Why healthy boundaries are key to successful dating
How do we set ourselves up for dating success rather than dating disasters? How do we ensure that we make good choices in relationships and avoid hurting ourselves and others? For me, the key lies in healthy boundaries. There are many types of boundaries we can set with ourselves and others to ensure we stay emotionally and physically safe and avoid pain and hurt. But how do boundaries apply to dating and relationships?
Firstly, as we look at healthy boundaries, let’s explore what we mean by boundaries. A boundary is a limit or a line that defines where one thing ends and another begins. This is easy to understand in terms of property –
the boundary is the dividing line, wall or fence between two houses or fields.
Below, I share four examples, with the caveats that we can choose to flex our boundaries depending on the circumstances, that we all overstep our boundaries at some point because we’re human and that learning experiences are part of the journey to love.
In all cases, I suggest praying about your individual boundaries and sharing them with others.
Time and place boundaries
When arranging a date, decide how much time you want to spend with the other person and where you feel comfortable to meet. I’d suggest keeping the first few dates as simple as possible and avoiding pressurised situations such as lengthy dinners or visits to each other’s home. Coffee dates or walking dates are great ways to get to know someone in a relaxed environment.
You might decide that two hours is a healthy amount of time to spend on a first or second date – that’s your time boundary. To help keep this boundary, you might arrange to meet a friend afterwards and/or communicate to your date that you have a later appointment.
A time boundary helps to contain the date and prevent it from spiralling into something too intense. Similarly, a decision to meet in a public place for the first, say, five dates is a way to keep the pressure off and the intensity turned down.
I know from experience that it’s all too easy to extend a coffee date into dinner and then late-night drinks and then, before we know it, it’s late and it’s dark and we’re at risk of making unhealthy choices.
Boundaries around alcohol
If you drink alcohol, it might be helpful to have a boundary around how much you drink on a date, depending on your tolerance. Following a series of learning experiences, I decided that I wouldn’t drink at all on dates because alcohol blurred my judgement and emboldened me to make choices that I wouldn’t make when I was entirely sober.
Boundaries around communication
How much online communication do you want to have with a date before you meet in person? You can set a boundary for yourself and with your date. Again, I know from experience that it’s easy to spend hours messaging back and forth and building a connection to someone before we’ve even met them. Then, when we meet, we might decide we don’t find them attractive, leading to disappointment on both sides, or we might be so hooked into the relationship already that we overlook red flags or warning signs.
Perhaps you decide to send a few messages then hold a video call and then arrange a meet-up. Perhaps you commit to switching off your phone after a certain time in the evening. We’re all unique. It’s about finding the boundaries that work for us and understanding the sometimes painful consequences of overstepping our boundaries.
Boundaries around physical contact
We all get to decide as individuals how quickly we want a relationship to progress on a physical level. Even if the other person wants to move things forward, we don’t have to agree to their pace. Decide your own physical boundaries. Decide a comfortable pace. Then do your best to hold these boundaries.
If you allow your boundaries to be crossed, ask yourself why. Do you have a craving to be loved or to be touched? Do you fear rejection or abandonment if you speak your truth and show up as your authentic self? Do you feel you’re running out of time and want to speed things up?
If we can hold our physical boundaries and honestly communicate our needs and wants, we will soon discover if the other person is right for us. They will either respect and value us or they will pressure us or walk away.
Next steps for healthy boundaries
Why not take the issue of boundaries to God. In prayer or by writing in your journal, ask what boundaries would help you to date in a healthy way. If you struggle to keep your boundaries, you might also benefit from support from friends, dating buddies or a professional.
If things don’t go to plan, remember to forgive yourself and remember that you are forgiven. Chalk the experience up to learning and growth and then enlist the support you deserve for next time.
Finally, stay true to yourself as this is the most efficient and effective way to date.
Enjoyed reading ‘Why healthy boundaries are key to successful dating’? Read more by Katherine Baldwin here