Why do boundaries matter in dating? How can we use them to help us be our best self?
You sleep with her on the first date. You commit to a relationship before you really know each other. You move in together before you’ve seen each other in different situations. You date more than one person but don’t tell either of them. You flirt with your ex. You make out with a friend.
Most of us have done at least one thing that illustrates poor boundaries in dating relationships. As a reformed no-boundary-a-holic, I look back and recognize that I didn’t know I had poor boundaries in dating. I didn’t even know what a boundary was.
A boundary is the line that differentiates you from someone else. In dating, it’s the practice of holding that line so that circumstances or another person don’t sway you from aligning your values, your words, and your actions. Improving my ability to hold my boundaries was the number one habit that turned my dating life around. The biggest benefit is having trust in myself to know I’ll do what I say.
For example, before I developed good boundaries, I said I would only have sex when I was in love. Then, either because of immaturity, loneliness, or alcohol, I gave that value right away by sleeping with women on the first couple of dates. I said I was independent, social, and driven, and yet I often lost myself in relationships.
I am not saying that sleeping together on a first date is wrong. I am saying that for me, sleeping with someone on a first date when I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t is incongruent. It’s this incongruence that reveals my boundary violation. I had to ask myself: What is it about this situation (being on a date with a hot girl, being in a long term relationship, etc.) that causes me to compromise my own values?
When my worst boundary-crashing relationship crumbled around me, I took a step back and looked at my own role and habits when it comes to boundaries. I realized that practicing good boundaries in dating means going through the stages of dating rather than skipping over the main getting to know each other stage.
I began to get in touch with what was really important to me and consider how I could create a boundary that protected that value. Here I share three values and how I lined them up with boundaries to be more congruent.
- Value: Getting to know someone to see if we’re compatible before falling in love
The aligning boundary to this value was to only have sex once I was in a monogamous relationship. What holding this boundary meant was I had to place really getting to know a woman over time above anything that would sway me to have sex.
- Value: Maintaining my own hobbies, friends, and voice when in a relationship
The aligning boundary to this value was to continue to workout, see friends at least twice a week, and identify and communicate my feelings. What holding this boundary meant was that I had to take responsibility for keeping my schedule my own, even when trying to integrate it with someone else’s. It also meant speaking up on my own behalf, and saying how I feel without worrying about what the other person thought.
- Value: Being completely honest to myself and to women I date
The aligning boundary was being honest with myself about my interest in a woman and practice being honest with women about where I’m at, if I’m dating other people, etc. Holding this boundary meant I had to get real with myself about why I was going out on a date. If it was because of boredom, loneliness, complicated feelings about my ex, then I wouldn’t go. I would only go if I was interested in the woman and wanted to get to know her better to see if we were compatible. This sounds so totally obvious, but the truth is, too often I went out for the wrong reasons.
Practicing good boundaries is a game changer. For me, getting my values in line with boundaries that support them – that’s the girl I want to be as I brave the trenches of lesbian dating. That’s the girl whose side I want to be on whole-heartedly.