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How to set boundaries in the early stages of dating

How to set boundaries in the early stages of dating

I had just gotten into the shower when my phone started ringing on the windowsill. It was, alas, out of reach. But I had a sneaking suspicion as to whose message it was.

I got up and bent over to my device, water dripping onto the bath sod and floor. With wet fingers, I swiped up to see. WhatsApp And immediately wished I'd stayed in the bath.

“Send pictures,” read the message from the man I barely knew.

Until that moment, things were going very well. So well, in fact, that I was deeply suspicious.

sending naked to a near stranger in the early stages of Dating There is a limit to me. This may not be the case for everyone, but in my case, it's not something I do unless I'm sleeping with that person. But at the time, I hadn't even gone on a first date with this guy. We just kissed one night with friends and started texting each other.

I sat back in the bath and thought about how to respond. My heart skipped a beat as I asked myself if this request was easy to comply with. My thoughts urged me not to be strange, not to be arrogant. But something stronger was overpowering them—a strong feeling that I didn't want to do what was being asked of me. The anxiety I could physically feel told me that if I concluded I would be overstepping my bounds.

I waited for an hour, struggling to find the right words to tell him 'no'. “Hey,” I started. “So I have a rule that I don't send a picture to someone until I've slept with them.” He responded almost immediately. He said that this is a very good principle. The conversation went back to what we were talking about earlier. Nothing weird, nothing annoying, nothing happened that I feared.

But I couldn't shake the feeling that at 30, I shouldn't be struggling to tell a guy I've met twice that I don't want to do anything. But here we are. My friends also tell me that they feel extremely nervous, overcome with anxiety when setting boundaries in the early stages of dating.

Why are boundaries important?

So, why are borders so important? According to Neil Wilkie, founder of online couples therapy platform, “Boundaries set basic guidelines for how someone wants to behave.” Relationship model. “Clear boundaries are essential to our own mental health and self-esteem.”

Mashable after dark

While this post is primarily about boundaries in dating and romance and sex, I will note that boundaries are very important in all of them. Relations – Be it with family, friends, colleagues, and even your internet followers. For marginalized communities, in particular, respect for boundaries is critical to prevent re-traumatization, and may include instances of boundary violations. White people ask their black friends to explain racism. And people are tagging sexual assault survivors in social media posts about sexual trauma. Everyone has the right to set boundaries and respect them.

Why does boundary setting feel difficult?

Boundaries are key, but when it comes to dating, setting them with someone you like and don't know well can be a little difficult at first. “We can compromise boundaries when we're nervous about maintaining someone else's approval,” Rachel Lloyd, relationship expert at eHarmony, told me. “But once you start doing that, you can lose your sense of self and you can quickly lose yourself in the relationship.” If you're not 100 percent sure of your limits, Lloyd says you can be swayed by your instincts. “You'll know when the limit is overstepped because you're likely to have a sudden emotional activation within your body.”

Going early with boundary setting also means bypassing any potential sources of resentment and friction that may arise in the future. “In the early days of a relationship it's rare for a couple to discuss boundaries, which would mean the ground rules are unclear and uncertain,” explains Wilkie. Discussing your sexual boundaries with a new partner is especially important to make sure you both feel comfortable and safe. “It's much easier to talk about boundaries in the early days of a relationship because it will come from a place of growth and clarity rather than resentment and blame,” adds Wilkie.

How to talk about boundaries

What do you do if an argument with someone you're newly dating veers into territory you're not comfortable with? “If you enter into a topic of conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable or sensitive, such as political views, family life or salary, politely clarify your boundaries and explain that you are at the time. Not wanting to talk about it, changing the conversation to something you have in common,” Lloyd explained.

But you don't have to wait until a line is crossed before you talk about boundaries. Why not discuss both of your limitations? “Introduce the topic gently, perhaps by asking them, 'What's important to you in a relationship?'. If they open up, great. If not, then try another way,” Wilkie says. Advised. “Look at what's important to you and what boundaries you feel are being violated. Bring them up like: 'When you do x, I feel y' rather than when If you do x, it's scary.”

If the person is reluctant to talk about boundaries, or if they react badly to you setting boundaries, this could be a red flag. “If they're breaking boundaries and don't want to engage in a conversation about it, ask if they're right for me?” Wilkie said.

When it comes to intimacy, it is advisable to bring up sexual boundaries before entering into a sexual encounter with the person. At this point, if you are having sex with someone and a boundary is being crossed, remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time, and for every new sexual act introduced into the encounter. Consent is required. Our boundaries change and evolve over time, so if you're in a long-term relationship with someone, check in with each other and see where you are.

If you're in a long-term relationship with someone and you want to have a meaningful exchange about each other's boundaries, you can try making a list. Wilkie suggests asking each partner to list their boundaries, then discuss and discuss what those boundaries mean to them before comparing any similarities and differences. Making sure you are heard and understood is really important. If you feel there is room for improvement in the way you communicate with your partner and respect those boundaries, let them know. If you want, schedule regular meetings to discuss them and whether enough progress has been made.

At the end of the day, we are all entitled to boundaries and we deserve to respect them. Just because you're in the early stages of dating someone doesn't mean you have to compromise on something that makes you feel safe and secure. The person's reaction to the boundary being set will usually give you a good idea of ​​whether or not the relationship is worth moving forward with.

This article was first published in 2020 and republished in 2024.

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