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How to: Set Boundaries in Dating

As we begin to feel out dating again, particularly post lockdown it’s high time that we revisit own boundaries when it comes to the early stages of dating.

Boundaries are a term that we use with a certain degree of uncertainty, ie; we know we should have them but we can’t think of how to apply them to our lives in any tangible way.

I’m not going to give you any rules or numerical guidelines around questions like, “When should I sleep with someone new?" or "When is it okay to leave my tooth brush in their bathroom?" and I probably never will. Alas, here’s some very simple boundaries that you can implement to ensure you remain a priority in your own life. The other massive benefit of these boundaries is that they help regulate your level of investment in a new connection. Don’t forget that increased investment too soon = increased effort and attachment which can lead to disappointment.

1. Stop losing sleep. Give yourself a cut off time for communication with any new potential romantic interests. If you make a rule for yourself that you won’t contact anyone past 9pm then there’s 3 immediate benefits:

  • You won’t risk sending texts that seem like a good idea after 3 glasses of wine. That’s your pants sending the texts by the way, not your brain.

  • You won’t lose sleep wondering if they’ll reply before/while you’re asleep.

  • You won’t lose sleep because you’re engaged in an endless back and forth of witty banter that you can’t politely put an end to.

2. Consider this: You don’t ACTUALLY need to talk to someone everyday to gauge their interest in you. We all have lives, you included, so obsessively monitoring texts isn’t going to help you carry on with yours. If you have a connection with someone then trust that they will want to see you and don’t fall into the habit of feeling as though you need to “stay relevant” to be an option.

3. Communicate to set up a date. The problem with endless back and forth texting is that if and when you get to a date you’ve already shared your life story and could quite possibly have run out of things to say to each other. The added beauty of minimising this is that it allows you to ignite a sense of mystery within the connection.

4. It’s okay to say no (and to set expectations). If someone is asking you to come over to "Netflix and Chill" and you’re still in the early stages of dating you KNOW where it's leading. You can redirect these requests to actual dates by countering gently with a response articulating that you’d prefer to get to know each other over a meal, or a drink first. If they say no then they’re not worth the drama.

5. Always be clear. There’s a big difference between going along for a ride and being intentional with your actions. Yes, it’s okay to go on dates with the purpose of having fun (hell, I highly recommend this) but when you get any opportunity to express clarity, then make sure you do. If you’re always clear about your intent and your feelings then you reduce the risk of muddying the waters with mixed messages, or accepting them. If you don’t like being on the receiving end of ambiguity then make sure you are not actively playing your hand with breadcrumbing either. Communicate articulately, and respectfully and you reduce the risk of being hurt, or hurting someone else. Saying yes to a date? Agree to the date and plan ahead of time. Something doesn’t sit well with you? Tell them. Nobody is skilled with the ability to read minds and moving with clarity will always help you.

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