We've heard plenty of advice on how to set healthy physical boundaries in dating. No matter how important that is, we mustn't forget to set emotional boundaries in dating too. Forgetting to do this can lead to heartbreak, confusion, and losing our sense of empowerment and dignity.
Have you ever met a guy, not been physical with him, but told him your life story or deepest, darkest secrets? Then, the next day, you feel as if you've slept with him, even though "nothing happened"? Have you ever had a "situationship" with a guy where you start meticulously planning your futures together in your mind, then one day, he's gone, and you feel "stupidly" heartbroken? If any of these situations sound familiar to you, it could point to a lack of emotional boundaries. Boundaries around emotional intimacy are something many of us don't think about, but they’re key to developing a healthy dating life.
Some of us may be the romantic type, who feel a deep connection with someone and then proceed to commit our life to them in our minds. We believe that because he has the same coffee order as us, or he liked our photo on Instagram, or perhaps there was a sign that meant we were meant to be together, we can marry them in our minds. First of all, doing that isn’t necessarily respecting the dignity and free will of the guy. Secondly, you could be putting yourself in an unnecessarily vulnerable position to get hurt. We’re not saying we can’t get excited about dating or dream about the future, but we should keep our emotional boundaries in place so it doesn’t lead to unnecessary hurt.
Don’t Put Your Crush on a Pedestal
We’ve all done it! It’s natural when you like a guy to think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. But unfortunately, if you’re not in a relationship with the guy, you haven’t seen the full picture. Sometimes we can fill in the gaps of knowledge with what we want to see, not what actually is there. This can lead us to put our hope in a false image of someone, which usually leads to disappointment. In addition, it can be harsh on the guy if we’ve got expectations of him that he can’t fulfill.
Call It What It Is
Speaker, author, and YouTuber Emily Wilson, in her video ”What the heck is emotional chastity?”, says “the language that we use is so important to guard our hearts in relationships.” If the guy you like is a friend, and you haven’t gone on any dates with him, call him a friend. If you’re texting a guy and haven’t established whether you like each other or not, he’s still just a guy that you’re texting.
It’s easy to get carried away with our crushes, tell our friends about him, and let our imaginations run away with themselves. A little bit of this can be fun, but it can also lead to false hope and disappointment if nothing ends up happening with him. It’s a good idea to perhaps only choose one to three female friends whose judgment you trust to share your feelings about your crush with. If you’re an open person, it can be tempting to proclaim your newfound feelings to lots of people. However, this can lead to a blurred sense of judgment when you have lots of people giving you advice, and can also blur the reality of the situation between you and your crush.
In addition, we should respect the free will and dignity of the guy by understanding that he has a part to play in reciprocating the crush. How would he feel if you called him your boyfriend or future husband if you aren’t even dating yet?
Limit Your Time Spent on Dating Apps
Dating apps are a great new invention that have helped so many people in this age of technology find love. They can be fun, and you can meet people you may not have otherwise met. Yet, used in the wrong way, they can become addictive and tools for self-validation. If this becomes the case, you’re in danger of letting your emotional well-being be dictated by whether a guy swipes right on you. This can lead to an unhealthy habit of having your emotions determined by what others think of you.
That’s why it’s a good idea to set time limits on your dating apps and to choose your dating app wisely. For example, on the free version of Hinge, you can only send up to 8 likes per day, where as with the free version of Tinder, you can send up to 25 likes per day.
Try Not To Stalk Excessively!
It’s ok to have a little look at your crush’s social media to get an idea of what they’re like, but when we start looking on a regular basis to constantly check up on what they’re doing, it can be damaging to our emotional well-being. We can become obsessive about what he’s up to, who he’s hanging out with, etc. When this happens, our minds are consumed with them, which can make us very unhappy especially if we don’t know if they reciprocate the feeling. Also, you might like to imagine a role reversal, and see how you’d feel if a guy was doing the same thing to you…you might feel a little creeped out!
Call Out the Situationship
You’ve been texting a guy for a while now. You flirt with each other, you call, you hang out, maybe you’ve even had a cheeky kiss. But you don’t know what you are. You’ve found yourself in a situationship where there’s been no explicit conversation about commitment. Girl, you need to call it out! I’m afraid you need to have the “What are we?” conversation. This can feel cringe, but it’s so important for your emotional well-being.
We’re giving you permission to say to the guy, “So, I like you, and I think you like me. We’ve been hanging out for a while now, and I want to be intentional about where I put my time and energy, and safeguard yours. So, I was wondering where you see us going, and what you would call this?” This will most likely lead to one of three outcomes:
He might say something along the lines of “Well, I just like hanging out, and I’m not ready for a relationship right now.” Your time is precious and so is your heart. This guy, I’m afraid, can’t have his cake and eat it too, and you’re allowed to want more than just hanging out. It's time to end the situationship, and use your time and energy in other places.
He might say something like “I just see you as a really good friend.” Again, it's time to put an end to this situationship, and guard your heart. Even though you may be really good friends, it’s not going to end well if you see him as more than that. When you’re both on different pages, it can only lead to heartbreak and confusion. It’s also ok to stop talking to him as much or hanging out; it’s actually key to keeping your emotional well-being healthy.
He might say, “I really like you, and I would love to officially date you!” This, obviously, is the ideal outcome and clears up any confusion you were feeling so you're both on the same page moving forward.
It can take a lot of bravery and self-control to set emotional boundaries in dating. We understand that it’s so easy to let love take its course and see where you end up. But we suggest otherwise. In their book Boundaries in Dating, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend say that “many of the struggles people experience in dating…are, at heart, caused by some problems in the area of freedom and responsibility.” In reality, we are responsible for our emotional wellbeing in dating. And you should also date from a place of freedom. We want you to be empowered, free, and emotionally healthy. Not confused, heartbroken, or undignified. If you put these five ways into practice, we can guarantee a much happier dating life!
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