"If that's truly something you'd like to do," I told her. "Then it's something you have to plan for. Otherwise, it won't happen."
Many women have my young friend's attitude toward physical boundaries. Their boundaries fall into the realm of "kissing that's not too involved" and "hugs that aren't too long." What's "involved"? What's too long? These boundaries aren't clear and specific, so there is no way to enforce them.
So now is the time to decide: Based on the criteria presented in my last post, what level of contact would be appropriate and wise? Is hand-holding okay? Are hugs acceptable, and, if so, how long? Side hug only? Hug from behind: yay or nay? How about kissing?
There are other forms of contact besides these, ranging from tickling to massaging to leaning head against shoulder, etc. Time to get specific!
When you are in a relationship, it is good to inform the man up-front about your rules for the relationship. If he's a worthy man, he'll respect your boundaries and help you keep them.
Boundaries must be enforceable.
The clearest boundary is useless without a real plan for enforcement. How will you address a situation when someone is pushing your boundaries or when your guard slips momentarily? Even better, how can you anticipate and head off a problem before it even starts?
Many of my guy friends know that I prefer to hug only other women. I've never had to tell them my policy; they gathered it from the way I treated other guys and from the polite, physical distance that I try to maintain with guys.
However, some people need more communication. A man of my acquaintance once hugged me from behind and made me very uncomfortable. I told him not to touch me like that in the future. He apologized and that was that.
Sometimes it takes an apology from you. "I'm sorry. I went against my own principles by starting that contact. In the future, I ask that we do such-and-such instead."
Build a plan of enforcement and consider various scenarios. It is easier and more comfortable to respond when you have a plan, than when you face a situation that you've never prepared for.
Boundaries are not a substitute for common sense.
Boundaries will not save you if find yourself in a compromising and tempting situation. Sometimes you just have to leave.
Exerting more self-control in a tempting situation is like seeing how close you can get to the edge of a cliff before you fall off; by the time you know, it's already too late. How much are you willing to risk to test your limits?
That is why I advocate accountability. The involvement of a trustworthy, Biblically-grounded chaperone is not simply an old-fashioned idea for a suspicious age. It's an acknowledgement that we're not as strong as we think we are. It's the choice of mature, wise Christian women who have nothing to hide.
In those situations when an accountability partner cannot be present, be extra cautious and alert. Determine that, at the first sign (not the second or third or fourth), you will take appropriate action or remove yourself from a situation where you foresee your boundaries getting pushed.
What are your boundaries and why? How do you plan to enforce them? How will you build accountability into your situation?
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.