  • I can and do have ideas about many things. As a married man I can say what we did when we were courting and say what we should have or should not have done. It was my desire to have a hands off courtship. We discussed it early on and kept that through. It is not wrong to have hands on and I appreciate the discussion and comments. I can boldly say in the physical aspect of courtship We have no regrets. Having an ongoing discussion/communication is very helpful. I marvel at the ones that changed toward less physical during courtship. As far as engaged couples, it is still not marriage and you can still break up and be left with “baggage” in the next relationship.

  • I am a bit concerned that your title may lead someone away from having a hands-off courtship and may be lead through this into temptation and sin. I speak from personal experience. I always wanted a hands-off but changed my mind when I began dating my husband because he was told he just had to be stronger than temptation. After just a few months of dating we realized that we were too focused on the physical aspect of dating. We decided to change our courtship and start hands-off. It was a challenge, but we were both determined and it worked best for us. We really got to know each other. When we were tempted, we talked about it and encourage each other. Also I feel that having an intense desire to be physical is not always lusting. Some people just relate love to touch more and it’s going to be very hard for them to touch eachother without lighting a fire that may burn out of control. I want to teach my children the blessings of a hands-off courtship along with the joys and fulfillment of sex in marriage. I would be sad if my children would change their minds after reading this, only to end up feeling regretful if things went too far. Why light a fire, only to have to work harder extinguish it? It seems it would be more appropriate to encourage others to draw a line and stick to it. Also to talk about temptation so you can make your courtship comfortable, fulfilling and pleasing to the Lord.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m curious if you read the whole article? I would be sad if after reading this article your children chose to use touch, considering that it sounds like their parents would prefer them not to.

  • Shannon

    I am delighted that you made this a public discussion Asher. JoElla and I have been married for twelve years and I can easily remember these issues being very important to me/us. I love your reminder to honor father and mother…it is essential in the celebration of wedding and family that you have their confidence in your relationship. That said…I think I pushed both of my parents views a little and yet kept trust throughout.

    “Hands off” is a good start, but it just tends to leave some significant factors out “of touch” in a blossoming relationship. I just realized that I shake all the other girls hands, but then am not supposed to even “touch” my girlfriend…or maybe just shake her hand. She was already much more special to me than the others…she deserved MORE physical connection and recognition than they? right?

    So we navigated courtship and hands off or not Satan will try to get you to mess up in this stage and start marriage on the wrong foot. So we did face a few times where there was a temptation to touch in sensuous ways. However…that never even close to became our goal, or our method of connecting. We were in love with God and with each other. We had so much to celebrate and to protect at the same time. We did not find the perfect “line” to recommend but we do not have a single regret about our journey today.

    I would add one to your six points:
    Be willing to take a hard look at your emotions and motivations! We found that there was temptation toward reaching for things from each other that would have been exploiting because we were taking them too soon. So you have to be brutal with why you are doing something…and honestly while we were more “touchy” than a parents first recommended…we also had times we literally backed off because we wanted all touching to reflect the position of our hearts coming together under GOD and when it represented something else it always felt wrong and brought guilt. This understanding kept us in an honest and accountable position to both God and our Parents.

    All the best to the young dating couples of today. Enjoy and celebrate life and love. Satan is not crouching behind every glance, smile touch, maybe even kiss…but for sure he will show up sometime and you had better not find yourself overcome in the passion of physical intimacy because you will lose something that cannot be brought back!

    Sorry for the long post. I haven’t ever written out my thoughts on this

    • Thanks, Shannon, for your seventh point. Our emotions and motivations for why you want touch is incredibly important to consider if you’re going to have physical touch in courtship. Thanks for your comment.

  • Charlotte

    Thank you! For once somebody doesn’t have their head in the sand about this!!! So often it’s preached, “If you have a hands off courtship, you will have a more fulfilling marriage.” And that’s just scare tactics, and just shy of being completely stupid.
    Again, thank you for a Biblical view, and for preaching grace and commitment, and being humble enough to say, “We made a mistake. Let’s start again.”
    I hope my children are surrounded by peers who think like you do. Who just plain think. Past the end of their nose. Thanks. God bless!

  • Jake

    Physical touch-even simply holding hands-is placing yourself in a position to be vulnerable to temptations regardless how high your ideals may be. People within a relationship can easily become forgetful of ideals they may have had prior to courtship. There needs to be a “line” somewhere on moral purity while dating, and “hands off” is a clear simple to understand, Biblical place to draw that line.

    • Jake, you speak truth! Not having touch certainly eliminates a distraction that isn’t necessary in courtship to develop a romantic relationship. After engagement, having some basic touch can be an appropriate way of expressing commitment to each other and deepening intimacy, as long as the couple is not driven by lust for each other.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Merle

      Thanks for your thoughts Asher. We had a standard very close to yours and we felt that it was the right way for us.

      I do have a question for Jake. I do understand your statement about being more vulnerable but I honestly wonder where you base your statement that it is biblical to have a 100% no exception hands off courtship. (That is how I understand your position). Is there some bible passage you can cite that speaks specifically of this or is more general and not speaking specifically on hands off? I don’t mean to be argumentive, I honestly wonder because now, as a father I want to guide my children in th right way.

