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Monday, January 24, 2011

Emotional Purity and Courtship, Take 2

Last week when I posted my honest and rather awkward thoughts on the matter of emotional purity and courtship, I had no idea what was going to come of it. The response was overwhelming. I knew that these teachings needed to be addressed, but you, my readers, have confirmed these things in my mind.

While most of you agreed, even expressed similar brokeness, there are still some that think I'm exgaggerating, or over-reacting. Most of these dissenters are young parents who desperately want the best for their children. Or they are young girls, who are still being fed these lies and empty promises of life, who don't want to let go of them.

So allow me, for one post, to share the experience of others. Others who have "been there done that". Others who are the results and the fruits of teachings that we are only beginning to see come to fruition. Others who have thus far been afraid to speak up, thinking that there must be something wrong with them, thinking that they are alone in their dysfunction. Let their words and their hearts give weight to what I have written this far and will write in the future.

From my blog comments (emphasis mine):

"It honestly goes a lot deeper than I let most people know. Like, last night, while talking to my fiance, I mentioned how some people gave me grief for holding hands with him last fall, when we'd been going out for nearly a year. He couldn't believe it. Getting flack like that totally didn't surprise me; it's that sort of thing, though, that has made me second-guess and question myself very often during our relationship...I'm still trying to figure it all out. *sigh* For instance, to this day, I don't have ANY guy friends at all, aside from my fiance. Good girls aren't supposed to, you know. I'm not even sure I could have a friendship of any great depth with another guy, not because of my fiance, but because it's so entrenched in me that friendships with guys is wrong."

"Dysfunction? It took me ten years to figure out how to show a guy I liked him, and I still don't quite know how to be a sister to my brothers-in-law."

"I have been happily married for almost 10 years and still feel as though I have to give side hugs to my male friends at church. Sad, but true...this teaching makes you feel as though you must always be alert...never letting your guard down towards the opposite sex."

"Now in my later 20's and married, I still find myself incapable of knowing how to have relationships with other guys. I don't know how to be a *normal friend* to my brother-in-laws, hubby's buddies, or any men other than my husband. It's a sad struggle. "

"About a year ago, I became involved in a relationship with my best friend. Since then, I've heard more on the topic of emotional purity and "I love you" being defrauding than I've ever heard before! It's been really hard, hearing these things from my dad, and trying to figure out where my path needs to be....I'm afraid to care, I'm unable to show affection, it seems to be wrong... I haunted by doubts of "what if this isn't the 'right one'? I'm ruining myself for whoever my husband will be." etc..."

"I feel as if I could have been the one to write this post --everything you had to say mirrored my own life so closely. I am definitely on your same road to recovery. The biggest aspect of my own journey which you did not mention in yours is that all of those terrible ideas (which I'm still fighting!) also lead one to a great deal of suspicion. I am trying to take little baby steps toward *gasp* having some semblance of friendships with MALES (which is hard enough --it still feels so wrong)...."

"As a homeschooled guy who got caught up in the S. M. Davis style of this teaching for a while, I can attest that it's not just the women who are scarred by this mentality."

"I'm a young man, and I'm glad that there are WOMEN that realize that this is all a bunch of crap, too....I adopted the mindset on my own as a late teen, thinking that I was going "that one extra step" and being a Good Christian. My (ex) girlfriend and I patted ourselves on the back for trying to have such a Godly relationship....There's also the obvious fact that much of what a Godly man will find attractive about a woman IS her heart. We're taught how the woman on the INSIDE matters, far more than mere physical appearance. Yet women are taught to guard their hearts and share as little of themselves as possible. I wonder who thought THAT one up ...Why would I knowingly, willingly, enter into a relationship with a girl who refused to allow herself to feel any affection for me, and, should either of us "drop the ball" and her actually begin to feel some, refuse to express it to me? That is so saturated with stupidity that it's astounding... We men are taught that it is our sole responsibility to pursue women while they more or less sit back and play mysterious, hard-to-get, revealing as little of themselves as possible and hiding their heart from us..."

"i love what you said about other men. I have been feeling that, and not knowing WHY I have such a hard time being comfortable around other happily married, fun guys. Who just like to visit, who like me as a friend, who flirt a little. I am such a prude! ROFL I am having a hard time loosening up ... even saying that, my first reaction it ... harlot! OMG .... I need brain surgery :P"

From personal friends:

"The whole courtship/betrothal idea definitely had some negative effects for me. It enabled my fear of guys to stay hidden under the guise of "I'm not supposed to talk to guys." As a result, I have had only about 3 guy friends since I entered my teens (I'm in my 30s now), but even those relationships are very difficult for me to feel comfortable with.... It caused me to be far too judgmental of potential friends. If they ever wanted to talk about boyfriends or hanging out with guy friends, I shunned them. It created tension in my extended family because I was afraid to acknowledge when my cousins had a boyfriend or girlfriend. I wound up shunning them too, assuming they wouldn't want to talk to me if they had a boyfriend or girlfriend with them. I believed that I knew the only Godly way to have relationships. I was very critical and proud and fearful and totally dysfunctional. I am trying to learn how to have good relationships, but it is very hard because of all the "rules" that keep screaming at me in my head when I try." ~Sharon

