Whether you’re dating anyone new (or also though you’ve been together for a while), it’s important to ensure that you’re still at ease in the relationship and that you’re being true to yourself. It’s a smart idea to start setting down the ground rules for your partner at the start of a new relationship (and we’re not just talking about physical boundaries). What if you’re not in a committed relationship? Communication is crucial, and no matter how long you’ve been married, you can always bring up the subject and have an open and frank discussion.
What Are Dating Boundaries?
In dating, boundaries refer to a person’s limits in a relationship. They encourage each person to preserve their identity, space, and health.
While we can still change our minds and some of our limits become more fluid as we get closer to another, relationship psychotherapist Leslie Malachy says it’s important to start a relationship with clarification. “To one person, a hand on the arm can be a welcome source of affection and warmth, while to another, it can be a privacy invasion,” she says. “In relationships, communicating what we desire is a means of defending ourselves and others from the agony of harming us.”
Malachy and self-love mentor Jennifer Twardowski has outlined five safe steps for building dating limits below.
Choose how you want to feel
Take some time away from the person or people you’re dating to consider what kind of limits matter most to you. (Simple limits like how often you’ll talk with each other and how often you’ll see each other will help get the wheels turning.) “The trouble for those of us who have thin or leaky barriers in relationships is that we become so enmeshed, so engulfed by the other person’s “things,” that we have no idea what we are feeling,” Twardowski says. “When you take the opportunity to step back, think, and truly check in on yourself, you are deliberately distinguishing yourself from the other person [or people].”
Create a Level Playing Field (or Time)
It’s probably better to have a serious (and private) discussion like this at one of your locations, particularly if the subject of physical intimacy would be discussed. While a neutral location, such as a coffee shop, would be preferable, it isn’t necessary in this case. You should also aim to maintain the timing neutral, as keeping the position neutral can be difficult at times. If the conversation is planned, for example, do it when you aren’t already arguing over anything else and both of you are feeling calm.
Bring a list of non-negotiables
Consider the limits you’ll need to create in your partnership to make things work for you. Consider: What do you absolutely need to feel at ease and secure when dating this person or these people? Is there something you’ll never be able to accept physically? If you want to check in with the person or people you’re dating a certain amount of days per week? These non-negotiables may be diverse, but recognizing them early on can help you figure out if the two of you are compatible in the first place. The reality is that if a future mate won’t honor your non-negotiables, it’s time to back away.
Listen carefully, carefully, carefully
It’s time to listen once you’ve finished debating your requirements. Any dating situation involves two or more parties, each of whom needs to be understood. It’s time to ask any questions if you don’t understand what you’re hearing. If you say a boundary of your partner’s or partners’ is well but you never knew it in the first place, chances are it won’t go down well in a few weeks (or months).
Take Care of Yourself
Recognize that by attempting to create dating limits, you are defending yourself, which is a positive thing. If your conversation causes some resentment or remorse, Twardowski advises that you take care of yourself. Leave and go outdoors, or if yoga is more your thing, practice it. “Do something to re-center yourself, and don’t waste too much (or any) energy dwelling on what happened,” she advises. Speaking up for yourself can never make you feel guilty, because if it does, then that person doesn’t deserve to be dating you.