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Sensitive Relationship Topics: Jealousy, Engagement, Intimacy

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.

How do you deal with jealousy when your partner has best friends of the opposite sex?

How do you know when you’re ready to move from dating to engagement?

If you're getting too intimate in your relationship, how do you stop?

These questions and more are addressed in today's podcast when Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace dive deep into topics of jealousy and insecurity, maturity for advancing relationships, and crossing boundaries in relationships. Their supportive insight guides couples to push aside their physical intmacy and keep God at the center of their relationship.

Speaker 1: Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Alisa Grace: Hey. Welcome to another episode of The Art of Relationships podcast. I'm here with my husband, Dr. Chris Grace. He's a professor of psychology at Biola University. And together, we're the co-directors of the Center for Marriage and Relationships at Biola University in sunny Southern California. So Chris, today we have a couple of messages, questions from our listeners that they've sent in. You want to give it a go?

Chris Grace: Yeah, let's do it. That sounds good.

Alisa Grace: Okay. Well, one of our first ones here ... This is from a gal. She said, "I have been with my boyfriend for four years now. And he has two best friends that are girls. They've never dated or had any kind of romantic relationship, but I just can't help feeling jealous. And I feel like I'm the villain in my own romantic relationship because it's driving my boyfriend crazy that I'm jealous." So she wants to know, what can she do?

Chris Grace: Yeah. Boy, this is a tough one because no doubt she's not feeling something in that relationship that's giving her either the ... Well, I guess she's feeling almost as if there is something wrong, right? I mean, let's just start there, that these friendships are unhealthy in some respect, or-

Alisa Grace: Or she's just feeling insecure.

Chris Grace: Yeah. So somehow or another, his relationships with others are making her feel insecure. And that could happen if you can have a relationship with ... You're too active in work, or you have a hobby, or you're with your bunch of friends and the other person doesn't feel like they're the priority. So, four years, man, that's a long time. And we could answer the question, they've been only been dating four months or for one year ... I think you answer it differently, right?

Alisa Grace: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Chris Grace: Four years you're with somebody, and he still has best friends that are ... Well, then I would ask the question, "Where is this relationship heading, and what is your understanding of that relationship?" I mean, for four years, you're probably needing to say, "Either this is going to end up in a marital relationship, a commitment, or not. What are we doing in this?" Because if it's just you're going to have friends outside that are your best friends, people you share your heart with and everything else, then no doubt she should feel insecure. I would challenge her and say, "Four years, and that's still happening? Then you might want to reevaluate your relationship." I don't know. What do you think?

Alisa Grace: Mm-hmm. What if they've only been dating, let's say, a year and a half?

Chris Grace: I think same thing. A year and a half is a long time to date somebody that if it's not ... Well, what is dating for? Is dating just to have somebody you can hang out with, go on fun dates with and not be alone on sometimes, but you're going to go share your heart with two other people, your best friends, or by definitions, somebody ... I want to hang out with my best friends, people I like, people I want to be around. Well, I would be insecure if I'm dating somebody for a year and a half and they're best friends, or somebody that my partner likes more.

And I would definitely feel insecure. In fact, I would probably advise the person, "You need to go ahead and have a very serious come to Jesus moment conversation with somebody you've been dating four years and say, 'Okay, either we're into this relationship and it's going to end up in something possibly more serious, or you're going to go ahead and keep your friendships, but you're going to lose one right now. And that's me, because I will not allow ... We can't be doing this.'" What she's doing, they're violating one of two things. Either this is really just casual dating and he can have best friends-

Alisa Grace: That are the opposite sex.

Chris Grace: ... of the opposite sex. That's fine. If you're only just dating casually and then you could go off and date ... I mean, what's a best friend do? You go out on ... You don't call it dates. It may not be romantic, but you're sharing your heart and everything with them after four years; four months, that's different.

Alisa Grace: What if they've been friends growing up and they've known each other a long time and then they start, then this other girl comes in the picture that he's dating?