"It still scares me to be alone with a guy. My best bet at describing my feelings when I happen to be alone with someone who happens to be male would probably be a quote from All About Steve - something about "Thank you for not raping me." It still scares me to have any sort of friendly banter with a guy especially if he is married. I am afraid he, his wife, or someone else will think I am like being inappropriate or having an affair with him or something. It is so stupid....I sometimes despair of ever having a romantic relationship. I am scared of men - even awkward around the ones I would trust with my life. I don't know how to act normal around them.....In short, "courtship", and therefore my parent's feelings of entitlement to control of any romantic relationships I might have, has robbed me of ever having normal friendships or normal romantic relationship(s). No matter how much I work at it or how much I heal, there will still be those voices telling me, 'Your boyfriend is trying to seduce you by holding your hand, or caring about you and your heart. If he isn't excited about doing everything your parents want him to and being whoever they want him to be, then he just wants sex. He doesn't love you...you are seducing him by actually trusting him when he has earned it or by dressing in something cute...you should trust your parents - even though they have never earned it and have broken it time and again - over any young man no matter how 'trustworthy'. You are not smart enough, good enough, wise enough, etc etc to EVER know what is good for you. Don't ever trust a suitor, and for heaven's sake, for sure don't trust what you have seen, heard, and experienced for yourself!'" ~ Sophie

"I grew up with boys. My best friends as a kid were my brothers. At a young age, I figured out boys were better friends than girls: they weren't catty. Overall, I've had a pretty good relationship with boys, until my dad kept telling me the only thing on guys' minds was sex (nothing else), that I shouldn't talk to boys, etc. Somehow I even got the impression I was supposed to evaluate every guy I met to see if he met the husband criteria. When I got older, I wasn't allowed alone with any boys except my brothers..."in real life", when I'm alone with guys (except my husband, but even alone with my brother in law), I can't help but wonder if he's going to try to take advantage of me or something. It's hard for me to relax in the company of guys (unless like my husband is there or other people) because of how much my dad ingrained in me that guys were only after sex." ~ Anne

"Because of the dating advice (actually, advice not to date) I got in the books I was reading in my teens, including IKDG (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), I never pursued two men I fell in love with (four years apart)... I actively pushed each one away with all I was worth. Why? Because they didn't meet my 'checklists' of what I wanted in a mate. And I can tell you unequivocally, I wish I had pursued those relationships. I am happy that I 'gave them a piece of my heart' (though I was trying desperately not to and repenting and begging God's forgiveness for it because I thought it was emotional adultery!); what hurts is that I never had the closure that comes with working through a relationship. I never had the closure of breaking up because I never let the relationship start to begin with....And personally, I would like an apology. I, like many others, cannot go back and undo the damage caused by believing this garbage. It's not just Josh's fault. It's the fault of every other author and pastor who preached it, it's the fault of our parents for not alleviating us of the misconception, it's our own faults for not having the courage or whatever it is to challenge what we ourselves believe - for the latter I feel deep regret." ~Rebecca

"My first boyfriend was a casualty of courtship madness. Dad didn't like him, he had someone else in mind, so he stepped in and told the guy to stay away from me. The separation seriously hurt the boy... I became seriously depressed and anorexic after the whole mess. I swore off men until my husband came along. I hate what he had to go through to marry me. Dad made our lives as miserable as he could only agreeing at the last minute to walk me down the aisle. I wish he hadn't because he was still so hostile. I felt guilty for years that I couldn't trust God to change Dad and smooth things out so our marriage was a joyful event. It's not a good memory. I felt like a rebel. Like I was turning my back on God because Dad didn't approve. Damn courtship. Dad enjoyed the power it gave him over me as an adult. Ultimately it failed, but in the process everyone involved was badly hurt." ~ Maia

"I felt like a harlot compared to all the girls who were also into this teaching. In fact, the first time I ever attended their meeting, several of them came up to me and asked if I was saved....yeah, I got the vibe, from the girls and guys, that I needed a good washing from the inside out...It seemed to me that they tagged me as more of a rebel of purity than they were...the guys were weeding out for the purest most spiritual and marriage worthy girl to marry & I didn't fit that profile." ~ Lolly

"My dad was a big fan of Elisabeth Elliot's and Josh Harris' books. He made all of the teens he worked with read through them. Then he implemented extremely strict rules to keep everyone from "cluttering" friendships with bad emotional history. His and my mom's experience in college and highschool served as the example for everyone: how dating ruined friendships and broke up the chance of meaningful fellowship because of baggage. My brother was discouraged from dancing because you had to "touch girls" and it would be a defrauding situation for him. I was not allowed to talk with older guys because my dad said they were trying to manipulate me and I was too young/impressionable. I have been able to drop a lot of the fundamentals of what I was taught/indoctrinated in/brainwashed with in my second relationship. Breaking up with my first "crush" made me feel like total s**t for the longest time. I was on Elisabeth Elliot's "second-hand-goods table" and there was no hope for me. This time around I have been working really hard on keeping an open mind and implementing only what seems to be a workable idea... at least I try. Every turn I am accosted by the specters of "should" and "must" and big red flashing lights in my mind. I am crossing the pre-determined "boundary lines" of sharing information and time without a "determined" commitment to any authority figure. Hey, we even spent time in a room alone together!!! It is a constant, uphill battle to clear out the mental clutter and go with what I feel is right in my conscience and what works for the situation...." ~DaoHF

"My parents had me read both of Josh Harris's books, as well as Paulsen's Emotional Purity and Wilson's Her Hand in Marriage and a couple others when I was in my mid-teens. And, yeah, it royally screwed up my relationships with girls. For a long time I insisted on awkward side-hugs, thinking that a real, honest-to-goodness front-hug would make me think too much about the girl's breasts, and/or that contact with them would stir up sexual feelings in her ... or maybe just that contact with her breasts would be sexually inappropriate. Mostly I just shook hands. With girls who were good family friends. Finally a particularly bubbly friend who had been away for a while greeted me with a tackling hug, and it just about paralyzed me. When my system rebooted and I ran diagnostics, I realized I wasn't defrauded, and maybe front-hugs weren't so bad. :-P" ~Scottie

"The fear of doing the wrong thing, robbed us of enjoying male/female relationships outside of courtship and robbed us of relational enjoyment through our own courtship, rather than enjoying the process that God created to be enjoyable. Purity was turned into such an idol that I had to repent with my wife before God that we had given purity higher value than married sex, and attached shame to something God had said was good." ~ J.

