Love Defined: Romance Without Regrets

With a pen and paper in hand, Zack and I sat down to write out a list of physical boundaries we wouldn’t cross. Our relationship had recently shifted from being “just friends” to officially dating. With a desire to pursue sexual purity, we both thought it would be helpful to write down some specific physical boundaries. After several hours of talking about various scenarios and specific situations, we finalized our list. With a premature sense of accomplishment, we each pinned the list in our rooms and smiled at our apparent wisdom and godliness.

However, as good as our lists may have seemed, we quickly realized how easy it was to bend the rules when nobody was looking.

After several months of mostly sticking to the boundary list, we knew something was missing. Something wasn’t right. And it wasn’t something missing from our list. We were missing something in our hearts. With a zealous passion for “creating the boundaries,” Zack and I both realized that we were counting on the rules to make us righteous. We were striving to obey God with our actions, but our hearts weren’t in it for His glory. We thought we could achieve purity without the strength and grace of Jesus.

Creating boundaries for a romantic relationship was a good idea; we just needed to get our hearts in the right place. We needed to realign our hearts and motives with the gospel. We began to realize that rules apart from honoring Christ will always take us down the path of self-righteousness (Matt. 23:27). When it came to our romantic relationship, we both learned that glorifying Christ must be at the center of what we do and why we do it.

From the time Zack and I got married (2011) until now, I’ve seen many Christian couples making the same mistakes we did. If I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice, this is what I would say: Don’t pursue boundaries without also pursuing a genuine relationship with Christ. Ask Christ to give you a humble heart and genuine desire to honor Him in the relationship. Make it your aim to glorify God in everything you do (1 Cor. 10:31).

I would also encourage my younger self (and you) to make sure these three foundational elements are in place in your life before jumping straight to a boundary list:

  1. Worship of Christ (Phil. 2:9–11).
  2. Purity of Heart (1 Thess. 4:3–5).
  3. Holiness in Life (1 Peter 1:14–16).

First, we must strive to worship and esteem Christ above everything else (Ex. 34:14). Christ must be at the center of our heart’s affections. We must cultivate a love for Him that is far greater than our love for our boyfriend/fiancé (Ps. 42:1) The more we understand God’s great love for us and the price Christ paid for our sins on the cross, the more compelled we will be to live our lives for His glory in our romantic relationships.

Secondly, we need to understand that biblical purity isn’t about just following the rules but about pursuing a heart and mind that are free from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). Sexual purity is ultimately rooted in your mind, your heart, and your soul. As sinners, we desperately need the transforming power of Christ to change the desires of our heart.

We are called to pursue a life of holiness in every area of our lives (even when nobody’s looking). To pursue holiness means to live a life that is “set apart” for God’s glory. As God’s children, He calls us to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Whether it’s in our conversations, actions, or thoughts, we need the power of Christ to help us pursue holiness.

In my new book, Love Defined, I put it this way:

To embrace holiness and purity in our relationships, we must seek to worship God alone. We must steer our personal affections to loving God most. Our actions must be driven by our love and obedience to Christ. Only when we’re worshiping and seeking to glorify our Creator will we be able to maintain genuine purity and holiness in our romantic relationships. By pursuing Christ first, we can experience a beautiful romance without regrets.

Once we are passionately worshiping Christ, humbly pursuing purity, and intentionally living a set-apart life for God’s glory, then we will be ready for a boundary list. Until then, the boundaries will only become legalistic rules to be followed.

Once these three essential elements are in place though, our physical boundary list will be more like loving guardrails, gently reminding us to stay on the right track—all for God’s glory.

For more on this topic (and for some examples of what physical boundaries may look like), grab a copy of Love Defined. Log on to the giveaway widget below before leaving us a comment for your chance to snag a free copy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Do you struggle to be more of a rule-follower than a Christ-follower? Why do you think that is?
  • When it comes to romantic relationships, why do you think physical boundaries alone aren’t enough to keep a couple pure?

