How To Set Healthy Boundaries In Dating
Boundaries can be an important part of creating healthy and happy romantic relationships. Dating can be so exciting, and clearly defined, healthy boundaries can help a relationship flourish and keep it from turning into something dark and destructive. To set healthy boundaries, it’s helpful to first understand what boundaries are, why they matter, and how to establish them. Read on to learn more.
What Are Healthy Boundaries?
Boundaries are limits that we can set to prevent other people from overstepping or engaging with us in a way that we are not comfortable with. Setting and respecting boundaries can be critical to succeeding at work, in friendships, and especially in relationships. Some people find it helpful to learn how to set boundaries with family, too. While some may view setting boundaries as an unfair imposition upon others, healthy boundaries allow each person to preserve and maintain their own needs, space, and health—ultimately allowing for more successful relationships.
There are many different types of boundaries, ranging from personal to emotional to psychological. Carving out certain days of the week to spend time with your significant other is an example of setting boundaries. Similarly, turning off your phone and other electronic devices for the sake of having personal time is another way of taking care of yourself. Boundaries can also involve topics of conversation, physical comfort level, types of communication, and more. Healthy boundaries can vary by individual and by relationship, and they may look different for different people.
In essence, setting healthy boundaries allows people to take care of themselves and more clearly identify their needs while also respecting others.
Tips For Setting Healthy Boundaries
If you are navigating the dating scene and trying to set healthy boundaries, included below are a few tips to consider:
Know When To Say "No"
When you're dating, it can be important to master the ability to tell your significant other "no" if needed. Many people struggle to do this, as the desire to please your partner can be so strong that you may go above and beyond your comfort level on a regular basis. However, relationships involve mutual respect and consideration, and you are allowed to say “no” when something doesn’t work for you. While there can be times when it's acceptable to go the extra mile, there are also times when it's critical to stand your ground and say "no” when something goes beyond what you’re comfortable with. Someone who truly loves and cares for you should understand and respect the word "no."
A critical part of setting healthy boundaries in relationships is effectively communicating those boundaries to your partner, and then reinforcing those boundaries if there are times when they are crossed. Use "I" statements to let your partner know what is and is not okay for you.
One way to effectively communicate is by informing the other person of their offense in a healthy, productive, and respectful way. For example, if your significant other curses and name calls during disagreements, you could say, "I don't feel comfortable when you call me names," or, "I don't like being cursed at during arguments." Both of these statements are direct and respectful, while also allowing the other person to understand the boundary you're setting. If an individual finds themselves in a relationship with someone who repeatedly and habitually crosses boundaries, even after they've discussed these violations, it may be time to reconsider the relationship and think about whether or not it's the best partnership for them.
Look Out For Yourself
It can be very upsetting when certain boundaries are crossed. These situations can foster feelings like anger, frustration, and resentment. Depending on the situation and the boundary crossed, you may consider if sometimes, taking some time alone first might be productive before communicating with your partner. In some cases, it may be beneficial to take some alone time to cool down, process your emotions, and gather your thoughts before confronting your partner. For instance, it may be helpful to take a walk, do a short meditation, or spend some time journaling before diving into a conversation. Effective communication is often much easier when both parties are calm and are less likely to say or do something they later regret.
Know Who You Are
Everyone can set their own boundaries and limitations, and boundaries can vary from one person to the next. So, to set boundaries that work for you, it can be vital to know who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re comfortable with. A certain degree of self-awareness is important here. This is something you can work on through self-reflection, and through taking note of how others' words, actions, and behaviors affect your emotions and thoughts. When you're feeling angry, frustrated, or otherwise upset, these emotions can serve as strong indicators that boundaries have been crossed. If this happens, you can recognize it and then speak up to express that your boundary has been crossed.
Why Boundaries Can Be Challenging
While boundaries are important, setting and enforcing boundaries in romantic relationships can be somewhat of a challenge. Many people have inherent soft spots for their significant other. Sometimes, they may feel inclined to go easy on them or put up with transgressions they would not tolerate from others. While this can be understandable, it can be helpful to keep in mind that boundaries do not stunt healthy relationships—rather, they can allow romance to flourish and grow. A healthy and loving partner is one who respects your limitations and boundaries.
How Therapy Can Help
Setting and maintaining boundaries in relationships can be difficult sometimes, and if you feel like you need support in this area, therapy can help. A therapist can help you get to know yourself, understand your limits, and learn to effectively set and enforce your boundaries. In addition, they may be able to help you understand and consider your partner's boundaries, so your relationship can flourish.
Being able to set and enforce boundaries with others often requires a fair amount of self-awareness and self-confidence to understand our limits and then communicate them to others. Research shows that online therapy can be an effective option for a range of concerns, including for self-esteem and empowerment.
Discussing boundaries and dating can often feel very personal, so some individuals may also appreciate that online therapy can happen wherever you have internet. Through BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home.
Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar concerns.
"Kristina's been so wonderful in helping me learn how to set proper boundaries, dealing with anxiety, family related issues, and building up self-validation. She's extremely personable and I feel listened to and built up after our sessions. She's very easy to talk to and I get the impression that she truly cares.”
"I've really enjoyed working with Kimberly. She has helped me with a lot of varied issues. She is honest yet compassionate and helps me to understand other perspectives. She has been particularly helpful in working with me on learning how to set good boundaries in my personal and professional life. I highly recommend her!”
Being able to define, communicate, and enforce healthy boundaries can be very important when dating. Boundaries do not stunt healthy relationships, but rather, they can allow them to flourish and grow. If you'd like support with understanding and setting boundaries, you can connect with an online therapist for help.
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