Once you have decided whether to call your relationship dating or courtship, it is time to establish your definition of what that term is going to mean for you, or in other words, set some boundaries about what your future relationships will be, or will not be. For example, what will your boundaries be for physical contact, time alone, and family involvement?
I say boundaries, because the term rules sounds stiff and often causes people to become defensive. This is not about making a long list of what you will, or will not do. This is about knowing yourself well enough to know where you can go, and what you can do, and not be tempted to do that which endangers your purity. Every family, even every individual person, will have their own lists, because we each have different weaknesses, and we each have different convictions. Because of this, there cannot be a "one plan fits all" deal. For Cammy, it might be okay if she hugs a young man, it may just be a sign of friendship, but for Ann is might not be okay, because for her it might evoke emotions that are better left sleeping until she is married. If you know something will tempt you to think or do something that could lead to compromising your purity, then do not do it.
I think when it comes to setting guidelines you have to be careful. There is such a thing as too many boundaries. You need to weed it down to those which are necessary and to those which are just personal preferences, and be open to change. I am not saying give up your boundaries when some young and handsome man comes along just because he thinks your ideas are stuffy, I am saying do not make "rules" like, I will not get to know a guy who has a beard, just because you prefer clean shaven men. Do not make a lists of petty unimportant things. You could very well miss wonderful opportunities that God has planned for you if you get to detail oriented and narrow minded. But, you must realize that boundaries are necessary, as long as you do not go over board.
This process is best done with the guidance of you parents and/or godly mentors. You as a young person who has never been in a relationship, may not be sure whether your requirements are over done or not. It is also a process that needs a lot of prayer and plenty of careful thought.
Personally I have chosen to call my future relationships courtship. I love the old-fashioned and romantic picture the word conjures. I also love the fact that courtship, on the whole, is viewed as a relationship that is more serious and that is carried out with the idea of ending it in marriage. Fun-filled relationships that are shallow, but often end in heartbreak, are not my idea of wise relationships. The pattern of breaking up over and over again has been proven to set a pattern that can, and often does, affect marriage relationships, and sets a course that leans toward divorce. That is not a road I am interested in traveling.
When I get a chance I will post my lists of boundary lines for my future relationships. Remember we are not talking about a strict rules that you have to follow and if you do not, you will somehow be a bad person. We are talking about wisely placed boundaries put in place to protect your purity and heart until marriage. Also, do not take my list and apply it to your life. Your life and family are different then mine. The boundaries I need, may not be necessary for you, or you may have something that needs to be on your list that is not on mine. Make your own list. Personalize it, pray about it, seek counsel about it, and make it a list you can stick to.
To God be all glory,