      • Shannon

        Yes, Dad told me this too. “there needs to be a line” I agree. We had one but here comes the heresy…That line even should be thoughtfully looked at and moved sometimes as your relationship deepens. (Unless you are talking of a moral line…like “we are not going to have sex before marriage)
        You see I found that while I sought some more freedoms beyond the line we had set…there were times that being honest meant moving that line backward…guys hear me…BACKWARD for a time. Example:…my parents did not feel comfortable that we hugged when saying goodbye (long distance relationship) so we said…we can honor that…and we felt like we even should because those hugs were lasting longer and longer…so we hadn’t “crossed the line” but we were crossing the reason we made the line. So…I think hands off has minimal value if it is simply seen as the rule and on one said you always feel uncomfortable and guilty and on the other you are sure you’re safe and “clean.”

  • dan

    Thank you for this. I’ve been talking and thinking about this a lot recently, as it’s a current we are navigating. I really liked the things you had to say about honor, communication, and commitment being big factors. Blessings to you.

    • dan

      My mistake. That should read “a current issue…”

    • You’re welcome, Dan! Thanks for the comment!

  • Asher, thanks for these very balanced points. I grew up in a setting that said courtship always has to be hands-off. In looking at 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 though, I realized that it was being quoted incorrectly due to the difference between King James English and modern English. “It is good for a man not to touch a woman”? If taken literally, that means no man can shake a woman’s hand. And no husband can touch his wife, either. Clearly, that is not what Paul was saying. As you indicated, the word “touch” actually refers to sexual intercourse. And Paul is quoting that phrase from them, and responding to it. Were they referring to remaining celibate? Possibly… Paul responded that in order to avoid fornication, “let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”

    In our personal courtship journey, we decided in the beginning to wait to hold hands until engagement, and to wait to kiss until marriage. There was one exception, and that is that we would hold hands before engagement while praying. Sometimes we prayed a little more than we normally would have. 😉

    I don’t regret our decisions one bit, and we were able by God’s grace to refrain from sexual activity until marriage. Even with our clear-cut expectations, we still needed to communicate about physical touch quite a bit. For instance, I would sometimes put my arm on the back of her chair. Sometimes she was comfortable with that, and sometimes she wasn’t. We needed to communicate about it to maintain mutual respect.

    One more thing I would mention, that can help us guide our way through courtship: If this relationship doesn’t work out, and eventually my girlfriend/boyfriend ends up getting married to another person, will I have regrets about how physical we were?

    • Jesse, thanks for sharing your experience! You bring out a great point in considering how we me feel if the relationship does not lead to marriage. I think keeping touch to a minimal prior to engagement, as you guys did, is extremely wise because of that. A separation can feel all the more painful when their was physical interaction because it felt like there was commitment, and because touch involved more emotionally. “How will my future spouse feel when I tell them about the touch I had in a past relationship?”

      Thanks sharing your thoughts!

  • Tim

    I just say wow! I appreciate that the article is written so honestly and Biblical, what’s right for one may not be right for another, and what’s wrong for one may not be wrong for another. “Flee sexual immorality” is a command in the Bible, and make sure you pay attention to that! Further then that, is it helpful what you’re thinking about doing? If so, then why not do it? Pray about it and God will lead you in his path.
    This article was a big encouragement for me, thanks for taking the time to write it!

    • Glad it was encouraging! Thanks for the comment!

  • A prayer warrior

    Good read… I don’t think there is one set way. My parents didn’t care it was totally up to my husband and I according to my parents. My husband’s parents strongly encouraged a hands off relationship. And before I met my husband I had prayed that if it was meant to be that he would bring up the topic and tell me his wishes was to have a hands off relationship. Which he did! We communicated often about our struggles of wanting to hold hands. In fact we gave in the day we got engaged. But we both felt like what we don’t was wrong! Was it wrong to hold hands? No! But it was wrong because of the agreement we had made and because of our strong we felt about it and because of the advice of his parents. It’s not for everyone. But if I had it to do over would I still have a hands off relationship? Absolutely!! And saving that first kiss for our wedding day is something that was very hard but something I will always treasure!! I think if you both agree that it’s OK to hold hands then it’s OK as long as you both feel open enough to communicate your feelings if you feel is to much. Because I know some who have felt like once they’re in the relationship they couldn’t communicate those feelings cause they enjoyed it at the time but felt so wrong later. So in those cases I do feel it’s better to have a set standard. But like I said it’s different for everyone. I like how you said others know you better then you do yourselves. Alot of truth there!! And seeing I didn’t know my husband and had never met him till he came out to meet me I was encouraged by many to have a hands off and I’m glad we both felt the same. But again we communicated often what we were struggling wish and talked about why we felt so strong on hands off or in other things that could make touch hard for us. For me I struggled alot more because I had a sister who had become pregnant while dating. Therefore somethings that some people felt were ok I was very Leary about allowing. My husband was very understanding while we were dating and for that I’m ever so grateful. Your right communication is very much needed!! Blessings!

    • Thanks for your thoughts! I enjoyed hearing your story. Being hands-off definitely eliminates a distraction that doesn’t have to be there during courtship and, like you said, if you don’t know each other real well, you don’t want overly involved until you do.