Growing up, I was often told and encouraged to 'keep my whole self pure' for my future husband. That included body, mind and heart. This was a good standard and one that is Biblically-founded.
Growing up, I would cherish to know that I hadn't held hands with a guy, never gone on a date, never written a love letter to a guy, never cuddled, never 'romantically' hugged a guy, never spent the night at a guy's house, never been on a dating site, never kissed, never had sex, and...throw in any other romantic and/or physical things here.
Growing up, I realized how basically impossible that level of excellence is because once you hit a certain age, the human nature that God created makes you start feeling, start noticing, start desiring, and you ultimately start doing.
And that's one of the first times in my life when I felt guilt.
The first time I 'hugged a guy romantically' was a particular dude I had a crush on at the church I grew up in.
The first guy I ever held hands with wasn't even someone I was interested in dating. We just kinda liked each other. We were both 16. Oh and we snuggled during a movie too.
The first guy I ever wrote a 'love letter' to was someone who had a mutual interest in me, but we never officially dated.
I have since also been on dating sites/apps, been on a date with a guy I met through a dating app, had my first kiss, etc. (Yes, I am still a virgin though.)
Did I feel impure?
Did I feel like my future boyfriend would break-up with me upon learning these facts?
Did I feel guilty for doing all these things that I thought I would save only for my future husband?
And the reason I felt guilty was because I was always taught that unless I kept guard over my heart and body, then I wouldn't have much to offer to my husband. That my heart was like a pie, and each piece (slice) I gave away to whichever boy, just meant one less slice for my future husband.
Now, don't get me wrong. I get that analogy. Every time you do something romantic that (in certain individuals' book) you should only do in marriage, then you're depriving your future spouse of something.
But I disagree with the reasoning behind it.
For these three reasons.
1) Everything I've done and every time I've done something with a guy, I never did 'because my hormones were taking over my brain'.
I am an extremely affectionate person. And because of that, I do need to be careful on how I show my affection - especially to the opposite sex. But I am also a caring person, which means that when I care for someone - whether romantically or not - I want to be affectionate with them. THIS IS NOT WRONG. THIS IS NOT SINFUL. Yes, you should exercise extreme caution on WHAT you're doing and HOW you're showing you care, but all of my hand-holdings, hugs, and kisses were never because I just 'felt like it'. They were meant, whole-heartedly from a girl who cared for a boy. And that's literally all there is to the story.
2) Yes, there are things I regret doing. Yes, there are things I am happy I did. No, I do not think I am a sinner because I did any of them.
For a long time, I wrestled with feeling extremely guilty for any and every little romantic gesture I had ever shown to any guy. Well, 'romantic' in conservative Christian terms. Holding hands, sitting close to each other on a couch, etc. Not to mention kissing someone who I ended up not getting engaged to/marrying. Oh but wait, did I think I was going to marry him? I sure did. So why should I constantly berate myself for doing 'the unthinkable' with him?
"Well, you should've just waited to do ANY sort of physical thing with ANY guy because you don't know WHO you're going to marry and therefore, you should keep your whole body AND heart for your future husband alone, so he won't be missing out on anything you did before," said the voice of a sheltered, conservative, homeschooled girl from ten years ago.
First of all, I will not feel guilty for things that I did out of love and compassion and care for someone. The things I do regret doing, I will have to live with for the rest of my life - BUT I know and believe that I have been forgiven by my Father for them.
Secondly, my future husband will love me in spite of all my flaws and if - yes, IF - he thinks that anything from my past was 'wrong' or 'inappropriate', I know that he will forgive me for them. Thirdly, I believe that God has given us free will to choose what we do or don't do in His will. His sovereign and supremely guiding hands have always protected me - and kept me from many occasions that bad things could have happened. Have I fallen short of His glory? Absolutely. Does this mean He doesn't love me anymore? Absolutely not. Have I made mistakes in choosing who and how to show affection? Yes. Should that guilt be hanging over my head for the rest of my life? No. It has its consequences, yes. But I think the biggest 'threat' girls face is that their future husbands 'won't love them as much because they don't have this and that to offer'. When in reality, girls, if a guy is shallow enough to say something along the lines of 'Oh you've held hands with another guy? Forget it. I can't do this', then good riddance. You don't want that type of man as a husband.
3) Whatever past things I've done - whether regretfully or not - it will still be my FIRST with my husband.
In closing, I would like to clarify one thing.
I am not saying that all physical touch is fine and/or encouraged. I am not saying that you should not be careful in the way you show affection to the opposite sex. I am not saying that conservative Christians are stiff-necked and/or wrong in their way of thinking. We are all convicted differently. We are all raise differently. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But don't ever point a finger at someone and tell them that their future spouse is 'missing out' on things that they've 'given away to other people'. Because, in reality, like my third point above, it will all be a first within a holy and covenantal marriage. And I don't know what can be more special, romantic, beautiful, or pure than that.