Is It OK To Sleep Over at My Boyfriend’s?

Brush1-286x300She goes to school at Penn State. He’s a student at Ohio State. Rivalry aside, passion burns. The good kind that tells them “this is it.” 322.97 miles separate them, creating an invitation to consume copious amounts of gasoline between State College, PA and Columbus, OH. That’s expensive. So, they try to save money where they can. Hotel bills seem like a good place to cut costs. When they visit each other, they sleep over in one another’s apartments. Completely platonic, of course. They insist there’s no other solution and there’s never been any sex. Ever. That could never happen. They’re both Christians.

Is this OK?

Sleeping over has been called one of the newest trends in “Christians sketchiness.” I’ll go with that. I think it’s possible to sleep over at your boyfriend’s without eventually having sex, but not probable. Let me tell you why.

 1.) Sex is “controlled” by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system is controlled almost entirely by the environment, not your will. The same system controls things like salivating when the pizza delivery guy walks by and you catch a wiff of that freshly baked italian pie with pineapple and ham. Did you pause and say, “Gee, that smells great. I think I will choose to salivate now?” Nope! Me either. The ANS controls your heart beating when you find yourself in a fender bender. Do make a quick mental note to break out into an inconvenient cold sweat while your pulse races? No. The environment invites it. And suddenly without conscious effort.

Sex works the same way. The smell of your guy. The fact that you are alone. The fact that you’re both horizontal and cuddled under the covers. (Oh, don’t tell me that he sleeps on the couch. I didn’t just fall off of the turnip truck yesterday! I know that you might intend for it to be this way, but then cuddling on the couch turns into cuddling in bed and before you know it…”what harm can there be in sleeping together if we are actually just sleeping?”) These things invite the autonomic nervous system to fire up and get steamy. If you and your guy are sleeping together without having sex, either he’s not attracted to you or he’s gay. Your body…and his…were made to respond to lying next to one another. You might not mean to, but sleeping over may likely lead to “accidental” sex. I’ve talked to a lot of girls who have had this experience. And wish they hadn’t.

2.) Sex is best when you don’t plan it. Brain scans of women having sex show that certain parts in the pre-frontal cortext and deep limbic system kind of just shut off when she’s having an orgasm. (I don’t know who volunteers for that kind of research, but someone does.) If the autonomic nervous system kicks in while you’re both sleeping—and that really can happen, it can be really mind-blowing when you wake up in the middle of it. (By that I mean, that one partner wakes the other with the intent to have sex. The one who was previously sleeping will have great sex because their mind was relaxed.) When the mind is emptied and relaxed and completely shut off to begin with, sex is so much…well, sexier! But that’s just it. You might not plan to have sex. You may “slide” into it.

3.) “Sliding” into sex, sets you up to slide into other morally harmful decisions. Research professor Scott Stanley has actually trademarked the term “sliding vs deciding.” His research reveals that when we “slide” into moral behavior that we’re also likely to “slide” out of it. In other words, if sex “just happens” we aren’t really committed. And so we might not be committed in the future to that relationship. Unless we intentionally “decide” what moral behavior we will or will not embrace, we’re prone to any kind of behavior. Sleeping with your boyfriend and “accidentally” “sliding” into sex proves one thing: you’re capable of having sex with someone to whom you are not married. And it can happen again. That’s a super bad way to start a sexual relationship with someone to whom you hope to be faithful for life. May explain why the divorce rate among couples who’ve lived together is so much worse than those who intentionally decided to wait until marriage to co-habitat. One New York Times writer offers this thought: “Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation.” Sliding into sex leads to sliding into co-habitation leads into sliding into marriage. And sometimes, sliding out. You need to be decisive about your sexual intentions.