"I first ran into the emotional purity concept in high school, from friends, magazines, and books within the homeschool culture. To my early teen mind, it made sense: protect myself and the magical prince charming will arrive, ready to receive my pure heart. But I didn't see how this influence was confusing my ideas about interaction with any guys I knew. The strong emphasis on avoiding "giving my heart away" made me see every guy as a "potential". He had the potential to take away my purity if I developed any feelings for him. This created a cycle of paranoia that left me unable to relax, have fun, and develop normal friendships. Rather than protecting my innocence, I think emotional purity took away from the carefree innocence I should have had as a teen. Instead of laughing off a crush, it was a guilty experience that was only made more serious by my confused conscience. It wasn't until I got to college and suddenly saw normal interaction everywhere around me that I was able to appreciate and learn to have friends who were just that - friends." ~Amy

"I have issues with the idea and concept of courtship as defined by Josh Harris, et all...that involves and puts more emphasis on the parents than the couple. By issues I mean, I completely totally, and utterly disagree with the idea that parents should have any right at all to inherently control/have input (that is actually demands)/ orchestrate the entire process. Because this takes away the responsibility from the two people who are actually going to have to live with the consequences of the decisions made and puts it on people who think they have "their best interests at heart" and perhaps they do, but they do not know their kids better than their kids know themselves. Not to mention this ROBS these young adults of an experience - a right of passage - it robs them of the GROWTH into healthy adults that happens and NEEDS TO HAPPEN in relationships. It tries to take away any mistakes and ends up causing MORE damage in maturity than saving of heartache. This idea and process as I've experienced and read in Boy Meets Girl (Mike Farris anyone?) is wrong....I'm not talking about irresponsible 14 year olds here, I'm talking about young adults old enough to date and make their own decisions. Adults have no right whatsoever to control or manipulate other adults in anything and especially not romantic relationships. Those are hard enough of a learning curve on their own without parental-rights-we're-older-so-obey-crap adding to it. I am however completely for parents giving advice if it is sought, and if they have problems, respectfully communicating that to the couple and leaving it in the couple's hands and not interfering after that. The line is crossed when "courtship" becomes a wooing of parents and fight for control rather than two people on a journey learning and making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives." ~Hannah

"My family had been "non-dating minded" since I was a little girl. At first the fairy-tale loving side of me resisted, but as I grew older and encountered the same mindset among others, I accepted it, along with its emphasis on emotional purity. Consequently, I was terrified to even strike up a conversation with a guy during my teen years. I remember a few well-adjusted guys who treated me in a friendly manner, but those interactions were very rare, and I never knew how to respond.
When I was 17, I attended a conference by a well-known betrothal guru. He outlined the steps two betrothal-minded families should take if God revealed that two young people should marry. As I recall, it went something like this: If God revealed it to one of the dads, they were to approach the other dad. If he revealed it to a mom, she was to approach her husband. If he revealed it to the son, he was to approach his father. And with a laugh he finished, "And if God reveals it to the daughter, she should be quiet and wait for God to tell someone else." Shortly afterward I believed God told me who I'd marry. It's a long story, but basically I had noticed this guy for awhile. However, it would have been "forward" to strike up a friendship, and "sinful/impure" to feel attracted to anyone, much less to admit I had a full-blown crush. So in order to rationalize my feelings, I convinced myself that they meant God was revealing him to me as my future husband.

In obedience to Mr. Betrothal Guru, I said nothing to anyone, but kept this belief close to my heart for about two years. I waited patiently for God to reveal this to someone else, waiting on a miracle, since my family had moved and no longer had any contact with the young man. Finally the burden became too heavy for me to bear and I just had to confide in someone, so I told my parents that I believed God had told me who I was going to marry. They liked the guy and weren't opposed to the idea, but it never occurred to them that this could just be an overblown crush. Their daughters didn't have crushes, because crushes were impure and ungodly. In my mind, we were as good as engaged. I didn't know how it would happen, but I was certain that it would. A few months later we heard that the guy I liked was engaged to someone else. It's a huge understatement to say I was devastated. I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown as I cried for weeks, trying to accept the fact that the guy had "missed it" so completely and forced us both to settle for "second best." Finally I was able to face the fact that I had taken a perfectly normal teenage crush and rationalized it as "God's voice" so that I would not have to feel guilty about feeling attraction toward a guy. That is when I finally began to heal.

Looking back I am absolutely amazed that I couldn't see this from the beginning. And it grieves me that I basically wasted two years of my life praying and waiting, with such devastation at the end. I could have avoided so much drama, obsession, and heartbreak if I had simply been able to admit to myself that I liked a guy. But I couldn't do that. In my belief system, liking a guy was sin." ~ Grace

"As a teen, my parents would pray with me that I would save my heart for a man who was saving his heart for me. I saved it. Now I don't know what to do with it. As an adult, I pray that my first kiss will come before my thirtieth birthday. My next birthday is my twenty-ninth." ~Anon.

These are stories of brokeness by real people. There are many more where these came from. But this is not the end of the story. Because with great pain and mistakes comes healing and learning. Redemption is happening all around us, all the time. God is giving back the years that the locust have eaten. Confession is the beginning of healing; acknowleging the lies, the genesis of transformation. We know now what is wrong. But what then is right? What is the solution? How to encourage people who are fighting for healing and truth in their lives?

