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Boundaries in dating and relationships

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Ophelia Wu

Dating and relationships, what a familiar and colossal realm. Most of us have had some good and bad experiences in the dating scene. I cannot stress enough the importance of having boundaries at any stage of dating, relationship, or marriage. While boundaries do not mean putting up a concrete wall of an ‘all-or-none’, unforgiving approach, it is a firm line to let your partner into your world, almost like a guidebook for working with you. It is so often, and easy, to become a people-pleaser, lower your requirements, or let the other person get away with things that bother you because many are so afraid of the risk of losing that person you are attracted to. But why would you want to be with someone who does not respect you and your boundaries and constantly diminishes your needs?

The fear of rejection or missing out

While I’m not a psychologist or dating coach, I’ve been in toxic relationships and dating scenarios where calling the other person a bad name is pretty accurate. In hindsight, I was not standing up for myself and voicing my needs, sharing my thoughts and emotions while resenting being taken for granted. It is not a self-gaslighting or self-pitying scenario while looking back, but a lesson learnt through heartbreaks. When we value or are attracted to someone, it is natural to want to give it all and do everything in our power to make it work and make the other person happy. But is that the key to a happy relationship? If forgetting our needs and losing ourselves while keeping them happy is a way to go, it is going nowhere but a heartbreak hotel. We want it so badly that we don’t even dare to say no or disagree, risking jeopardising the potentially most incredible love story of all time. But is it? How great will that be if you have to constantly diminish yourself and walk on eggshells? Like many things in life, it all comes down to our fear of rejection or missing out on a potentially great partner. I understand that. No one wants to be and feel rejected. However, as cliché as it sounds, the right partner will not require you to act as such, and you will be accepted for who you are and how you are. All of you, the good and the bad. If someone rejects you because they don’t get what they want, or you’ve put a boundary, you need to consider whether this is a good match.

"Nothing is too insignificant to set a boundary on if it means something to you."

Nothing is too insignificant to set a boundary

Sure, we all have standards, likes, preferences, wants and needs etc., while we are not going to be a diva or a condescending King, you need to know how far things can go, and it only has to matter to you. In the dating scene, we talk about strangers meeting and exploring the potential of a partnership - two people with entirely different mindsets, backgrounds and upbringings. Every single thing needs to be negotiated, expressed and communicated kindly. Nothing is too insignificant to set a boundary on if it means something to you. If you don’t want to get physical too soon, say it, and don’t feel pressured about anything. You don’t owe anyone anything. Just because they bought you a lovely dinner does not mean you need to give them a goodnight kiss if you don’t feel like it. It’s the same for the other person, too - while you’re hoping your boundaries are expected, be sure to reciprocate and respect theirs too. There’s no one-size-fits-all guidebook - the only thing is you need to know what you like and don’t like and speak up for yourself. Because if you don’t, no one will do that for you, and no one can figure out what’s on your mind without your help.

Know what you want

If you value something fundamental to you in a relationship, casual or serious, bring it up as early as possible so you allow the other person to get to know you better and give them a chance to see if the two of you share similar values. While it’s about you when you date and find a partner, it’s also about the other person - talk about everything from a place of trying to understand each other. You will thank yourself when you do that because it quickly filters out those who do not intend to stick around or are disrespectful, saving you so much time and potential heartbreak. In this constant communication of boundaries and respect, you also get a glimpse into how the other person is - are they empathetic? Are they understanding? Are they frustrated? Do they seem passive-aggressive? These tell-tale signs could make or break your partnership in the long run. So you need to be clear about where you draw the line on everything while you date, what’s acceptable, what’s a deal-breaker, and be ready to walk away if it doesn’t work.

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