What are Healthy Boundaries When Dating

Published On: April 11, 2024|Categories: Advice for Men, Dating Over 50, Dating Tips, First Dates, Sex and Intimacy|7 min read|

Have you ever killed the mood on a date by saying something you didn’t think was offensive? What about sent a risky text that went up in flames? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Especially if you’ve been out of the game for a while, it can be difficult to know how to maintain healthy boundaries with your date.

The spoken and unspoken rules of dating etiquette are complex and ever-changing. In the beginning stages of dating, setting healthy boundaries will help you establish trust and respect while you’re still getting to know each other.

A good understanding of boundaries will also help you make a positive first impression. As you become closer over time, the boundaries of your relationship might change. However, certain things are likely to cross the line in the early stages of your relationship.

Having healthy boundaries in dating means setting expectations that respect both partners’ feelings and autonomy. Here are some examples of healthy boundaries in the early stages of dating:

Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries are things like personal space and physical touch, as well as respecting each other’s wishes for how you spend your time together. This includes things where to go on dates, what activities to engage in, and what level of physical intimacy feels comfortable for both parties. For example, a secluded park far away from the crowds might look romantic, but it’s not likely to be a place where both parties feel comfortable when you’re just getting to know one another.

We all have a unique opinion of when it feels comfortable and appropriate for a date to get physical, whether that means holding hands or heading to the bedroom. It’s important to remember that your date might not be comfortable with physical affection even if you’re ready for it.

Respect each other’s physical boundaries and comfort levels. We recommend being conservative with physical acts for at least the first few dates. Even if everything else seems to be going well, an unwanted physical advance can sour the mood and make a future connection hard to build.

It’s always a good idea to ask for consent before initiating physical contact, such as holding hands, hugging, or kissing. Breaking the touch barrier can be a way to flirt and show interest, but exercise caution if you decide to use this strategy. Take note of your date’s reaction. If they don’t seem receptive, it’s best not to push this boundary.

If your date isn’t comfortable with physical intimacy yet, it’s important to respect their boundaries. Take things at a pace that feels comfortable for both of you and focus on exploring other areas of connection for now instead.

Communication Boundaries

All too often a great connection is thwarted because one or both parties don’t know how to communicate their expectations for the date. Being able to express needs, desires, and concerns openly is essential in a healthy relationship. From the beginning of your connection, it’s important to be open about your intentions and expectations.

That being said, it’s pretty much always inappropriate to bring up heavily suggestive or overtly sexual topics for at least the initial stages of getting to know one another. While we all have our preferred pace when it comes to intimacy, bringing up sex too soon will give your date the impression that you’re only there to get them in the bedroom.

This applies to texting as well. Sending sexually suggestive texts or photos to your date is a great idea if your goal is to never see them again. These kinds of intimate interactions require a great deal of trust and vulnerability; asking for that before it’s been earned is likely to come off as creepy or distasteful to your date. It also tells them you’re uninterested in a deeper relationship.

Give your date the respect you’d want if the roles were reversed. In addition to sexual topics, this means steering clear of other touchy subjects, like money, religion, and politics. Each of these has a high potential to become an emotionally charged debate, leaving you with little chance of connecting on a personal level.

Time and Space

During the very early honeymoon phase, your brain essentially becomes addicted to your special someone. While it’s exciting to spend time with someone new, it’s easy to overdo it. Nurturing your budding connection is important in the beginning stages of a relationship, but it’s also essential to have time apart.

This applies to texting and digital contact as well. Everyone has their own expectation for how much it’s appropriate to talk on the phone or text in the early days of dating. It’s important to recognize that we also all have obligations, responsibilities, and interests outside of dating.

If the person you’re interested in is slow to respond, be patient. They’ll respond when they’re able to. It’s okay to bring up your preference but try to avoid being demanding or accusing in the conversation. Similarly, if you’re getting more texts than you can handle, don’t be afraid to communicate your need for more space.

When you have a date that goes really well, it’s only natural to want another one. While you should absolutely ask to see them again, be mindful of how they respond. If they take a while to respond, dodge the question, or give a noncommittal answer, it could mean they’re not interested in pursuing your connection. We recommend taking a step back and letting them have some space.

If they are interested in seeing you again, remember that a new relationship doesn’t need to take over your life. It’s okay to express your need for alone time or time with friends and family. It’s also important to respect their need for the same. An early sign of a healthy relationship is a comfortable balance between time together and time apart.

Emotional Boundaries

Even if you feel instantly connected to your date the moment you meet, it’s important to remember they’re essentially a stranger. Be mindful of sharing anything deeply personal or anything that might bring up strong emotions too quickly.

While it’s always best to be authentic and open, it’s also important to pace the level of emotional intimacy in a relationship. Some singles overshare as a way to unconsciously sabotage the connection. To these singles, this confirms a false belief that love doesn’t exist for them and that they won’t find a happy, healthy relationship anywhere.

Instead of revealing personal or intimate information about yourself, keep the conversation relatively light for the first few dates. It’s okay to get deeper if the conversation flows there naturally but be mindful of your date’s reactions and comfort. It’s okay to steer back to lighter topics if the conversation becomes too heavy.

Respect Your Differences

When you’re looking for a long-term relationship, a partner who shares your core values is vitally important. So we understand why it’s tempting to dig into these topics on a first date and then disqualify potential partners when things don’t match up.

Learning to recognize and respect each other’s differing opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds is a hard dating lesson to learn, but it’s an important one. No two people share the exact same perspective, because no two people have lived the same life. It’s okay to have differences, but it’s important to listen to each other with an open mind and without judgment.

People’s opinions are most often more nuanced than a single conversation can reveal. While you should take note of anything that is obviously out of alignment with your values, we recommend avoiding snap judgements about your date whenever possible. After a few dates, you’ll have a fuller impression of who they are as a person, making it easier to judge your compatibility.

Boundaries help our relationships stay safe and respectful to everyone involved. While they’re important in every stage, it’s especially important to be mindful of them in the early days of your connection with someone new. By establishing healthy boundaries in the early stages of dating, you can create a foundation of trust and understanding that can lead to a thriving relationship.

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