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We tell women, “Don’t give your heart away to a man who isn’t sure what he’s going to do with it.” And we tell men, “Don’t try to win the heart of a woman if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it.” We’re not against a man pursuing a woman. In bygone days, a man would woo a woman toward marriage. Women are giving themselves away—emotionally, romantically, sexually—to men who have made no promises. Yes, the trick is to happily anticipate sexual intimacy in a way that it doesn’t lead to immorality.Ultimately, the “commitment” of a dating relationship is the commitment to be committed until one or the other doesn’t feel like being committed. The time to bring on the romance is when you’re ready to bring on the ring! However, you also argue that the standard of sexual purity for the neighbor relationship, even after engagement, remains the same. Certainly once a man and woman have agreed upon marriage, it is appropriate that they have a happy sense of longing and desire to experience the relational joy of sexual intimacy with one another.Pastors and parents have, I think, dropped the ball here.We’ve tended to push the burden of this dilemma back onto teens and singles.And this doesn’t mean only abstinence from sexual intercourse, but abstinence from all sexual activity. The problem with viewing a dating relationship as its own distinct category of relationship is that—being a modern invention—it lacks any explicit scriptural boundary regarding sexual relations.Feeling left to our own devices, we have invented our own guidelines of sexual purity. Some are fairly conservative, while others are not.But it is wrong to anticipate the gift in such a way that it breeds impatience or disobedience.

Yet we treat these relationships as though they were a quasi-marriage, and thus grant them a measure of security that isn’t really there. You write, “To romantically woo a woman, or to give your heart away to a man, prior to a marriage commitment is to paint an unclear portrait of Christ and the church. It is never wrong to anticipate a good gift from God.Foreplay is meant to propel us toward consummation.It shouldn’t surprise us that evangelical teens and singles are struggling to maintain sexual purity; we’ve basically said it’s OK to begin having sex, just as long as they don’t finish. In addition to exacerbating sexual impropriety, you also argue that dating relationships tend to create unhealthy emotional expectations. A primary concern of the book is to help pre-engaged couples keep their wits about them.In the context of these admonitions, sexual love does not desire to be awakened when it has no opportunity for consummation.Since sexual activity must still be reserved for marriage, it is incumbent that an engaged couple exercise wisdom regarding the extent to which they “fan into flame” sexual desire through physical touch, spending time alone, discussing sexual intimacy, etc.

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Pennacchia was raised Catholic, but she’s not limiting her dating prospects to people within the Catholic faith. “It has shaped how I relate to people and what I want out of relationships, but I’m thinking less about ‘Oh, you’re not Catholic,’ than ‘Oh, you don’t agree with economic justice.’ ” For Pennacchia, finding a partner is not a priority or even a certainty.

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