Chris Grace: Yeah, great question. I don't know how you would answer it, but I would say this, if you all of a sudden came into this trifecta that he has going on, he's got all these girls that he's dating and best friends with, then, okay, you get that. You accept that. However, at the end of the day, dating, in some respects, is to date with the opportunity to not just to get to know somebody and learn if you connected and if you can have a deep intimate friendship yourself to the exclusion of all others ... I mean, at some point you're going to make a commitment to somebody that says, "I choose you, it's you and I"-

Alisa Grace: Over these friendships.

Chris Grace: ... "over these friendships." But you only do that in a serious dating relationship. So either she is misreading what he's saying and they're not serious, or he is playing not fair. He's saying, "No, I want to date you. You are my serious dating person. And we may one day get married and to the exclusion of others. But until then, I'm going to keep holding" ... Well, I don't know, man. That's just my opinion. What do you think, Alisa?

Alisa Grace: Yeah, I think that's really interesting. I would tend to agree. And I would say if it's the earlier stages of dating, then get to know those girls and form your own friendship with them. If they are important in his life and he's had that friendship, then get to know them. Form your own friendships with them. But I see what you're saying is as that romantic relationship becomes deeper and more serious, then he may need to be willing to prioritize her over those friendships. And if he's not willing to do that, then there's a bigger issue going on.

Chris Grace: Yeah, I do. Do you think, Alisa, that this becomes ... if I'm romantically attracted to somebody to be in a relationship for four years and I call that an exclusive relationship, wouldn't you at that point expect that you would begin to show and demonstrate and model behavior that would carry you through into a marriage, let's say?

Alisa Grace: Mm-hmm.

Chris Grace: But exclusivity, that is dating only one person, would seem to be in part of that. And I know that's only good friendships, but okay, let's just turn it around. Suppose he had, Lise, these are not girls, they're guys, but he continues to say, "They're my best friends and I hang out with them," the question is, does he do it in any way, shape or form to the exclusion of seeing her, right?

Alisa Grace: Mm-hmm.

Chris Grace: Does he prioritize them over her? Does he share things with them over her? Then you have to define what kind of relationship does he have with you?

Alisa Grace: Yeah, that's a great point. That's a great point. I

Chris Grace: I don't know. I guess there's probably a sense of, like you said, insecurity, needing to clarify the relationship, and then is this going to be a habit or a pattern that he's just going to do this? And how do I feel about it? And if he doesn't want to lose those friendships, and yet you still struggle with this, you might need to have that moment in time to say, "Well, hold on. This might be an issue that's going to break this. And if this is an issue that breaks it, then it is."

Alisa Grace: That's a great point. I think you're right.

Chris Grace: Yeah. So you got another one?

Alisa Grace: Yes, I do. Let's see. This one is, "How do you know when you are ready to progress from dating to engagement? When should you seek out engagement, counseling or mentorship??

Chris Grace: Yeah, boy, that's a great question, isn't it?

Alisa Grace: Mm-hmm.

Chris Grace: Because you're dating somebody you ... Man, I don't know, first answer, Alisa, what would be some signs that you are ready to go into a deeper level of commitment? First of all, maybe you're over a certain age, maybe maturity-wise.

Alisa Grace: Yeah, like what age?

Chris Grace: Well, maybe it's more not necessarily chronologic age. Maybe it's more just your developmental maturity age, right?

Alisa Grace: Mm-hmm.

Chris Grace: I mean, we've met some 18 year olds that are extremely mature and they have everything, they're bright, they know what they're doing.

Alisa Grace: But not that they're ready to get married at 18.

Chris Grace: Not necessarily married at 18.

Alisa Grace: No.

Chris Grace: However, it doesn't mean you can't get married at 18. I mean, our country and everyone else recognizes that you reach a certain age of developmental maturity and you can, just like you can get married in other cultures much younger, we, we say, so I-

Alisa Grace: Well, that's true.

Chris Grace: And so, I don't think it's chronological age. It seriously, to me, is maturity and evidence. Suppose you have an 18, 19, 20 year old who has worked hard, they've maybe even owned a business and they're taken over and they've been doing something for a long time and they're very good at it. And so anyway, to me-

Alisa Grace: So basically, you're saying it's maturity.