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About Author

Kristen Clark

Kristen Clark and her sister (LYWB.com blogger, Bethany Baird) are the founders of GirlDefined Ministries. Together they authored the book Girl Defined: God’s Radical Design for Beauty, Femininity, and Identity.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

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  • Tera V.

    I am definitely guilty of being a rule-follower. While I think rules are important to maintain purity, I think a mindset also has to be adopted. Thoughts have to be controlled as well which are harder to control than actions. I also think your relationship itself needs to be pursuing God together. It’s not enough if you are the only one actively trying to make your relationship a Godly one.

  • Sarah Ferrara

    So true, its easier to follow a set of rules where your heart is detached, rather than having your whole heart abandoned to God. The boundaries in themselves aren’t enough, because when you are in the heat of the moment, are you really just going to go back to what you wrote on paper, if your heart wasn’t in it fully? Or, will you rememeber God is watching, and ask what would honor both Him and your boyfriend? The couple both have to be committed to Godly purity and honoring eachother, while asking how far they can go to please God and keep their minds pure(because that’s where it begins!) and not, how close can we go to these fences without crossing them

  • L

    ‘To embrace holiness and purity in our relationships, we must seek to worship God alone.’ Amen! xx

  • +k

    I came to faith after years of promiscuity, so purity beginning in my thoughts and heart are still everyday battles. By God’s grace, I have been renewed and changed in my mind with much territory gained for Christ, but there is still much I haven’t figured out how to submit to Him and release from my heart. Every time I would be dating someone, rules would get set up and knocked down almost as soon as they had been set up. I had come to terms with the possibly of being a lifelong single, partially because I wasn’t sure whether God would allow me to get married after I had sinned so much, and in fact I thought being single might be easier, but the lust in my heart (which really has a lot of pride and entitlement attached to it as well, as if I deserve to be satisfied in that way) can be very difficult to ignore. I’m dating someone now and having this struggle for purity again and can attest that only seeking the Lord in prayer, His word, and obeying moment by moment the promptings of His Spirit– which I ignored and felt terrible about just a few days ago– that is the only way that’s worked. We need Jesus desperately, or else our “needs” will make and leave us desperate, broken down, needing to be rebuilt again in love. Which God does do, but… Boy, do we need Him.

  • Lillian

    When I saw the title, I was really intrigued by it, and I really loved this post. I don’t want to get bound up in making rules for myself, but instead strive to honor and glorify Christ in every area of my life including romantic relationships. I have never been officially in a relationship, but I have made some mistakes in terms of emotional entanglement. I think personally that both boundaries on the physical and the emotional are wise, but like you say, the ultimate purpose and goal has to be bringing God glory, not necessarily just following a list of rules.

  • Deena Maga

    This was really good, but once again how to do you answer on the register? . The reason why I asked is because it saids leave a comment and I can’t on it. So I do not know was just wondering, for help. – Thanks.

  • Starr Coleman

    Wow this is so good……this post means a lot to me. “We are called to pursue a life of holiness in every area of our lives (even when nobody’s looking).” I have trouble in the past from being too legalistic with rules. Where was this post 5 year ago?? lol. I needed to know this, that where my heart is matters more than strictly following the rules……even when nobody’s watching. “Once we are passionately worshiping Christ, humbly pursuing purity, and intentionally living a set-apart life for God’s glory, then we will be ready for a boundary list.”

  • Christina

    Thank you for sharing and being real. I appreciate it and all the wisdom you gave us.

    Do you struggle to be more of a rule-follower than a Christ-follower? Why do you think that is?
    As of right now, I am not dating. But in general I feel like I am more of a rule-follower more than a Christ-follower. When it comes to rule-follower rather than Christ-follower I want to people please. I want to make sure that I look righteous in their eyes rather than christ, which is bad.
    When it comes to romantic relationships, why do you think physical boundaries alone aren’t enough to keep a couple pure?
    With Physical boundaries there are also emotional boundaries. In general and in life, we are supposed to have boundaries with everyone. When our resound are broken we can sometimes feel overwhelmed as well as drained which will sometimes keep us away from God.