I leave you with encouragement from my friend, Rebecca. Listen to the words of one who has been there and back again:

"1. Love as many people as possible. Give away as many pieces of your heart as possible. Love your friends and acquaintances - not just in a so-called 'agape' altruistic way, but really invest in, care about, desire them... The more people we love the fuller and richer our lives get. As C.S. Lewis says,

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

2. The key is to not harden your heart when it gets broken. Your heart will get broken, no doubt about that. The more you love, the more your heart will break. The test of character is how you respond to it. Do you continue to bravely love and reach out to new loving relationships? Or do you climb into a shell, bury your heart in a casket as Lewis says? IMO IKDG is 'casket' mentality. It's the wrong response to a challenge. As the Bible says: "There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear." And with Christ we have an infinite fountain of love to draw on and share.

3. If you fall in love, pursue it, no matter how 'wrong' the guy seems to be for you. Chase it for all it is worth. (Except: do it in a healthy, boundary-conscious way.) If it is not the relationship God intends for you to have, you will fall out of love. This is true! This is what the books for some reason ignore. If it's an unhealthy relationship and you are committed to developing a healthy relationship, the relationship will end. If there are irreconcilable differences, these will cool your heals. But if you are in love you must try and see if you can form that healthy relationship, if you can work through differences. That way you can find out for sure if it is not meant to be - rather than going based on probability.

I think the pain of heartbreak is exactly what motivates IKDG and every mother who loves the book.

And the pain of heartbreak isn't just a poor motivator.

Fleeing it is outright wrong.

Heartbreak is something we need to brave to be alive, human, Christian.

Heartbreak is part of being in God's image. All of creation groans until it is united with him and God yearns to be united with us. The tragedy of sin is the rend it creates in our relationship with God - our separation from him breaks his heart. This is why the cross was worthwhile to Him. If we are to imitate Christ, we cannot avoid heartbreak. Christ courageously loved us despite knowing in advance that his heart would be broken...

And honestly, how would we feel about Christ and God if he never really loved us and it never really pained him that we didn't love him back?"

Be sure to read Emotional Purity and Courtship, A Conclusion.


  1. WOW.
    Going back for a re-read.
    GREAT job, my friend.

  2. Rebecca wroteI never had the closure of breaking up because I never let the relationship start to begin with....

    I think that a lot of people will identify with this.

  3. Wow, you nailed it again! I can relate to so much of this. The crippling guilt over teenage crushes, the fear of giving my heart away to the point of locking it up and building a wall around it, I still struggle to remember that it is OK to make eye contact with guys and I would never hug them!It took a long time to even be comfortable talking with my husband's best friend.

    I am eternally thankful that my dad was "leniant" enough to allow me to choose whether or not I wanted to be in a relationship with a guy who asked. I think that many of the purity rules that we followed during our engagement actually did more to tempt us than the actions (hugging and kissing) we were avoiding would have!

  4. An excellent survey of the damage caused by this terrible philosophy!

  5. "What a godly man will find attractive about a woman is her heart." Yes!

    Darcy, much, much wisdom here! Keep going.....

  6. Just remember, folks, I didn't write this... the wisdom of many fills this post.

  7. This is very moving.

    Thank you for this.

  8. "Now I know I have a heart, because it's breaking."

    - The Wizard of Oz

    God doesn't promise us a heart that will never be broken. He promises to take our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh in exchange. That's a heart that beats, bleeds, and, yes, breaks. It's also a heart that speeds up when you're excited, slows down when you're calm and peaceful, and has a host of different rhythms for a host of different emotions. It's a heart that's alive.

  9. If we are to imitate Christ, we cannot avoid heartbreak. Christ courageously loved us despite knowing in advance that his heart would be broken...

    This says it all! Thank you!!

  10. Thanks for gathering all this and sharing it with us, Darcy. I read all the comments last week (thanks for quoting me, by the way! I'm honored!), but I also really appreciating you quoting the people from your own personal life.

    The overwhelming evidence I've observed is that the only people who seem enthusiastic about the "courtship" model are Church leaders, parents, those who are underage, singles, and those who have never tried it.

    Furthermore, I grew up in very strict, super-conservative Christian circles where this sort of thing was encouraged among youth and young adults, and I've known many individuals and couples who tried it (other than myself), but I can't think of ANYBODY who had a great experience with it or would recommend it to anyone else.

    I certainly wouldn't!

  11. Thank you for sharing your hearts, all who were involved.
    My first thought after reading this was of the ways that legalistic courtship has hurt me. I've had years of experience of holding myself back from loving others, fearing how I might be regarded. I have been learning to free myself from these chains over the past several years. And then there is my own "perfect" courtship, which had a huge impact on my life; I spent years developing the perfect "formula" for how courtship should look, and then I was able to live it out - and I got burned so badly! After working through the pain (which took years), I realized that there is no perfect formula for how a relationship should look. We should be focused on true love and following the paths God has for us, not following a picture perfect formula.
    My second thought was wondering how my legalistic views on courtship as a teenager hurt others. Rebecca, who posted here, knew me during my legalistic stage; did my legalism further suppress her? How about my younger siblings? How about my cousin? Other brothers and sisters in Christ?
    I want to publicly apologize for the legalism that I held as a teenager. Rebecca, if there was any way that I further suppressed you, I am sorry. I can't fix damage done, but today I want to make a stand for the freedom we have in Christ.
    May we all learn to live in love, not in chains.

  12. This teaching really messed me up especially Elizabeth Elliot's "Passion and Purity" book. Dating my now husband was a nightmare. I was always second guessing and wondering if this was "God's will". My dh reassured me time after time that we are exactly where God wants us and if we aren't then He will get us there.Thank God my boyfriend now husband had enuf wisdom to guide me into living freely in Christ. Thank you DH!