Chris Grace: I think start with maturity. If you're both at a certain level, great. Then we'd look at, okay, so that's one thing. Let's just call it that. Now, let's just say we've been dating for a little while. How do we know? I would say, do you sense and have you asked ... your friends and your family are pro your relationship?

Alisa Grace: They're onboard.

Chris Grace: They're onboard.

Alisa Grace: Great point.

Chris Grace: So one sign would be, what do your friends, your best friends and your family, closest members, think about your relationship? "Are we guys doing this ride? Do you feel like we're here? What's your opinion?" We had someone very close to us come and say, "Hey, I really value your opinion. What do you guys think about me getting serious with this person? And do you think I'm ready? Do you think they're ready? Do you approve of that kind of thing?" And it's like, "Wow, that's a great question." And in this case, the answer was, "Yes. We feel like you are mature enough." And even though they were chronologically young, we also felt they were mature to do this. So what do you think?

Alisa Grace: Yeah, I think maybe another factor would be, are you at a point where you can do something about it in terms of engagement? Let's say that you're not at a place where you're able to get married in a relatively short amount of time. We wouldn't want to see somebody be engaged longer than a year. Six months to a year is probably pretty normal. But beyond a year, it just gets so hard to keep your boundaries and keep those in place where they should be, because when you get engaged, your relationship changes. It just changes. It feels-

Chris Grace: You let guards down feels.

Alisa Grace: Yeah. And so it's that much harder to keep your boundaries in place when you're engaged. So if you're not able to pull the trigger and get married within a reasonable amount of time, I would not get engaged for, say, three or four years.

Chris Grace: Okay. That's a good one.

Alisa Grace: So that would be a factor. Or if you're, let's say, a freshman in college and you're not going to be able to get married until you get out of school, or let's say you're a junior and you're going through grad school and an internship, and that other person is not going to be able to go with you for whatever reason, then maybe you're not ready to get engaged yet.

Chris Grace: Yeah. And that, again, comes down to individual case by case, right? Because some people like you gave up your last year of college for us to get married and move. And so we felt like, "No, you could do that by transferring from Texas Tech to Colorado State and finish the degree there, even though" ... But so I think that's a great point, Alisa. The other one is related, is if you are not financially ready to take on the responsibilities of a household, if you're in debt, if you don't have a job and all of a sudden, "Okay, we want to get married or think about getting engaged," you might want to think again, unless you can get that area worked out where you can be independent and not live in your parents' basement while you are married, right?

Now again, there might be some times in which it just works better for you that way, because you're both healthy and mature and you're in between jobs or you're in graduate school and it's temporary. There are always exceptions and case by case. But I think financial independence, I think maturity and that kind of "dependent versus independent," from the need to always have support from others, and you're just too young that way-

Alisa Grace: Probably another factor would be that you're ready to get engaged if your life callings, your vocations are compatible, if your faith is compatible, if your spiritual maturity is compatible.

Chris Grace: So give an example, Alisa. What's incompatible? So if two people, one person wants to go on the mission field or whatever.

Alisa Grace: Oh, yeah. So yeah, if one person feels called to the mission field, the other person feels called to the corporate world, that's probably not going to work. And so someone's going to end up compromising what they truly believe is their call from the Lord. And that's just not going to go well long term.

Chris Grace: Yeah. And so to clarify, when you said "mission," you meant, let's say, overseas or something, right? I mean, that mission field?

Alisa Grace: In the mission field, yeah.

Chris Grace: Yeah. Somebody could say, "Well, my mission field is to work here in this country with" ...

Alisa Grace: Yeah, foreign missions, should we say, international, to go internationally or something.

Chris Grace: Yeah, or somebody wants to go into the ministry and the other person is like, "I don't want to be dependent on raising funding. I wouldn't be a good pastor's husband or a pastor's wife or whatever," right?