The idea of sliding reminds me of the concept of snares within the Bible. For example, Psalm 141:9 reads “Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers!” The writer was not only acknowledging that the world was full of snares, but that he himself could empower it. You see, a hunters snare is not like a steel toothed metal trap. We avoid those things! We know they might hurt. A snare is a simple piece of wire that’s looped so that when you step into it, you’ll be trapped if you step forward. It’s the own forward movement of the animal that gently and slowly tightens the snare until it’s too late. Every move you make in a relationship has the potential to ensnare you if you’ve stepped into a trap. Be careful.

4.) It looks like you’re having sex, even if you’re not. Assuming you believe that a Christian is called to one mutually monogamous lifetime sexual relationship—I like to call that marriage—, you understand that God’s standard encourages us to wait until we’re married to have sex. (If you think you can start having sex once you are engaged or even if you’re sure you’ve found the one, read “Sex First, Then A Wedding.”) When you decide to sleep over at your boyfriend’s, it’s really hard for the rest of us to believe you’re not having sex. Too many of us have been there. Even myself. Once. Long ago. A decision I made that was with the best intentions, but I slid into sin. I Thessalonians 5:22 says that Christians are supposed to “avoid all appearances of evil.” When you sleep over, it looks like you’re sinning. It’s as simple as that.

One more thing, I love ya even if you do “slide” into this sin. I once was a slider myself. But today I’m a woman who has decided to follow Jesus. No cliche intended there. I just know that I’m capable of sin and choose to stay far away from the snares of this world. You have the same choice to make.

Slide or decide.

 

 

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21 Comments

  • Many great points that I’ve worked hard to instill in my girls. The one that really stands out to me is: “Unless we intentionally “decide” what moral behavior we will or will not embrace, we’re prone to any kind of behavior.” And it can be applied to many, many things. Purity until marriage has to be intentional. And it begins with a decision and it follows thru with the actions taken to meet that goal.

  • This article makes a lot of good points. I think, though, that the language used is a little too explicit. Difficult to read something like this and keep pure thoughts, especially for girls who do have a boyfriend. That’s my personal take. Thanks for your ministry!

    • Appreciate the comment, Rachel. I try really hard to be careful with my language. In this instance (and a few blogs coming up next week), I’m compelled to be scientific. Not crass or tasteless, but the science of sex supports Scripture. And how we were wired and what we can and cannot do. That said, this blog is really for college-aged women and up.

  • I love your articles Dannah, and use your materials frequently with the thousands of girls I mentor in a teen pregnancy prevention program, but I’m startled by something in this article. Are you saying that it is common for two people to engage in sexual intercourse with each other while both are totally asleep?? I’ve been happily married for over 7 years with a fantastic sex life, and am considered something of a “sexpert” in my field, and I have NEVER heard of this happening outside of very serious sleep disorders. Please set me straight if you meant something different! While I agree with you wholeheartedly that two people pursuing purity shouldn’t tempt fate by sharing a bed before marriage, I don’t think that falling into “truly accidental”, unconscious, unaware intercourse is a legitimate concern.

    • Hmmm…let me be clearer. Obviously, someone has to be awake to initiate the sex. What I meant by that is this: when one partner wakes another partner lovingly with the intent to have sex, the one who was previously asleep will have GREAT sex. This is somewhat true for both of them. (That’s why there’s so much morning sex for so many people!) The face that their brains were relaxed and shut off, leaves them open to really great pleasure. Does this make sense? I’ll go back in the blog and re-clarify! Thanks for sharing.

  • It seems like you are projecting your failure onto other people. It is very possible not to have sex with someone whom you love, even if you sleep together – in fact that proves your devotion to them. And really who cares what you look like to other people, only God knows what actions you do or do not act on. That is a HORRIBLE point. As someone who is in a committed relationship where we have slept together without having sex for 3 years and will be married in the summer, I think this is a narrow-minded article that tries far too hard to put relationships into a box. Essentially you are saying that men and women have no self-control… speak for yourself.

