How to Choose and Enforce Boundaries in Dating Relationships

Setting boundaries

All relationships have boundaries. Some boundaries are discussed, others are assumed, and some are only discovered when they’ve been crossed.

Boundaries are a way of assuring that your needs are met in a relationship. They are also a way of assuring that your values and expectations aren’t violated. Boundaries can preserve your privacy and independence.

Everyone has boundaries, but few people have the same boundaries, and that’s why it’s so important to set the boundaries in your dating relationship.

Consider your boundaries in these areas:

  1. Financial. Who is going to pay for what? How much will you spend on birthdays and Christmas? How much is too much? Should everything be split 50:50? Does the man pay for everything? Does the person with the larger salary carry the brunt of the load?
    • There are no right or wrong answers, as long as both parties are in agreement.
  2. Work. Does work always take precedence? Should a career-minded partner be willing to skip working evenings to spend time with the other person? For some people, work is an unnecessary evil that funds the rest of their life. For others, it is their life.
  3. Sexual. Some people like to keep it conservative, while others prefer to dress up like a Martian and swing from the chandelier. Everyone has a sexual limit, and it’s rare that two people have the same limits. A lot of drama can be avoided by understanding what your partner will and won’t do.
  4. Openness regarding the past. Some people insist on dissecting their partner’s past. Others believe that the past is irrelevant and should stay in the past. What are you willing to reveal? What do you want to know?
  5. Family. How involved do you want your boyfriend or girlfriend with your family? Do you want them to come to the family barbecue? Or do you want them to keep their distance? Is it okay for your boyfriend to call your mother or sister for advice about your relationship?
    • If you have children from a previous relationship, how do you want to include the children in your new relationship?
  6. Friendships. Do you want your new girlfriend to spend time with your friends, or should she stay away for the first six months? Are your friends now his friends by default, or should he go somewhere else if he needs a friend?
  7. Time. How much time will you spend together? Are Friday nights expected? Is it unacceptable not to communicate for a week? How much time together is too much? Maybe you only want to see your boyfriend once a week.
  8. Weekends and vacations. Is spending the night together too domestic for you? Should weekends be reserved for each other? Do you vacation with your friends without your new romantic partner, or do you take them along?
  9. Dating others. In the early stages of your relationship, do you like to continue playing the field, or just stick to one person? Some people prefer open relationships even after they’ve been together for years.

Discuss your boundaries with your dating partner. It’s unfair to expect someone to follow a boundary that you’re keeping a secret. Relationships require communication. Why leave anything to chance? Let the other person know what you expect.

Be prepared to enforce your boundaries. When you are tolerant of your boundaries being crossed, you can safely assume it will happen again. When someone regularly fails to respect your boundaries, it’s a sign that you’re with the wrong person.

It’s just as important to understand the other person’s boundaries and respect them. If you’re both on the same page, you have a better chance of enjoying a healthy relationship.