In my humble opinion, couples get physical way too soon in a relationship. They barely get a chance to express interest in one another and suddenly there's this pressure to hurry up and hold hands, hurry up and make out, hurry up and end up spending evening after evening wordlessly pleasuring one another. Then, when things get complicated, they wonder why.

I've pondered what exactly differentiates a friend of the opposite sex from an SO. I really could only think of one thing that made one different from the other: the nature of the physical relationship. I figured you could do all of the same things with each, apart from the cuddles, kisses, and other stuff.

I've recently discovered that I was terribly wrong.

The man I'm involved with now is teaching me an incredible lesson with regard to romantic relationships. When we sat down and first discussed our feelings for one another, he expressed his desire to take things slowly in our physical relationship. He wanted to demonstrate to me that his intentions were completely honorable. While his words all sounded nice, I wasn't sure how pleased I was to hear it because I am a very touchy-feely sort. We defined some very strict guidelines for what sort of touching was appropriate at that point in time. I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to handle it.

It's been two months now and he hasn't so much as hugged me. Surprisingly enough, I'm okay with that. I realize that at this point, it's highly likely that you are raising a doubtful eyebrow at your monitor. But hear me out. With the boundaries set where they are, I have absolutely no doubt that my feelings for him are genuine. I have no reason to believe that they're lust-driven. I know for certain that I'm not with him because he's providing me with physical affection or pleasure. I also know for certain that he's not with me simply because of what he's getting from me. I find immense comfort in that knowledge.

Then, too, are all the amazingly creative and romantic ways we've thought up to demonstrate our feelings to one another that don't involve anything sexual. For me, those are far more fulfilling.

At this point in the relationship, it's enough for me to lay side by side with him in the grass, looking up at the night sky, searching for new constellations, and sharing stories from our childhood. The intimate knowledge about him that I gain while staying up until two in the morning talking with him is far more valuable than anything I could gain by engaging in any physical act.

We have plenty of time to kiss. But how long can that innocent wondering last? Each stage of relationship development is sacred. Once a benchmark is passed, it cannot be returned to. Why hurry past when each exists for a purpose?

Last night, we were leaning back on the couch, resting our faces close together, whispering late into the night. He looked at me and said, "I think you're beautiful," as if it were simply part of the conversation. Nothing else followed, but that phrase meant more at that moment than it ever had when it was uttered in the midst of a make-out session. His eyes smiled with his mouth and I swallowed hard the emotion that crept into my throat. I wouldn't trade that for ten thousand kisses.

forward -> The two-hour hug