Alisa Grace: You know what? I think some of these questions that we're talking about is they would be great ... If you've been seriously dating for a while and you're thinking about getting engaged, I think one of the best things you could do would be pre-engagement counseling. Here at Biola University, our Center for Marriage and Relationships, we partner with the Biola Counseling Center and we sponsor pre-engagement and premarital small groups. So we have a number of students that are thinking about getting engaged. And so we told them, "Come take part of this group because you're going to be talking about those major issues that will come to play in marriage. And you'll be able to talk about them even before you're engaged." Because what if you discovered during that time that, "Oh, this is something that's kind of big that I'm not sure that we can get past this"? Well, then you're actually talking about it before you've made that long-term commitment of engagement, because engagement's a lot harder to call off than if you're just dating and investigating these questions. So that could be a great opportunity.

Chris Grace: Yeah. Aa group like that, if you can find one or if you're here. If not, I had a student come up and say even just today that they were talking with their pastor. It's a smaller church. And their pastor is walking them through because they're thinking about, "Wow, we've been dating for eight months. Should we get engaged or not?"

And I said, "Well, what kind of resources are you listening?"

He goes, "Actually, I listen to your podcast. We talk about it. But our pastor is walking us through because he's concerned," not concerned, "but interested to be helpful, and wants us to thrive." And so they're meeting together.

I thought, "Ah, that's perfect. That's the way to do it." So Lise, then it really does depend a lot on the level of your relationship, the maturity, how other people view it. I love the notion of, where are you spiritually, and are you on the same page? I love the fact that if you are being called to this, similar callings, right, then you start to go, "All right, maybe this is a little bit more serious."

But for one of you to have major doubt that you want to go somewhere or do something or follow this person anywhere ... Let's suppose that you're getting a great job, but let's say he's struggling trying to find work but he knows he needs to be in one area because that's where all the work is, all of a sudden, now the question is, how far can you start taking this relationship? So both have to be on the same page in a lot of these areas, spiritually, physically, maybe not physically, but at least financially, I meant. But you also have to be on the same page with the way families look at this and view it.

Alisa Grace: Yeah, and your values. Are your values compatible? And yeah, those are some great places to start in assessing.

Chris Grace: And then finally, there's other things, Lise, that you mentioned too. There's a couple of tests out there. I would recommend find a church, find a pastor, find a friend, a therapist, counselor, come to our center, and take something like the Prepare and Enrich test. It's a great preparation to show you where you're alike and different, and if these areas are something that cause concern. It's called Prepare/Enrich, just look it up. There's another one called SYMBIS, right, Save Your Marriage Before It Starts. And all of that is, "Okay, before I get married, before I get engaged, are we prepared? What can we do to make this relationship better? Or is this relationship something that we should continue to move forward?" Those are great tests.

Alisa Grace: I love it. Great. Great answers. Okay. I've got another question. You ready?

Chris Grace: Okay. One more. Sure.

Alisa Grace: Okay. This is a good one. "Can Christian couples who aren't married make out?"

Chris Grace: Yeah, great question.

Alisa Grace: "Can you" and "Should you" are two very different questions.

Chris Grace: Yeah. We had another one similar to this, Alisa. I remember someone asking, "Is it okay that a couple can lay down on a bed in a dorm and snuggle together and even fall asleep together," right? And the question is, can you do certain things? Can I walk on hot coals and not burn my feet? The answer is there are some who claim that if the coals are the right temperature, if they've glossed over with a little bit of ash, or if your feet are slightly cool or wet, if you only make contact with those calls for a brief amount of time ... but any of those variables that are off, you're going to get burned and it's going to cause some severe damage. So let's ask this question, where are you in that relationship, and does this ever lead to anything more? So I think the very first thing, when it comes to making out, holding, hugging, intense contact, what it does is it's imitating or drawing closer to a sexual type of contact, and are you-

Alisa Grace: You're playing with fire.

Chris Grace: Yeah, you're playing with fire. I don't know. What do you think?

Alisa Grace: Well, I think, yeah, we know there are certain boundaries that for sure are a red line, right? Premarital sex is a red line. The Bible doesn't make any hem or haw about that that's wrong. Don't do it, right?

Chris Grace: It's real clear in scripture that it violates God's plan.