  13. I just wanted to give some advice regarding boundaries for the newly dating:

    Don't be afraid to ask the other person where he/she stands. If you are dating someone, and assume you are exclusive, but don't know, go ahead and ask. It is scary. But if you can openly communicate about where you are and how you feel, it is huge. And realize that they may not be at the same place you are--at which point, you have a choice to make--do you wait for them to catch up (or for you to catch up) or part with regret? Either one is fine, as long as you are true to yourself and what you need.

    I wasn't raised in a courtship-focused household, but I did go through a long period of not asking the men I was dating where we were as a couple, because I thought it was either obvious or it would hurt their feelings. It is not, and if it does hurt their feelings, well, they don't care enough about mine for things to work.

    Good luck, and god bless.

  14. So my random thoughts inspired by this post....


  15. I gave my heart to my husband the day I met him, when I was 12 years old. So I never had to deal with moving on to someone else. But I vividly remember my Mom's lecture when I sat next to him on the sofa, about how I was now a young woman and should not be in such close proximity to a man, it was highly inappropriate, etc. She also teased me about puppy love and I think fully expected me to get over him in a short time. I didn't. Her lecture, however, severely damaged my already touchy relationship with my father and brothers, and is probably the main reason I absolutely refused to stop dating him at 18 when she because concerned about the path his life was taking. I wish that she had shared those concerns with me, but it is water under the bridge. I don't know if it would have mattered anyway. All that mattered to me, was that I had poured my life into him for the past 6 years and could not imagine changing courses now. Since I thought up until I was 18 that girls got pregnant from some weird combination of kissing and being naked in front of a man, I guess I just thought that we were only one tiny step from parenthood simply because I had been alone with him. I later found that my parents believed we had been intimate years sooner than was true, because I behaved as though we had been. We did not kiss until I was 19 and we got engaged. But my mother's attitude, combined with a childhood experience, made me so fearful of even the most ordinary physical interactions, that I simply could not fathom allowing another man into my life.

    I wonder sometimes if our relationship would have been healthier had she not done that. Or if it would have ended and saved me a great deal of pain. But it doesn't matter in the end, because clearly God intended us for each other and used her mistakes to bring us together.

    I do believe that when you commit to someone sexually, you enter into a spiritual contract before God and each other. And that sex itself is not ever to be taken lightly or treated casually. My husband was sexually abused in early childhood and then as a teenager by older girls and women, none of whom had any rights to him. But his first consensual experience is one that he spoke of only twice, when under tremendous emotional strain, with his first real girlfriend; and I can tell that he feels a very deep regret for pushing her away. He tried to minimize it after he brought it up, but what I read between the lines is that they have both been damaged by the breaking of that commitment and he still pays the price at times. It's sobering. I will never say so to him, but it made me see sexual commitment in a whole new light.

  16. I know I just posted a comment on the first post about this topic (I'm a little behind) but, again, thank you sooooooooo much for your post. I'm so glad that I'm not just crazy. I've had some qualms about the whole courtship vs. dating thing since my late teen years but I just figured I was being rebellious or a bad Christian or something. It's nice to see my thoughts actually laid out logically and to see other people echo what I'd been thinking. I was a disgustingly legalistic teenager. I thought I was "better" than all those "other worldly teenager" who dated. I was so wholeheartedly repulsed by my attitude that in college I completely turned away from Christianity and did a 180. I accept responsibility for those actions, however, I seriously wonder if I would have done some of what I did in college had I not been such a legalistic thinker brought on by books like "I Kissed Dating Goodbye". I don't know.

  17. I felt compelled to present an analysis of the effect this teaching has on me now as a 24 year old male, as well as what I've been able to come out of. My family was an odd hybrid. I have highly intelligent, reasonable parents who did everything else right, except this area of relationships. Years of homeschool isolation added a thick, frustrating layer of shyness and timidity which drowned out the vibrant, social, active personality I always had at my core.

    Here are some foundational axioms of this movement that are embedded in the male mind (Some differ from the female side, others are shared):

    1. Guard your heart (Which means hide, bury, and conceal your feelings and emotions)
    2. Like a girl for her heart and Godly purity (Which means intellectualize every emotion)
    3. If you do like a girl, you have to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that you want to marry her (This is horribly damaging)

    Number 3 has profound consequences, especially when combined with all females raised in this movement who hide and conceal their hearts and feelings too. Consequences include:

    1. Fear of failure
    2. Fear of rejection
    3. Fear of incompatibility
    4. Undue and unwarranted pressure on every interaction and conversation since what little bit of the person you will get to know is what you have to base the rest of your entire life on.
    5. Fear of the unknown.
    6. Paralyzing, anxiety-inducing, crippling fear.

    You may see a trend. Fear, and fear in abundance. There is pressure on the guys to pursue the girl (with nary a hint of her feelings), brave her father, be sufficiently Godly, be every bit the man these books call for, all while you are second guessing whether you really like her enough to want to marry her. It’s an impossible standard, it’s something no guy can live up to. To put it quite bluntly, this teaching is creating and has created an entire generation of weak and timid men who are paralyzed by fear and who have no clue how to make a woman’s heart flutter and have no idea how to lead her. Let me phrase that another way.

    This system of teaching creates men who have no appeal to real, strong, confident women.

    To bring this to a personal level, I could also phrase it another way. For years I would wonder how I could be tall, attractive, fit, successful, intelligent, and friendly, but be in every female’s “friend zone.” I know now that it’s because I had fear and insecurity bursting from every pore. We like to think that others can’t read our thoughts, and it’s true, they can’t. But they sure can read body language, facial expressions, and spatial awareness. As I’ve come out of this pit I can now look back and see how deficient I truly was. Because of all this, of course I was never really of interest to girls, or if I was, I never knew it because I never learned what it looked like when someone liked you.

