Don’t Be Afraid to Set Strong Boundaries When Dating
A few years ago, a friend of mine was dating a man who had different sexual boundaries than she did. Only later did she realize she hadn’t stood up for herself like she should have.
“When you’re in the middle of getting to know someone, you can’t always see the signs that something’s wrong,” she says. “Or you try to talk yourself out of them because you want to give the relationship a chance. The signs somehow aren’t as loud at the beginning, but they get really loud when you look back and wonder why you allowed the person you were dating to push you into doing certain things.”
Sticking to your boundaries might sound like a “beginner’s topic” when it comes to dating, but it’s surprising how tricky boundaries can be.
At the start of a new relationship, we don’t always notice when we’re lowering or changing our boundaries for someone. We might sense that something’s wrong, or we feel uncomfortable for some reason, but we don’t always know why.
Here are a few warning signs that can show us when we need to strengthen our boundaries.
Warning sign 1: You’re willing to change who you are or what you believe so the other person will accept you.
As a child of God, you have great strength and every right in the world to say, “Actually, I think this way.” Or “I’m not going to do that with you. Here’s why.”
Don’t ever be afraid to be who you are. Know what you believe and why, and don’t allow others to set your standards for you.
Your thoughts, desires, and understanding of God are important. It’s much better to wait for a kind, respectful person than it is to date someone who doesn’t care about your boundaries or beliefs.
Warning sign 2: You’re willing to be physically intimate in order to be accepted.
The interesting thing about this warning sign is that sometimes a “sexual act” can be very small—something that doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal—yet it still feels alarming or violating to you.
Never do anything you’re uncomfortable with on a date. Set a standard of physical intimacy before going out with someone and stick with that standard. If your date is intruding on your personal space, let them know.
It’s all right if your physical boundaries are different than someone else’s. You may decide that holding hands and kissing are acceptable as the relationship progresses, but someone else may decide that kissing leads to too much physical contact.
Warning sign 3: You’re willing to adjust your dreams and hopes concerning your future spouse.
God knows your heart, and your desires are very important to Him. As you start to understand how much He loves you and how interested He is in your thoughts and feelings, you realize you get to make choices about what you do or do not want in your future spouse.
Know the values and personality characteristics you’re interested in. Decide what is negotiable and non-negotiable. Don’t be afraid to end a negative relationship, and don’t change your boundaries just because you’re physically attracted to someone.
God knows what’s best for you, and you don’t have to date someone who doesn’t line up with what you were hoping for.
As you become the one for your future spouse, you can trust God to lead you where you need to go, because He wants what’s best for you.
What can you do if you need to set better boundaries?
In their Boundaries book, Cloud and Townsend write:
Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.
Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. If I know where my yard begins and ends, I am free to do with it what I like. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options.
In other words, the end result of having boundaries is freedom!
Be gloriously you. Set up boundaries that keep the world from purposefully or accidentally hiding who you are.
Interested in reading more? Here are a few other articles on related topics:
For more information on sex, marriage, and finding the person who is right for you, get a copy of Becoming the One by Salomé Roat. Click here to learn more.