What Are Boundaries?
You may not be familiar with the term boundary. For some people, boundaries may bring up images of walls, barriers to intimacy, or even selfishness. Yet that is not the case, especially in the dating arena. If you understand what boundaries are and do, they can be one of the most helpful tools in your life to develop love, responsibility, and freedom and purpose, and some examples.
A Property Line
Simply put, a boundary is a property line. Just as a physical fence marks out where your yard ends and your neighbor’s begins, a personal boundary distinguishes what is your emotional or personal property, and what belongs to someone else. You can’t see your own boundary. However, you can tell it is there when someone crosses it. When another person tries to control you, tries to get too close to you, or asks you to do something you don’t think is right, you should feel some sense of protest. Your boundary has been crossed.
The Functions of Boundaries
Boundaries serve two important functions. First, dating goes much better when you are defined. When you are clear about your values, preferences, and morals, you solve many problems before they start. For example, a woman may tell a guy she is going out with that she is serious about her spiritual life, and desire that in people she is close to. She is letting him know about something that defines her, and it is out front between them, so that he will know who she is.
The second function of boundaries is that they protect us. Boundaries keep good things in, and bad things out. When we don’t have clear limits, we can expose ourselves to unhealthy and destructive influences and people.
Examples of Boundaries
There are several kinds of limits we can set and use in dating, all depending on the circumstances. Here are a few:
- Words: telling someone no and being honest about your disagreement
- The truth: bringing reality to a problem
- Distance: allowing time or physical space between two people to protect or as a consequence for irresponsible behavior
- Other people: using supportive friends to help keep a limit
Sometimes you will use these boundaries to simply let your date know your heart: “I am sensitive and wanted you to know that, so that we can be aware that I might get hurt easily.” At other times, you may need to use boundaries to confront a problem and protect yourself or the relationship: “I will not go as far as you want sexually, and if you continue pushing, I will not see you again.” Either way, boundaries give you freedom and choices.
What’s Inside your Boundaries
Remember that boundaries are a fence protecting your property. In dating, your property is your own soul. Here are some of the contents of your self that boundaries define and protect.
- Your love: your deepest capacity to connect and trust
- Your emotions: your need to own your feelings and not be controlled by someone else’s feelings
- Your values: your need to have your life reflect what you care about most deeply
- Your behaviors: your control over how you act in your dating relationship
- Your attitudes: your stances and opinions about yourself and your date
You and only you are responsible for what is inside your boundaries. If someone else is controlling your love, emotions, or values, they are not the problem. Your inability to set limits on their control is the problem. Boundaries are the key to keeping your very soul safe, protected, and growing.
You will find many, many examples and situations in this book about how to apply boundary principles in your dating life. Just remember that you are not being mean when you say no. instead, you may be saving yourself or even the relationship from harm.
How Boundary Problems Show Themselves
There are lots of ways that dating suffers when freedom and responsibility are not appropriately present. Here are a few of them.
Loss of Freedom to Be Oneself
Sometimes, one person will give up her identity and lifestyle to keep a relationship together. Then, when her true feelings emerge, the other person doesn’t like who she really is, having never been exposed to her real self. Heather, in the introductory illustration, had lost some of her freedom in this way.
Being with the Wrong Person
When we have well-developed boundaries, we are more drawn to healthy, growing people. We are clear about what we will tolerate and what we love. Good boundaries run off the wackos, and attract people who are into responsibility and relationship. But when our boundaries are unclear or undeveloped, we run the risk of allowing people inside who shouldn’t be there.
Dating from Inner Hurt Rather Than Our Values
Boundaries have so much to do with our values, what we believe and live out in life. When our boundaries are clear, our values can dictate what kinds of people fit the best. But often, people with poor boundaries have some soul-work to do, and they unknowingly attempt to work it out in dating. Instead of picking people because of their values, they react to their inner struggles and choose in some devastating ways. For example, the woman with controlling parents may be drawn to controlling men. Conversely, another woman with the same sort of background may react the opposite way, picking passive and compliant men so as to never be controlled. Either way, the hurt part inside is picking, not the values.
Sadly, some people who really want to be dating are on the sidelines, wondering if they will ever find anyone, or if anyone will find them. This is often caused by boundary conflicts, when people withdraw to avoid hurt and risk, and end up empty-handed.
Doing Too Much in the Relationship
Many people with boundary problem overstep their bounds and don’t know when to stop giving of themselves. They will put their lives and hearts on hold for someone, only to find out that the other person was willing to take all that, but never really wanted to deeply commit. Good boundaries help you know how much to give, and when to stop giving.
Freedom without Responsibility
Freedom must always be accompanied by responsibility. When one person enjoys the freedom of dating, and takes no responsibility for himself, problems occur. Someone who is “having his cake and eating it too” in his dating relationship is in this category. This is Todd’s situation. He enjoyed Heather but didn’t want to take any responsibility to develop the relationship, though a great deal of time had passed.
More often than not, one person wants to get serous sooner than another. Sometimes in this situation, the more serious person attempts to rein in the other person by manipulation, guilt, domination, and intimidation. Love has become secondary, and control had become primary.
Not Taking Responsibility to Say No
This describes the “nice guy” who allows disrespect and poor treatment by his date, and either minimizes the reality that he is being mistreated, or simply hopes that one day she will stop. He disowns his responsibility to set a limit on bad things happening to him.
Couples often have difficulty keeping appropriate physical limits. They either avoid taking responsibility for the issue, or one person is the only one with the “brakes,” or they ignore the deeper issues that are driving the activity.
- Dating involves risks, and boundaries help you navigate those risks.
- Boundaries are your “property lines” which define and protect you.
- Learn to value what your boundaries protect, such as your emotions, values, behaviors, and attitudes.
- Boundaries help you be yourself, instead of losing yourself in someone else.
- You want the person you date to take responsibility for his life, as you do.
- Good boundaries will help you choose better quality people because they help you become a better person.
This Article is taken from Boundaries in Dating
Written by Arshad. A