Alisa Grace: That's right, don't defile the marriage bed. But there are some things that aren't necessarily talked about or defined or outlined in scripture about how far you can go and it's still okay. So you really have to use a lot of wisdom. And I think the point that you just made was really good about that. I think 1 Corinthians 10:23 says, "You say I'm allowed to do anything, but not everything is good for you," right? "You say I'm allowed to do anything, but not everything is beneficial."

And so if you think, in the long run, is this going to be beneficial, more beneficial or more likely to be detrimental to my relationship? Can our relationship progress? Can our friendship grow, our admiration, our affirmation of each other, our respect for each other, if we're making out all the time? Or is it more likely to introduce temptation that is just going to be too hard for us to go there?

Chris Grace: Yeah. I think that's the point where you end up ... most people are, in times like that, desiring that which is natural, right? "I desire and want to be loved, touched, held." I mean, that's intimacy. Intimacy is this very ... But as you said, you could push it to where you are seeking to receive something that's not appropriate because it's beginning to take your relationship to a deeper ... The physical isn't ... it doesn't stop there. If it was just physical, a physical act, that's one thing. But what that physical act does is it begins to create deep, emotional bonds. It's a knitting together. And I think that's why Christ in passages that we read about was so carefully aware of this need that we have to ... how one man and one woman become one flesh, and how God called that good, and that anything that defiled that in the context he was talking about, anything outside of marriage-

Alisa Grace: Marriage.

Chris Grace: ... whether you're pre-married or whether you are in an adulterous relationship, it defiles that very close intimacy that God wants. So we all want intimacy. We all need intimacy. But like you mentioned in 1 Corinthians, Paul says, "Run from sexual sin." Nothing else affects the body as this one does. And I think what he means there, he's talking about, we have a temple. It affects not just us. It affects the world around us, the people around us. It affects our emotions, our spiritual intimacy. People, we find, Lise, that are having premarital types of intimacy, really are misreading oftentimes that they feel closer than they really are. They feel more intimate.

Alisa Grace: Yeah, it's interesting. I heard it put this way, that when you're too close physically before marriage, it makes you more willing to overlook bad behavior than you would've otherwise-

Chris Grace: Yeah, that's good.

Alisa Grace: ... because it just blinds you to maybe what red flags might come up.

Chris Grace: Now, Lise, I think that's exactly right, that it does blind you, because you begin to see yourselves as closer than you really are, right?

Alisa Grace: Mm-hmm.

Chris Grace: I think putting yourself in situations ... like you said, the question was kissing and hugging, again, that attraction, sexual attraction is normal. We all want that. But the desires to do that, you become tempted over it, you start to lose the ability to make good decisions, right? And you start to lose the ability to fight off this, if you're constantly battling or pushing the boundaries.

Alisa Grace: Yeah. And it's so much harder to go backwards than to draw that line, that firm line in the sand in the first place. You have a lot of couples that come in for counseling and they're like, "Man, we messed up. We're going further than we know that we should. So how do we stop?"

Chris Grace: The first thing I would ask them is, is one pushing more than the other? So sometimes it's the other person, sometimes they said ... And again, one person oftentimes sees a physical level of intimacy and they feel loved, right?

Alisa Grace: Mm-hmm.

Chris Grace: But another person might want to say that, "When I feel loved, that I'm going to express it in this way. And I give myself physically to somebody in order to get love."

And the other person says, "I give love in order to get the physical intimacy." So there's differences. But if there's a difference and one person is pushing a little bit more, I think there's an issue there. And Jesus was very clear on that one, right? There will always be temptations to sin, he talked about in Luke 17:1. And this is what Jesus told his disciples, right? There's always a temptation to sin, but the sorrow that awaits the person who does the tempting. So here's the thing-

Alisa Grace: Does the pushing.

Chris Grace: ... who does the pushing. You had better be careful if you're the one doing the pushing and the other person doesn't want to go that far, they don't want to kiss and hug and do more all the time, and they're not as comfortable with it. But the other person says, "Hey, do this because this is how you show me your love."

And the other person's like, "Well, okay, I'll give this to get your love."

Alisa Grace: Or you just wear them down.

Chris Grace: And you just wear them down.

Alisa Grace: You just wear them down.