    • Thanks for your feedback, JT. It is most likely true that a piece of my story is in the heart of everything I write. We are wired like that. To be impacted so deeply by our own life story that we “project it,” as you say. I’ll accept that. But that fact does not negate the science nor the scriptures. And God DOES care what other people think…if they think we are living sinfully. That’s why I included that Bible verse.

    • JT,

      You as a believer DO have a responsibility NOT to send the message to others who may be watching your witness to/of/for Christ that you are in face different than what the wold says is ok.

      And personally, I don’t think Dannah was projecting anything other than truth, whether it was her story or not.

      Lastly… I simply as a man do not believe you. You are not/have not been sleeping with your girlfriend of three years, and not had ANY degree of sexual contact, or thought, peek, or other temptation.

      Not humanly possible for men!

  • @JT.. self control isn’t about putting yourself in a really tempting situation and then resisting that temptation. More often, it’s about avoiding situations where you might be tempted to sin.. just saying 🙂 And it’s pretty unfair to say that Dannah is projecting her “failure” onto other people.. the way I see it, she’s trying to help people to avoid being hurt by sexual sin.

  • Great article, Dannah. We always tell our two college girls to be above reproach and to avoid EVEN THE APPEARANCE of evil (from some of our favorite Bible verses). I have a close friend who is a College Leader at a large & well known mega church, and she says you would not believe the stories she hears on a weekly basis from Christian girls who gradually changed their boundries and standards, and then were horrified with themselves because they found themselves doing things they had sworn they would never do–it was not a sudden decision, but rather one they “inched” toward.

    The Bible says to flee temptation, not to flirt with it or to test yourself to see how much of it you can handle. I love Andy Stanley’s examples regarding what it really means to FLEE, to RUN IN TERROR. I truly appreciate both you and Vicki Courtney — both of you helped me so much in raising my girls thru middle school, high school, and now in giving guidance thru college. You are so wise.

  • I would like to write a comment here. First, Thank you so much for writing this Dannah and taking on this topic and putting it out there. It needs to be said. Second, I am in a courtship currently and my boyfriend’s parents offer for me to stay over any time it rains or its really late. I expressed to them that I would feel uncomfortable sleeping over. They thought I was crazy and maybe still do. Anyway…I want to share my story…I did end up sleeping over one night. It was my choice to slide…I slid right into cuddling and time ticked on by and I missed the opportunity to sleep over my friends house because she fell asleep awaiting for me! I was so embarrassed! I slept over my boyfriends house and all I could think of in that moment was that my word meant nothing. I was adamant about not sleeping over his house when his parents offered, yet I ended up doing it anyway. I lost a lot of credibility that night. The next day was Sunday, and I felt like I let my “cloud of witnesses” down. We didn’t have sex, but I was ashamed.
    God takes our mistakes that He didn’t want for us, and He turns them into lessons that end up glorifying Him. But they aren’t His plan. I know God didn’t want me to feel that shame, and He certainly didn’t want me out late. But that night was one of many wake up calls for my boyfriend and I to position ourselves for success. Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke shared something in one of their YouTube video’s that when they were dating and engaged they were blessed to always be around people all the time and never really have time alone for the opportunity of temptation. That’s what my boyfriend and I have been focused on now, getting around people. Our desire for each other are wonderful things…but God has His own purpose for them, and the wait will make it that much more wonderful.
    I write about purity, modesty and relationships, that doesn’t mean I have it all together. That just means that God is doing a lot, and He wants to share His work with other people. I mess up, and I’m trying to navigate this new season being in a relationship pursuing marriage, but God always provides a way out of temptation and a way deeper into His plans.

  • My girlfriend slept over many times to avoid a fairly long drive home late at night. We never had sex before we were married, and here all this time I thought we were just sticking to our beliefs, but I was actually either not attracted to her or gay!! Wow I’m glad I read this, I never would have known! So how do I figure out which issue it is?

    • You may have been just sticking to your beliefs. But you sure did it the hard way! 😉 (I should warn you that I sometimes use sarcasm in my blog posts. I find it less stifling than being straight.)