    I bumbled through college and while I had friends and was friendly, nothing really changed. It’s only been in the last year that my shells have been breaking and the person I always knew I was has finally been able to come out. I didn’t realize how that one area of dysfunctional, crippling thought had poisoned the rest of my life. Like others, after I realized how odd I was, I was able to cover it up and only *feel* awkward and fearful and timid, I could power through and act normal. That’s no way to life forever however, and by the grace of God and some people and circumstances he’s put me in, I’m at a place I never thought possible.

    It’s such a damaging system of teaching. That entire book of a comment is only scratching the surface. I could take any of those one “list” points up above and write this much and more about it and how it affected me on a daily basis.

    Guys certainly weren’t immune.

    1. Wow, your comment really sums it up. Fear, so much fear. It's so destructive, I'm feeling so frustrated, because even know I wasn't so deep in this stuff, it still effected me a lot. Filled me with so much fear. I don't believe that Papa wants us as brothers and sisters to be terrified of each other. Thanks for sharing your perceptive as a guy, I knew that guys are so much more then just a sex drive. That guys have feelings and dreams and hopes, and I wish that the world was a safer place, so guys wouldn't feel the intense pressure to be invulnerable.

      May you and every other guy out there that has been so deeply wounded by this teaching, find healing and rest.

      Bursting with love and care,
      a sister in Christ,

  18. Great post. Thank you, Darcy. As I see stories like you shared, I am continuously thankful that I didn't grow up in an uber-legalistic type home. At the same time, I read IKDG, Boy Meets Girl, When God Writes Your Love Story, etc. And I was literally scared of guys for the longest time. I had a million crushes and never felt bad about them, but the first time a good guy seemed remotely interested in me, I made sure I avoided him as much as I could. I've always wished I could go back and apologize for treating him the way I did.
    There is currently a young man pursuing me and we're essentially doing everything backwards of what people might say is how you should get to know someone. We've not begun a "committed" dating relationship, yet we talk often (okay...every day...for hours) and have literally talked about topics that would cause many people to turn red. But we're both in our late 20's and we figure we'll get all the important stuff out on the table...enjoying the meantime, but talking about the deal-breakers up front and if enough matches up we'll have fun dating and getting to know each other as time goes by. Ultimately...there is no formula, and that's what people are grasping for.

  19. Wow, anonymous, that is so much like me! Seriously... my now-boyfriend and I used to talk before we were dating... I brought up all the deal breaker subjects I could think of, and we'd sit at Safeway and talk about them. So, they all matched up, so we started going out (though I was terribly afraid at first). Interesting.

  20. Judah, I'm a 24-year-old man, too, and I hear you!

    I left several comments on Darcy's previous article, basically saying what you said, and I think we're in agreement.

    I'm glad another guy chimed in about how damaging this whole mentality is to males, too.

    There are so many layers to how this screws with people - women, men, relationships, and of course the combination of the three - that it's really shocking that people buy into it in theory, or even at all.

    I guess slapping a "Godly" label on anything is the way to sell it to the Christian community, especially if it's condemning something ("worldly dating") and promising something ("no broken hearts!").

  21. Thanks to the guys for sharing their perspective. It's always good to get a glimpse of what the other gender is going through!

    Judah, one thing you said -- "no clue how to make a woman’s heart flutter" -- make me think of how some Christian men, including some leaders, scold women for even *wanting* to experience that heart flutter. You're way ahead of the game just for daring to acknowledge that it doesn't have to be a bad thing. :-) You sound like a guy with a lot of depth, maturity, and humility.

  22. Judah-

    Excellent analysis and post- I've had many of the same experiences and problems in my life.
    Press on!


  23. These stories are akin to mine, and I share their heartbreak. I am having a hard time socializing with my boyfriend's best guy friend because of all the relentless drilling my parents did about how friendships with boys can't successfully exist. I have them to thank for all the difficulties I have forming normal, human, heart-full friendships.

  24. ThatBee,

    I'm sorry to hear that you have difficulty with having a friendship with your boyfriend's best guy friend.

    I'm sure, however, he chooses people not too dissimilar from himself to be his friends.

    If you are concerned about this -- talk to him. He doesn't want you to be uncomfortable.

  25. I'M NOT ALONE!!! :D :D
    Thank you for posting this. I've been going through a really tough time recently in relation to this. I finally figured it out. I simply don't know how to be 'just a friend' to a guy. In my little worldview, based on all the things I was taught growing up, a girl couldn't just be a friend without something else developing. So when I started to become really close friends with a guy, I developed a major crush. I felt horribly guilty. I wasn't supposed to have a crush, right? So I examined it. I liked the guy for many more reasons than he was good looking (although that was a factor, too :P) so did that mean it was the real thing? I knew that no good Christian girl should ever approach a guy about this. It would just be wrong. A good Christian girl should never ever tell a guy she likes him, and she should never ever flirt right?
    Yeah. Sure. Right.
    So when it finally came out that I did like him, and he said he thought of me as nothing more than just a friend, I was lost. How on earth was I supposed to be just a friend? I thought that when a guy got as close to you as this guy was, there was no where for it to go but a courtship/marriage relationship?!
    I'm still trying to figure it out, but I know one thing for sure. It's ok to like a guy. And it's ok to just be friends with a guy. And you really can have close, healthy relationships with guys without the supposition that it will be more one day.