Chris Grace: And I think you would start there. So if they came in, I'd say, "All right, first of all, you need to stop at the very minimum that the other person feels comfortable with." So let's just say both struggle because they both want the boundaries, but they're not there. Really, this is the one time I think in a relationship where you have to take a break, where you have to really just say, "If this is going to be a problem for us, we're going to have to take some time away, reestablish what's a good boundary." Because if we're falling into the sin of sexual intimacy, intercourse, whatever it might be, you are really at a point where probably the only way to heal is time off.

Alisa Grace: Yeah, I think that's such great advice.

Chris Grace: What do you think?

Alisa Grace: Well, I think that there's a couple of reasons that you really have to be careful about ... because of the impact, the tremendous cost that it can have on your long-term relationship, and that is oftentimes ... Well, let's just speak in generalities. Generally, the guy is pushing more for more physical intimacy than the girl. And the girl typically acquiesces. And so she feels guilty. And then what we see is this starts coming out in conflict in the relationship. They're having conflict, conflict. And when you pull the layers back, it's because she's feeling resentful and angry and bitter at her boyfriend because of this situation that they're in. And so even if they end up getting married, then you see it starting to play out in their sexual intimacy, that he pursues her, pursues her, and she run away, she doesn't want it. And a lot of that can be residual, leftover anger, resentment and bitterness either at that boyfriend or even a former boyfriend that really pressed her in this area. So it can have that kind of residual anger and bitterness left over-

Chris Grace: And shame.

Alisa Grace: ... and shame, yeah. So let's talk about that for just a minute, Chris. Let's say that person is listening right now, that they're in a dating relationship, either the guy or the girl, that they've messed up. They've gone further than they know that they should and that they feel that they should. What do you say to that person? Are they just used up and dirty and they'll never be a good, pure, holy, useful vessel to the Lord or to a husband or a wife one day? What do you say to that person?

Chris Grace: Yeah, immediately stop that thought and counter it. That is of the enemy. There is no such thing as someone who is used, beat up, unworthy, unable to serve God. And you need to stop that. That's from the enemy. If any of you out there are struggling because your past history is not the cleanest and you've gone too far, you are still not only a child of God, you are loved by God. You have sin removed from you as far as the east is from the west. And you are now seen as a new creation. We are called a new creation in Christ. The old things passed away. Behold, new has come. If you are hearing those words, then they are of the enemy. And you need to do what you would do when the enemy speaks to you, which is say, "Be gone from me. I'm a child of God loved by him. And that is not who I am in his eyes."

So first of all, recognize what forgiveness means and how we are able to walk away from a bad situation like that and be considered back in fellowship with God, loved, clean, healthy, renewed, even if you mess up again and again and again. So that's the first thing I would do, is immediately counter any enemy here that says you're worthless or not good or used up. That is not what God says about his children. And he calls you loved and forgiven.

Then the next thing is, it's really one of these situations, if you're feeling this, I think, Lise, you do have to make some very serious, hard choices. You need to get somebody who's going to hold you accountable. Talk to them, tell you what they're doing, keep you from those situations in which you guys are falling. And then get mentoring to help you see, what do I do to keep this from being the dominant part of our relationship, when the danger is it's going to cause shame and anger and bitterness? Instead, how can I then most honor God with who I am? And I think the way you honor God with your body and with your relationship and your romance is you set it aside for God. You give it to God. You say, "Lord, I'm going to give this up because I think you're going to make it even better." And so-

Alisa Grace: Yeah, so in our own dating relationship, talk a little bit about how we handled this when we were dating. Because not a lot of people do it this way, but I'm hearing more and more people that have gone this direction.

Chris Grace: Yeah. I think you and I decided early on when we were first dating, we wanted to call it out and say, "Listen, we don't want this to be part of our dating relationship. And because we know that just kissing and hugging and doing that physical thing can lead to more of this, why don't we maintain our friendship, and let's just keep kissing out of the equation?" And so you and I agreed that we wouldn't have physical kissing until the day we got engaged, when which we were able to say, "I'm going to commit to you." And instead, during that time when we're wanting to be held, we hugged and held hands, and-

Alisa Grace: We did some serious handholding.