  • Great article Dannah. And as another poster put it, we shouldn’t care what other people think, it only matters what God knows, is a relevant point to make. However I feel that as a leader of teen girls at my church, allowing my boyfriend to stay over, or even going away just the two of us before we’re married sends the wrong message. Even if we’re not having sex, (which we’re not) what matters is what those impressionable young girls see. Thank you so much for your writing and the way you excellently handled this question.
    Laura Kate

  • Dannah I enjoyed your write up and can’t agree less.But what do I do as a42 ur old virgin who met d Lord at 14+,and still single and waiting for d right person to come?I get advances from men most of which I turn down cos most are married. I have natural desires but can only allow d expression in marriage.I do fall into depression cos quit a number of Christian men I’ve met want sex before marriage. But I’m trusting God for a godly man who’ll encourage me to obey the Lord.

    • Folasade, sometimes the Lord brings a “right person” and sometimes he wants to BE the right person FOR YOU! Have you asked him about that? Surrendered your plans to his? I know that is sad. I know it can cause depression or increase it. But sometimes embracing it and moving forward is the first step to healing and freedom and joy!

  • I think this piece was written with best intentions but is written carelessly and has some very dangerous implications. It also sounds like you are dangerously misrepresenting science or perhaps not looking at the full body of studies that have been conducted on human sexuality.
    It seems that the writer is stating that having sex is something people cannot control, that we are not in control of our bodies and therefor not in control of our actions. Sexual ATTRACTION, is not something we control, and is similar to your example of salivating when we smell something. Attraction and salivation is an automatic reaction but we have the control, the free will given to us by God, to restrain ourselves from attacking the person walking by with food. Likewise, while we experience sexual attraction, we have the power to restrain ourselves from making advances or accepting advances. If we only teach our children to avoid temptation we never teach them how to control themselves we set them up for failure,(as it is impossible to avoid all temptation) .That kind of teaching also results in the cultural attitude that continually tells women to cover up instead of teaching men to control how they view and treat women. It leads the phrase “She was asking for it” because of what she wore or the situation she found herself in instead of accountability from perpetrators. We need to teach children what is a natural feeling and how one should conduct themselves. We should teach children that those feelings of attraction are healthy and normal but should only be acted on once a commitment before God has been made.

    I really want to address this whole concept of sliding into sex/surprise sex. You don’t provide information on your sources or these “studies” or go into detail but sliding as you describe how it applies to sex sounds very close to rape. We should be teaching children that consent is only a clear yes, a yes that is given after a serious conversation with a partner (hopefully after marriage or life long commitment). Consent is not something that should be given in the heat of the moment, while intoxicated to any degree or a lack of a “no”. Anything less then a verbal “yes” is too close to coercion or rape. To say we are “wired” for sex removes all accountability from the equation. When you teach kids that consent is only a verbal yes in a sober situation, “sliding” is not a reality for them or more accurately, it is not an excuse for them. Sex is not a body’s involuntary reaction to attraction and there is certainly no such thing accidental sex. Sex, like every other decision in our lives a choice made with free will that comes with moral obligations.

  • I didn’t need to read this article to form my opinion, but I did anyway. No, there should be absolutely no sleepovers. Great article, Dannah, thank you.

  • Talk with your girlfriend/boyfriend about boundaries and your witness. Cuddling isn’t a sin to me, I just let my girlfriend know that I was getting an erection and to be careful what she touches. Sounds crude but I can’t tell you how freeing it was to actually TALK about sex and sexuality with my girlfriend and we’re both Christians. TALK people. Sexuality should NOT be a taboo in the church otherwise you’ll have young adults and teens torturing themselves for simply getting aroused and ultimately condemning themselves daily and even hourly (like me). Then they are more likely to lash out in frustration by having frivolous sex or even commit a sexual felony. Be open, be honest, and do what’s best for each other (waiting), and for your witness.

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