  26. I was really moved by this blog. It captured so many things I had been saying for years and things I still struggle with or scoff at in the Christian dating world.
    I used to be a strong proponent of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" and not kissing until the altar, etc., but the more I've grown, the more I see how unhealthy this is. When I was in junior high, my youth pastor requested we make a list of qualities we wanted in a future spouse and that we not date anyone who didn't meet these qualities. My mother (who never cared much for the whole movement) told me I had no idea what I wanted from a spouse at 14. I remember daring her to argue with my list that consisted of some of the most general descriptors imaginable (sweet, romantic, etc.). As I got older and went through a couple lousy relationships, I adapted this list to add the things that really mattered to me. The last item on my list spoke to my new-found need for spontaneity: "will ask me to dance in a parking lot." It seemed crazy, but this became my "sign from God" that a relationship was right. Soon after, I began dating a wonderful, godly man who I had known for 7 years, who I had served on local and international mission trips with, who I had done Bible studies with. Everyone (including us) was certain of our impending marriage. Several months after our relationship began, we were in the car, and I reminded him that he had never taught me to waltz (in hindsight, I probably eyed the parking lot... as I know in my heart that my checklist was on my mind). He pulled over and taught me to waltz in the parking lot. And that's all it took. I was gone. God had spoken. He was the one... until he broke up with me 6 months later. I was crushed. I had never doubted my relationship with God until then. God had tricked me. He was unfaithful where I had been faithful. He wasn't to be trusted. It crushed me completely and totally because I had followed the formula, and it didn't equal marriage. It has taken years to let God back in again fully and even longer for me to consider pursuing another relationship. I don't regret giving my heart away and having it broken. It has made me stronger and will allow me to love more completely when the relationship is right. However, it has made me see that no amount of rules or lists can guarantee success.

    An issue that didn't arise in these blogs is the concept of a "fast" from a relationship. I know of two Christian couples who ended up fasting from one another just before their engagement or during their engagement. The first couple: the girl wanted to know without a doubt that the guy wanted to marry her; so, the guy requested a one-month fast from one another to figure out God's will. The girl didn't like this idea, and they ended up breaking up...for approximately a month. They then ended up getting back together in order to get engaged. Another friend went on a one-month fast during his engagement because he had some doubts about his fiancee. She ended up so upset about the ordeal that she cheated on him and the wedding was called off. Two things are wrong with this: the question should never arise "Should we break up or get married?" as there is substantial middle ground (and if you're considering breaking up, you've probably answered whether you should get married) and also, where did this idea of fasting from someone you love come from? I don't believe it's in the Bible. In fact, I believe the Bible encourages solving problems together.

  27. Darcy,
    I'm so glad to have found your articles. A few months ago, my fiancé ran across "How the Teachings of Emotional Purity and Courtship Damage Healthy Relationships" and thought of me. When I read it, it was the first time I had ever read anything that even sounded close to my thoughts of the teachings of my youth group at my old church...which I now loosely refer to as a cult. The little group of us who pridefully supported this super-purity based culture ended up splitting ways 5 years ago (my senior year), which not only tore apart every friendship I had, but also my beliefs that had been supported in that group. Through my freshman year of college, I began to try to sort out the differences between the false teachings and what and how I should truthfully live according to the Bible. I became involved in an on campus Christian group, which just further solidified my reasoning that this pious culture actually runs deep within many Christian circles, not just the one I had come from. It is as if the teaching treats people that if you are normal, then you're a luke-warm Christian. To be a 'real' Christian, you have to exaggerate and multiply every teaching in the Bible further than it's true meaning, and then add your own rules to that so that you can obey those rules and exemplify yourself. I feel that many (most) of these "added-on" teachings come in the form of those teachings taught regarding courtship in the church.

    It is nice to see that I am not alone, although it has led to further confusion spiritually as a result of having to reject all that I was taught, and now go back and try to figure out what was real and what was not.

    Thank you very much for your post, it was helpful and inspiring.


  28. It breaks my heart that homeschooling could be used in such a destructive manner. My girls are home schooled and they are vibrant, loving beings that look forward to dating but are also well educated so that they have something to offer a relationship. They accept sex as part of life and see boys as wonderful creatures capable of amazing things and very deep thought. Keep the faith my fellow broken mothers...we CAN raise well educated and socially adept girls despite not being given these tools as young girls ourselves. We can break the cycle of self loathing and raise wonderful beings that are capable of loving fully despite the occasional heartbreak.

  29. Judah's comment above is just so perfect. I know it was made several years ago, but it looks like we still have some straggling comments, so I'm going to hop into the fray.

    He highlights FEAR. And he highlights a lot of important aspects of the fear that these purity campaigns instilled. But I think there is at least one other major fear that should be mentioned:

    The fear of not respecting women.

    This sounds weird because, sadly, I don't typically associate the broader Church as caring too much about respecting women . It is, however, something that rears its head in the purity culture. It's been long enough that I don't remember specifics, but it was communicated to us youth group males that we should not be responsible for someone's loss of purity.

    Maybe this was unique to my church and wasn't a part of the larger purity/courtship culture. But at least in me it was manifest such that I wasn't able to make any forward motions towards a relationship unless I knew that is what she wanted. Because it's disrespectful to do something she doesn't want, right? And I'm not talking physically--I'm talking the whole 9 yards of a date, to dating, to exclusive relationship, etc.

    10-odd years later I still struggle with this. And it is especially crippling when combined with the other fears Judah mentioned. I've never been able to acknowledge where this came from before reading this article today, so I don't know if acknowledging the source to myself can help me get past it. I hope so; it's a lonely world at the moment.

    But even if I haven't known the specific source of this fear, I've long done away with how I personally interpret the Bible and that means a lot of discarding of the teachings of my youth. Yet this seems to be a trait buried deeper than, say, a belief in the 7-day Creation. And I haven't discovered a way to overcome it.

    1. New comments are always welcome. It's never too late to enter the conversation. :) This one seems ongoing, for sure.

  30. But what if you're like me? I've already had my heart broken several times, and I'm sick of it. To me, love is starting to look like nothing more than an endless cycle of pain. You love someone, and you loose them. Then you love someone else, and you loose them, too. And it just keeps going on in an endless, vicious cycle. In the end, it always ends in pain. And I'm sick and tired of it. I'm tired of having to drag myself back on my feet every time I get knocked down. And I can't stand thinking that this is going to continue for the rest of my life. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. What should I do?

