How To Set Healthy Boundaries In Dating
Updated November 20, 2019
Medically Reviewed By: Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
Boundaries are an important part of living a healthy, happy life, especially when it comes to dating and romantic relationships. Romance can be so exciting, and clearly defined, healthy boundaries can keep a relationship from failing outright or turning into something dark and destructive.
Before you can set healthy boundaries, you must first understand what boundaries are, why they matter, and how to establish them. Read on to learn more.
What Are Healthy Boundaries?
Psychology Today defines boundaries as limits that "contain ourselves within the parameters of where I stop and others begin." Although boundaries can often conjure up negative connotations, setting and respecting them are critical to succeeding at work, in friendships, and especially in relationships. Many people view setting boundaries as an unfair imposition upon others, but in reality, healthy boundaries allow each person to preserve and maintain his or her own needs, space, and health.
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. It's up to each person to think about and set healthy boundaries in their life, especially when dating.
What Happens When People Fail to Set Healthy Boundaries?
When someone fails to set boundaries, nothing good happens. At the very least, it can cause a fair amount of stress. Furthermore, it makes assessing one's own needs a lot more complicated. Everyone involved may end up feeling either neglected or suffocated as a result.
In essence, setting healthy boundaries allows people to take care of themselves and more clearly identify their needs while also respecting others.
Know When to Say "No"
When you're dating, you must master the ability to tell your significant other "no" if needed. Unfortunately, many people struggle to do this. 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 are about give and take. Although there are 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."
Saying "no" has a number of benefits. Not only does it establish healthy boundaries between significant others, but it also earns respect. If you truly care about your partner (and if you're honest), you wouldn't want him or her to be in a position that makes them uncomfortable, nor do you want them doing something they don't want to do just to placate you. Attempting to do anything and everything to please your partner might seem noble, but in reality, a person like this is seen as a pushover. Anyone who truly loves and cares for you will understand and respect the word "no."
A critical part of setting healthy boundaries in relationships is effectively communicating those boundaries. Psych Central affirms the significance of using "I" statements to let one's partner know what is and is not okay. For instance, a person who becomes verbally abusive during arguments or disputes is crossing a very important boundary, and the breach should be discussed as soon as possible, so it doesn't happen again.
One of the best ways 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 screams, 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 or screamed 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, they should reconsider the relationship and think about whether or not it's the best partnership for them.
Look Out For Yourself
Although most people deeply love and care for their significant others, it can be very upsetting when certain boundaries are crossed. When this happens, effective communication is important, but the timing of this communication can make all the difference in the world.
These situations can foster feelings like anger, frustration, and resentment. According to the Huffington Post, exercising, taking a walk, or otherwise getting some alone time are all good ideas after boundaries have been crossed. This does not mean that communication should be avoided, but effective communication is always much easier when both parties are calm and are less likely to say or do something they later regret. Remember that, once you say something, your partner can't unhear it. To that end, take some time to cool down and reflect before you discussion the boundary with your partner.
Know Who You Are
Everyone is responsible for setting their own boundaries and limitations. To do this successfully, you'll need to know who you are and what you stand for. As such, a certain degree of self-awareness is important when setting boundaries.
Being in tune with your thoughts and feelings is one of the best ways to begin. Take note of how others' words, actions, and behaviors of another affect your emotions and thoughts. When you're feeling angry, frustrated, or otherwise upset, these emotions serve as strong indicators that boundaries have been crossed. If this happens, it's your responsibility to recognize it and speak up to prevent it from happening again.
A Final Word
While boundaries are important in all of our relationships, setting and enforcing boundaries in romantic relationships can be somewhat of a challenge. Most 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. Although this tendency is understandable, if you fail to set and enforce healthy boundaries in your relationship, you will likely experience pent-up frustration that might make you explode at a later date and time. Rarely does this end well for either you or your partner.
Furthermore, everyone, regardless of whether or not they're in a relationship, should understand the importance of respecting other people's boundaries. When dating, both parties should have mutually respected limitations, and it's always smart to communicate these in advance. After all, boundaries do not stunt healthy relationships, but instead they allow romance to flourish and grow.
A healthy and loving partner is one who respects your limitations and boundaries. Unfortunately, people who find themselves romantically involved with toxic or narcissistic partners may experience pressure to alter or even erase their boundaries altogether. More often than not, the person will somehow claim that the boundaries are not reasonable or fair.
If this happens to you, know that only you get to choose your boundaries. Ultimately, someone who fails to respect their partner's boundaries does not truly respect their partner, and there's no foundation for a healthy relationship without respect. These are critical points for both parties to keep in mind, especially if they're interested in having a successful relationship. If you feel like you need support in this area, therapy can help.
BetterHelp Can Help
Even though the benefits of professional help are well documented, many people are still nervous about working with a licensed counselor. Some have even been told it's a sign of weakness or a personal shortcoming, this is simply not true. Some of the strongest and most successful people in the world ask for help when they need it.
If you would like help with dating and boundaries, a counselor is a great resource. Although they cannot set boundaries for you, they can help you get to know yourself, understand your limits, and learn to effectively set your boundaries. In addition, they may be able to help you understand and consider your partner's boundaries, so your relationship can flourish.
Whether you're interested in individual counseling or couples counseling, BetterHelp is a great option for online therapy. Thanks to its unique platform, you can connect with a licensed therapist in a discreet, low-pressure way from the comfort of your own home or wherever you have internet access. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.
"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!"
Whether you're currently in a relationship or not, it's important to be able to set and respect healthy boundaries in all areas of your life. Boundaries do not stunt healthy relationships, but instead, they allow them to flourish and grow. If you'd like support with boundaries, reach out today.