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Neela Kale Answers:
One principle that flows from Catholic teaching on sexuality is that a couple’s physical intimacy should never exceed their emotional and spiritual intimacy. Until two people commit their full selves to each other in marriage, they have not given their hearts and souls to each other in a way that allows them to fully give their bodies to each other. Without that deeper commitment, it’s easy for them to deceive themselves about what their sexual expressions really mean. And too much sexual expression can easily cloud their discernment about the relationship, making it difficult to see where God is really leading them. Doing “everything but” can be like driving a car too close to the edge of a cliff. The closer you are to the edge, the more likely it is that you will slip and fall. At the same time, you spend energy worrying about falling, rather than enjoying the view – in this case, rather than nurturing chaste expressions of care that can allow a relationship to deepen and mature.
A couple should ask themselves these questions: Does our level of physical intimacy correspond to the level of emotional and spiritual intimacy that we have? Do our physical expressions such as kissing honestly convey the commitment that we have for each other, or do they falsely give the appearance of a commitment that does not exist? Worse still, do those physical expressions stem not from love for each other, but from mere desire for sexual pleasure? What do we really want, for ourselves and for our relationship, and what will help us to get there? These questions will help them to know how far is “too far.”