Setting Healthy Boundaries for Dating

Before you go on this date, make sure you are in agreement with yourself. You don’t want to be caught fighting with yourself over a decision when you need to make one. Decide in advance what behaviors and situations will be acceptable to you and what won’t.

As long as you are comfortable and feel these boundaries have not been breached, you can relax and flow with what’s happening. But, once a line is crossed, you must be willing to take control of yourself and not just go along with something you find uncomfortable, unacceptable, or dangerous.

You’re likely to be nervous when you’re newly dating someone, and knowing what your boundaries are can help you be safe and get this relationship off to a good start. If you’ve decided on your boundaries in advance, and thought about how you’d handle it if a boundary is crossed means you will know what to do already, and not have to come up with your responses on the spot.

This is very helpful when you may be nervous, excited or not thinking clearly. Normally, I recommend getting face to face as soon as possible, because you get so many clues, including pheromones, that you don’t get over phone, texting, email or video. However, these are not normal times, and we’re sheltering in place, so face to face is out, unless you want to risk getting within six feet of each other.

Keep in mind that people can be infected and not know it, so be extra cautious. Dating online is the best option, because you can connect through video, phone, text and email. Face to face meeting should be put off until after sequestering is done. Keep in mind that, while most people will be genuine, some bad actors can fake things and mislead you.

• Deciding to keep yourself safe with social distancing and wearing a mask. In case wearing a mask feels uncomfortable for you, deciding in advance that you’re going to wear one (you can choose one to match your outfit, to be artistic, or to make a statement) means you’ll keep yourself safe and shows your date you care about both of your health. If you’re going to drink a beverage or eat something, take the mask off for that, and then put it back on. Most places you will go require a mask anyway.

• Deciding how much and what you will eat or drink. This prevents drinking too much or eating things that may be wrong for you because you feel caught off guard on the date. For example, if your date suggests a restaurant you’re not used to, you will be more comfortable if you know what your food and drink preferences are in advance.

• Deciding not to get in a car with someone you just met and don’t know well. This means you will not be subjected to drunken driving, bad behavior or just plain bad driving with a stranger.

• Deciding to meet only in public places until you have a chance to get to know the person you’re meeting. This keeps you safe, and helps you keep things in bounds. This also will help you social distance until you know more about how well this date protects himself or herself, and therefore, you.

• Deciding when it’s OK to have sex. If you know in advance you’re not having sex until after several dates, you won’t be as likely to make bad decisions when you’re emotionally charged.

• Deciding to set a spending limit. You need to know how much you’re willing to spend before dating someone. If your date has more money, and spends it lavishly on you, you’ll need to let the date know you won’t be reciprocating, or that reciprocation will be a homemade meal for a fancy restaurant one.

How you and your date handle money and can discuss money is a critical component for knowing whether you’ll be successful in a relationship. After a few dates, you can discuss finances (for example, you have a good job, but you want to pay off student loans, or save for a house. Or, you are financially strapped because you just got out of school or some other circumstance.)

• Be skeptical, not gullible. When you’re meeting men online you have no way of knowing who they are. There are documented cases of prisoners conning gullible people to send them money, marry them etc. online. Don’t be afraid to ask for details, Google any date that interests you enough, ask to talk to friends and family members. Don’t keep secrets about your possible date.

• Be realistic, not romantic. Don’t develop a fantasy about the date until you know the facts. It can be a tough world out there, and being realistic helps you achieve real goals, like a loving relationship Focus on friendship. Concentrate on developing the friendship. Romance follows later, after you’ve checked your date out, and met in person.

• Don’t tell your date too much: Don’t give away your address, or work location until you know who this is. If you have children, protect them by being discreet and careful. Pay attention to how your date acts, what they say; seek to discover character, don’t fall for just looks and charm.

• Don’t get too self-conscious. The media focus on youth and fitness can make you feel insecure and unattractive. When you are on video, look your (appropriate) best, and then forget about it. Instead of worrying what your date thinks of you, focus on what you think of your date.

• Be your own date: Sheltering in place is a perfect time to get to know yourself better. Consider your own personality, character and qualities: How do you feel about you? Learning to enjoy your own company means you’ll be more secure and relaxed around other people, including potential dates. Use this extra time to develop your style, consider what you want a date to know about you, and what you want to know about a date. That will be the foundation of your eventual success in dating.

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