3 dating boundaries to help root your relationship in reality
Do you find your imagination runs wild after a good first date? Do you start visualising yourself walking down the aisle with the person you’ve only just met? Or maybe you tend to share too much of yourself on an initial meeting, only to regret doing so afterwards. These are common dating pitfalls, but the good news is dating boundaries can help.
In a previous post, I shared about the importance of dating boundaries: setting boundaries around how much time we spend on a date, so that we can avoid pressurised situations such as dinners that run late into the night. I also wrote about boundaries around drinking alcohol, around the frequency and intensity of electronic messaging and around the pace of physical contact.
In this post, I’d like to explore boundaries around our thinking, around how much we disclose about ourselves when we first meet and around how much of our time we dedicate to a fledgling relationship.
Boundaries around thinking
If there were a prize for having an overactive imagination when looking for love, I’d win it hands down. Within minutes of meeting someone I liked, my mind would skip ahead into a fantasy-filled future. I’d picture our wedding day in full technicolour or I’d visualise my date pushing a pram with our child inside as I strolled beside him in a floaty dress.
You might say such imagining is harmless, and it may be for some people. For me, however, my fantasy thinking took me away from the present and blinded me to reality, meaning I’d miss red flags or warning signs, or I’d imagine a relationship that didn’t exist.
This would lead to huge disappointment and unnecessary heartache when things didn’t work out – it’s a long way down from a pink cloud and it hurts when you hit the concrete – or I’d allow relationships to continue beyond their sell-by date, wasting my time and his, because I was living in fantasy rather than reality.
If you can relate to the above, I suggest you place some boundaries around your thinking. In other words, you commit to yourself, to God and to supportive friends to stay in the present as much as possible on dates and in the early stages of relationships.
When your imagination inevitably wanders off, gently bring it back to the moment and to the person in front of you rather than the fantasy figure you’ve pictured in your mind. Instead of letting the Hollywood rom-com roll on, cut the frame there and then.
Simple mindfulness techniques can help with this – tuning in to your breath, noticing the sights and sounds around you or focusing on what your date is saying when you’re out with someone. If your imagination runs wild after the date, try praying, writing down your feelings or practising grounding exercises like meditation.
This isn’t about curbing our natural excitement when we meet someone we like – it’s healthy to feel hopeful. Rather, it’s about noticing whether we are craving love and feeling desperate for the date to turn into a life-long partnership, because dating with a craving tends to get us into trouble.
Boundaries around sharing
I am all in favour of being vulnerable with people we trust and vulnerability is an important step in building intimacy, but sometimes we over-share on dates before the other person has earned our trust. We share our life story or our relationship history and our date shares theirs and before we know it, we’re having intense conversations and it feels like we have a deep bond.
The problem is this intensity isn’t real. We’ve only just met. We are still gathering information. Yet this intensity feels so good that we often overlook red flags or warning signs. We get in too deep too fast, making it harder, and more painful, to get out.
Again, make a commitment to yourself, to God and to others (if that feels helpful), to share in moderation on dates and to open your heart at a gentle pace.
Easier said than done, I know. But start with the intention, with the boundary. If you break it, forgive yourself and ask yourself why. Do you feel driven to create intensity so that the other person stays? If you can trust in God’s timing, you’ll be able to proceed slowly.
Boundaries around our social life
It’s tempting, when we meet someone we like, to spend all our time with them and to forget about our hobbies and friends. Of course, we want to invest in the relationship. We want to see if it has potential. But it’s good practice to maintain our friendships, our activities and our social life.
This network will help you to maintain perspective and it will help you to pursue the relationship at a more balanced pace, because it isn’t your sole priority. And if things don’t work out, this network will be there to support you so that you can pick yourself up, brush yourself down and get ready to date again.
These boundaries will make dating a more peaceful and enjoyable process and will remove some of the drama and pain. That said, we are human and boundaries don’t have to be rigid. They can bend to suit our individual circumstances. If we consistently overstep our boundaries and end up in painful situations, however, we likely need some further healing.
The key is to be honest with ourselves, with God and, ideally, with supportive friends or a professional. Dating in isolation can get us into scrapes so it’s important to feel well supported.
What dating boundaries have helped you?
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