  31. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm tired of having my heart broken over and over again. And I'm afraid that if it keeps happening, I'll never recover from it. Is there anything that I can do?

    1. Courtney, I am sorry you are going through that! I think there are a lot of good points here. I do believe in dating for the purpose of marriage--but that in no way means you have to marry the first person you date. Anyway, I'm not sure of your age range, but if you can meet some likeminded guys who really are looking for marriage, perhaps things will be different. Perhaps an older couple--only ones that have really, truly earned your trust--can help with that. I'm a huge advocate of Christians helping other Christians meet :) (when they are interested, of course, not trying to railroad someone into a relationship who wants to be single!).

      I have found Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help It Happen by Candice Watters helpful. This is a Christian perspective that's more than just the old "Be content in your singleness" and "Marriage is not that great" schtick.

      Best wishes on your journey! Saying a prayer that your heart will not be broken the next time.

  32. There is no way around it - these teachings excuse rape and blame women for things that can't possibly be their fault!
    Our pastor was a firm believer in these teachings and his youngest son was a power-hungry, black-hearted, rapist who knew EXACTLY what to say so that every parent trusted him explicitly. This son, I'll call him 'Shame', had befriended the older brother of my best girlfriend. 'Shame', knowing that my friend was home alone during the day, 'dropped by' and gave an excuse about leaving an important item in brother's room (as a reason to gain entry into the home). Best girlfriend called her parents and because 'Shame' is SO trustworthy, he is allowed to come in and search brother's room for the 'important' item that bestfriend can't find for him. In reality, bestfriend was brutally raped. Bestfriend was not taken to a hospital, or a doctor to treat her. When she was discovered, broken and bleeding, she was taken directly to our 'godly' pastor - who proceeded to BLAME HER for defrauding his son, saying she must have TEMPTED HIM in some way. Bestfriend had to write a letter of apology and read it to the entire church congregation. Pastor also paid for the abortion for another girl who 'defrauded' his son in the church parking lot (after being dragged out of the building when she visited the ladies room) during service, because the child was 'an abomination'.
    My mother was a single-mom, blamed for daddy's affair by 'not keeping him happy' when she gained weight, which meant she had to work weekends sometimes and we ended up staying with other families for supervision. I ended up being raped at one of these stay-overs by a brother who used the situation to his advantage, he kept me from reporting my abuse and caused me to allow my own continued rape and torture for months by threatening to tell my mother and the church community that I'd defrauded him. I am thankful daily that this abuse did not end in a pregnancy. But it did cause me to feel like I was 'ruined', as if it was my fault for being paralyzed with fear, for not screaming loud enough or fighting hard enough. I evaluated every blink and twitch in the presence of a male and finally, I just gave up! I drew into a shell, so deep in a depression that I cared nothing for myself; deciding that if men could take whatever they wanted, then why fight them? I was already raising children, running a household - why not at least let it be my own? I was pregnant and married to an abusive man at age 16. At 17 I was divorced, a single mom without even a high-school diploma.
    20 years later, I feel sorry for the child I was. I can honestly say I was raised in a cult. Most of us, thankfully, escaped years ago but much damage has been done and continues to be done today to a whole new generation of kids. I met my husband in a bar. I trusted him before my parents even knew him. We lived together before we married and we've been blissfully happy raising our 4 children together for 12 years. We trust the children we've raised!! Guarding your heart, in my experience, was too often a recipe for things much more dangerous than heart-break.

  33. I almost fell for this false doctrine, but I could feel the damages it made in my heart just after 1 year or so... I did not grew up in a Christian home and the culture around me was very secular and liberal...In my adult years, I moved to another country, became born again and the pursuit of purity became important to me ...when I decided that it was time for me to learn about love, and relationships in an authentic Christ-focus spirit, I did not understand well, discerning was not easy, so I started reading the books about purity,relationships etc... and I watched the shows (one about a very very large Christian family)...it all seemed so convincing and safe until reality hit and I understood that I was flirting with legalism and missing the point...Today, I have a crush on someone and I pray for wisdom and temperance so I can be free to feel/approach this guy but it is not easy ...At least, I am free of the burden to have my parents involved because they are not Christians neither at peace...so it gives me time to heal my relationship with my parents...without thinking guilty of "I have nobody to protect/help me in the courtship process bla bla.." relief. Thank you Lord.

  34. Courtship damaged me in so so many ways.
    A- Any guy who so much as talked to me was "interested in me," and thought of me as "marriage material." The course of my life gave me more guy friends than girl friends, so you can imagine the stress of "So and so has been talking to me a lot. He must want to marry me!" Then to find out he was dating someone was absolutely crushing.
    B- Guys are robots, without any feelings. Romance is nothing more than a business transaction, wherein a man finds a woman suited to him, pursues her with the intent to marry her, and the only way they show love is through sex. If they want sex before marriage, then they don't love you, because sex as love comes only after the vows.
    C- Once you're married, the man will never ever hurt you. He views you as this fragile being, and would never do anything to break your heart.
    So when I followed all the rules, it still didn't work, and I was left in the dust with a divorce, my entire heart broke to the point of non-repair. I don't trust any sort of love or joy, because it could all be taken from me, my heart is hard as rock, and while I can feel happiness or pain, I have a truly horrible time feeling love. Its ever so slowly coming back, I'm engaged and have 2 children, but even now I have a hard time completely loving them because "He could leave me tomorrow," or "The kids could get sick or get in an accident and die," and I couldn't handle my heart getting broken again, so I keep it at least half hardened.
    That's how messed up I am...