Note: this was supposed to be part 2 of a duet post, the other one called The 50 shades of NCMO.
I’m a guy: I like smooching. I have been married: I like all the intimacy that comes with that. I am divorced and honor my covenants: I go without a lot of intimacy now. By choice. By pure driving force of desire for a marriage in the temple, if that is God’s will for me.
But still, I like smooching. I like intimacy. I yearn for the connection that comes from being intimate. But I also like going to the temple more, taking the sacrament, and not talking to people about my activities. Especially a bishop.
If you are human, you typically like these things also. If you have been married or had any sexual experience, you know what I am talking about. There is a vast difference between curiosity and experience, but it is driven by the same passions that we have instilled in us.
But there is a black and white of it. It is a black and white topic.
“How can this be so?” says those that immediately see that statement as unrealistic. “There is no black and white in life, that is what the church (little “c”) says and it is just WRONG headed.”
Sorry, but there is a black and white to intimacy. But it may not be what you think I am alluding to. I am not saying that there is a black and white breaking point, a binary decision of what is intimacy and not. Nope, I am changing the conversation. I am saying there is a white and a black intimacy. I have experienced both; many of us have. We do live in a life of grays, but the gray area is something much different. The gray area is a slippery slope of points that slowly lead to confusion about what is too far.
NCMO (non-committal make-out, for those unaware of this acronym) is a particular type of affection. We like to feel whole, we like to feel connected, but this can also lead to downward spirals. Some people kiss everyone they go on a date with. That’s ok. Some people won’t kiss someone until they are fully exclusive, and that is ok too. “What is making-out?” is a gray area as well. What is appropriate and what is not? At what point do I need to run to the bishop or not? These are all gray area questions; questions that only you can answer.
Despite all that, I am telling you that there is a clear way of staying out of the gray area. I am saying there is a black and a white of it.
There are great standards that the Church espouses for the youth, but, as the little “c” church typically does, it is being abused, misused, and misapplied as a commandment for adults, and not as the resource for consideration as it has been suggested. For the youth, absolutely, but for adults, it is not meant to be applied in its entirety because we are adults and we should have a clearer perspective and greater discipline. Yes, we should have standards, and these are outstanding standards, but let’s be real: we are adults and some of this is too juvenile for what our lives entail. Worse, there are ward level leaders in the church that are holding adults accountable for things that are seriously something that should be left to our own ability to discern, prayerfully, for ourselves.
So, as adults, what is the answer to black and white? Black is unrighteous and immoral affections; white is righteous and moral affections. What those two standards consist of are purely yours to determine, prayerfully, after taking a full accounting of yourself and what your trigger points are.
We may know how to drive close to the edge of a cliff and do so expertly, but do you really want to limit your reaction space to the millimeters of road left to the edge? That is your gray area. I have lived the life of black affection and found it as destructive and demeaning as we are advised by our Church leaders. I am happy to not go off the road anymore. However, I now know where the edge is to avoid it. Once I exam where all of the lines of the road are, I choose to be careful. I would rather have two lanes of swerving room for some squirrel that decides to toss itself into traffic due to some secret squirrel suicide pact. I know where my edges are, so I stay away from them.
I am a passionate guy. I love to kiss and cuddle. But, more so, I love living with myself and I love seeing the bishop in passing instead of in a chair directly in front of me as I bare my soul and sin. So I chose to develop my white affection standard. It was a scary process because it sounded bland and I was worried about it being boring. Remarkably, I discovered how much more gratifying it actually is because of three aspects of it:
- it is announced BEFORE affections commence and is declared that each step of affection would be a discussion of some sort, typically me asking if it is ok before acting (yes, I ask permission before first kiss)
- it makes a great filter and litmus test
- it creates an environment where both are understood and there is no pressure and fear of pushing limits, so you are able to enjoy being present instead of fearful of what may come. It established trust.
White affection can be rewarding. Being up-front about what limitations and expectations you have for affection will establish your seriousness with the person you want to smooch on. If they balk, good, they were trouble in the first place. If they reject or dodge the conversation, they have an agenda. I found that women (‘cause I don’t have this conversation with guys…) actually respect this talk and are grateful. As a man, I am relieved when a woman does so with me. The affection is pure because we know where the lines are.
Study yourself. Establish your rules and boundaries before you meet someone that you want to smooch on. Decide now for where you want to be later. Create your white NCMO standard. If you feel a connection where affection may be coming, pause, and have the conversation. The romance isn’t killed, it is allowed to grow from there and is nurtured in trust. Then hold to your standards and expect your partner to do so as well. If they push, be done. THAT is the binary decision to make. That is where the black and white of it comes in.