Chris Grace: That's right.

Alisa Grace: It was pretty romantic.

Chris Grace: That's right. And what that did for us was it allowed us to ... We said, "Let's concentrate on our relationship and see if there are similar deep values and loves and things that" ... So I think we started to grow in those other areas first.

Alisa Grace: Oh, I think that's a great point, that one of the benefits when you do set those firm wide boundaries like that, is that it allows the other parts of your relationship to continue to grow. Often, when you go too far physically, what happens is that that just becomes the predominant interaction between the two of you, and the other parts of your relationship, it's like they become stunted and they don't grow. They cease to grow because you become so focused on that one area. So when you draw that margin or that boundary, it really lets the friendship basis of your relationship grow. You're really building a firm foundation of commitment and trust. And I would say one of the things that I felt whenever you told me that you were going to wait to kiss me until the day you would be able to say, "I love you. Will you marry me?" ... And so, gosh, I'd never known anybody at that point who did that.

And I can just say, because that was so unlike some of my previous relationships that ended up being really painful and heartbreaking, that I felt just in myself, I felt so loved and valued and protected by you. I felt like you cared so deeply for me and that I was so precious to you, that you were going to do whatever you had to do to protect us and our relationship, and you didn't want to mess it up. And so I felt like you put just that wide boundary in place. I felt protected, I felt valued, I felt secure. Whenever you were coming to see me, I didn't have to worry about, "Well, are we going to end up back in the bedroom? Are we going to be in the car, whatever?" No, I knew that you were coming to see me just for me, not because of anything that you were getting in terms of that kind of physical gratification. And that just made me feel super secure and loved. So just because something is lawful doesn't mean that it's wise. And so use wisdom, great wisdom.

Chris Grace: Yeah. And if you find yourself in the situation where you've messed up and you want to get out of it and you've come to talk and you're just trying to find other things to do, first of all, it doesn't mean your relationship is completely unredeemable or broken.

Alisa Grace: That's right.

Chris Grace: But it is going to take work. You want to reestablish the fact that you are with this other person because you like them as a person. God takes care of the sex and the physical intimacy at marriage. You don't have to worry about that. Those are the things that we ... I guarantee you, they're going to be just fine and work. But during a dating relationship, if you've messed up and you want to recapture it, then restart. You want to recapture a connection. You need to restart the relationship. And by doing that, you begin to take time away, clear that page, both deal with your relationship with God first, get healthy there, tell God and ask God to be the Lord and king of this, and then you start again. And it might be that you will never progress beyond handholding or hugging, and that's it, and until the day you get married. And you just hold that off. But it takes time and effort. Go ahead.

Alisa Grace: I love that, what you're saying about that. C.S. Lewis had this saying, he said, "You can't go back and change your beginning, but you can start where you are and change your ending." And so nothing is beyond the redemption of the Lord. And so come to him. 1 John 1:9 says, "If you confess your sins, he's faithful and he is just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness." He is the God of do-overs, and he can walk you through that do-over with redemption, restoration. And his mercies indeed are new every morning, and that means for you.

Chris Grace: Yep, they are. And just repeat that verse. It's 1 John 1:9. It's a deeply powerful verse. And so knowing that we have a God that when we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to purify us from all and righteousness. And I think, Lise, that means that the other side of the equation is we have a job to do at this point. And that job is, "All right, this is important to me. My relationship with God is important. My relationship with the person is important. I am going to now make the choice to do and to behave and act and start afresh and do it this way." Now, if you can do that, this relationship could very well be something that brings God amazing glory. If you continue to struggle in it, you need to ask, "Okay, what's going on? What am I getting at this, and"-

Alisa Grace: Do we need to,

Chris Grace: "Do we need to take more than just a small little break? Do we need to take a permanent or a deeper break?" Yeah. Anyway, so there's hope.

Alisa Grace: Thank you, Chris. Thanks so much.

Chris Grace: Yeah, it's good talking.

Alisa Grace: Great questions today. And thank you for listening, Art of Relationships podcast. We will see you next time.

Chris Grace: Yep.

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