Sunday, November 24, 2013

Things that Helped Me Stay Chaste When I Was a Teen

The Redheaded Hostess has a post called “Teaching Chastity and Virtue Part 1: How to Approach the Subject”, which got me thinking about the bits and pieces of principles I learned as a teen that increased both my desire and my ability to remain chaste.  I also started thinking about the different factors that intersected—people and circumstances—that helped me stay safe.

Understanding the plan of salvation.  This was HUGE.  It is hard for me to point to all the ways that it influenced my thought process and my decision-making as a teen because it ran subtly through everything in one way or another.  It was a very important foundation to have during all the excitement of crushes and relationships and flirting..

When we’re young we are anxious to form relationships to know that we are desirable and can become close with someone.  We want to learn what our power of attraction is.  Having the goal of the celestial kingdom helped me keep my vision from being too trapped in the moment.  Rather than getting too serious about early relationships, I subconsciously evaluated them according to whether they would lead to the temple.   Dating a nonmember wasn’t going to lead there unless the guy converted, so when he chose not to listen further to doctrines of the Restoration, I knew the relationship should not go very far and I learned to hold back and keep it lighter.   Knowing the plan of salvation led me to become willing to make sacrifices in order to reach higher.  Ultimately, I was able to leave two relationships because I had the courage to act on the conviction that those guys weren’t good for me.

Saving the dates for after age 16.  Looking back, I can see this was very helpful.  It didn’t stop me from having crushes. (Heck, I had crushes from when I was 5 years old!) But I think if it weren’t for these standards, I would have felt like I had to get in a relationship and that I had to do anything to keep it.

Long distance relationships.  When the boyfriend lived over 50 miles away, there were fewer opportunities to get into trouble.  Of course, the times when he visited had its own brand of peril because giddiness about seeing him conflicted with the principle of caution.  (It is giddiness when you start to think that rules don't matter and aren't needed because surely nothing bad is going to happen..) This is where the structure of the dates became very important

Structuring the dates right.  Again, I was giddy when I got to be with my date/boyfriend.  My mom insisted on structuring our dates such that they occurred with friends and at least one adult.  If friends weren’t available, then meeting in public among crowds of people was advised.  (Yes, chaperones are a true principle.)  I learned other wise principles for good date structure—doing things rather than just sitting, talking instead of touching, avoiding late dates.  In college I learned to self-advocate to build some of these structures into my dates. 

Good friends.  My friends had good dating standards.  We supported each other in them. 

Paul’s Passion Profile.  One particular EFY class on dating and chastity stayed with me.  The teacher drew this diagram—named alliteratively after himself—on the board for us that looked like a rounded hill.  He put hash marks on the upward slope and labeled them “arm around, holding hands, hugging, kissing” and then the opposite downward slope he labeled “French kissing, touching private parts, sex.”  He told us that when you’re doing the stuff on upward slope it isn’t too hard to stop, but if you reach a point where you are doing stuff on the downward slope, your hormones get all revved up and it gets very hard to stop.  He counseled us to stay away from the stuff on the downward slope.

It was not the only thing he said, but this particular thing helped me because it made me aware that physical touch (often called “public display of affection, or PDA) in a relationship has a pull with momentum toward sexual intimacy.   It taught me that certain kinds of touching have more momentum than other kinds, and if I wanted to stay chaste, then it would be very wise for me to stay away from the dangerous kinds.  

I still marvel at the incredible practically of this bit of wisdom.  I’m so grateful I didn’t have to learn this by sad experience.

Avoiding the “special” trap.  I remember hearing that there is a tendency to add some additional PDA in order to prove to the partner the relationship was special.  I remember thinking to myself, “If someone believes they have to add more PDA to the current relationship to prove it is more special than the last relationship, then it won’t take too many relationships before they have broken the law of chastity.”  I decided I had to be careful, no matter how many relationships I might find myself in.  A relationship isn't special until it becomes marriage.

Avoiding even small regrets.  I’m not sure where I learned this, but I remember hearing that people who gave out their PDA too freely eventually regretted what they had done in their previous relationships when they moved on to a new one.  I found this to be true for me too, even when I carefully limited the types of PDA I gave and how much.  Eventually, while in college, I decided I had had enough of that regret, and I decided I wasn’t going to do PDA at all.  And a very interesting thing happened.  I found the scripture “bridle all your passions that you may be filled with love” was absolutely true.  When I restrained myself, I felt much more affection.  I made much better friendships with guys and I remember those relationships with far greater fondness than the others.  I found that by avoiding PDA I developed new skills of expressing attachment without touching. 

Avoiding PDA is not a popular choice today.  In fact, our culture emphasizes and glorifies the giving and receiving of PDA.  If I could give any bit of advice to teens, I would say, learn how to show affection without touching.  Then, by the time you marry, you will have accumulated many ways to say, "I love you" and keep the relationship strong.