  • Christina Howard

    Love this!!! My fiance and I have had a set of a rules made since we, like you, have bent the boundaries. Rules mean nothing if the heart is not right with God, because you can be so quick to let the rules slide while in the moment! God is the foundation to stand on, and He is the one that will give a better reason not to push.

  • Hannah

    Thanks alot for this I’m 14 and it is something that my mom and dad talk alot about to me and my sister!

  • Alma

    Thanks for this! It is one of my prayer to have pure motives and a pure heart now and whenever God leads me into a relationship. But I think it is harder when the guy you like and love is there in front of you!

    And thanks for the giveaway! I can´t wait to read it 🙂

  • Leanna

    Thanks for sharing this Kristen! I think it is important to have physical boundaries in a relationship but you have to WANT to do it. Otherwise, you will be miserable and you will be just doing it because you have too. I can not wait to get my hands on a copy of this book and learn more about a love defined by God.

  • Han

    Thank you for sharing! These truths could not have ever been more relevant to me than now 🙂

  • rebeccavanmiddelkoop

    Thank you for sharing. Physical boundaries are not enough because every part of us has been tainted with sin.

  • MidnightCity

    Thank you so much! I am learning that it is not so much about actions or being the “perfect Christian” if the relationship isn’t there.

  • Erika

    I think this is very important for everything else in life as well. I read the sentence: “we were counting on the rules to make us righteous” and even though we really wish keeping rules can do that, it is all in our hearts. I don’t know if this should make it easier or even harder 🙂
    Thanks Kristen!

  • Esther Sentosa

    Thanks for this post. I have yet to learn from this experience. Thanks for pointing us to look to Jesus again.

  • Emma Stapleton

    Thank you so much. I tend to be more legalistic, and sometimes I feel like that’s because my heart isn’t always in the right place. I pray that I will learn from this article and other things in my life so that my heart may be fully pure inside and out and on fire for God. He wants and deserves to be our first love.

  • A

    Thanks for the post! I think part of the reason is that it is a heart thing. The faithful servant obeys rules because he loves his master, not just for the rules sake

  • Rebeca Salazar

    I really want to read this book! It seems to be great!!

  • Lois

    I think I can be more of a rule follower at times :/

  • Rachel Lee

    I tend to be a ruler follower because sometimes I don’t want to depend on God to change my heart to be pure and love purity. I sometimes think that God will even be more pleased by adding more rules and being more pure. “If you can’t show the difference between religion and the gospel, people will confuse morality with a changed heart.”-Timothy Keller. I think God alone can change a person’s heart in order to desire purity. Only Jesus can make you pure and white as snow. 🙂

  • Holly

    Wow, this is good. We can set all the rules, and do the right things, but the heart attitude is important. Definitely keeping that in mind! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jewels

    I am a rule follower…I like to follow rules and tend not to follow Jesus’ example as I should…but this article really helps. Thank you for sharing!

  • Julia Held

    I definitely struggle with being a rule follower; I just find rules and boundaries so much easier than having to examine my heart. I’ve been learning to ask myself how my actions reflect Christ instead of just crossing something off a list.

  • KC Travels (KeDOlly)

    Maintaining sexual purity as a single woman is extremely hard with all the internet has been feeding us, but with the Word of God it will truly help you to be pure ❤️

  • Sarah

    Soo so true! The heart is far more important than setting “rules” and guidelines. If your heart is not right, no “line” or boundary will stand. That boundary must come from what God has placed within your heart. I greatly recommend the book “Boundaries in Dating” by Townsend!

  • Eve

    Thank you for sharing!! As a young women I truly learned a lot from this blog. When I get the book I’ll be so excited.

  • Anna

    Thank you for this post.

  • kelly woods

    Thank you for sharing