Set Your Dating Dealbreakers: How to Create Healthy Boundaries

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In today’s social climate, a lot of us are realizing the benefits that come along with setting boundaries within our interactions with others—whether it’s in our friendships or our romantic partnerships. But these are already established relationships, which makes it a little easier to lay down the law. 

But what does this look like when you’re dating? And how do you do it? We are going to give you the lowdown on setting boundaries in dating!


smiling couple

What Are Boundaries?

Boundaries are the personal limits and rules that a person establishes to define what they are (and are not) comfortable with and how they would like to be treated by others. They can be emotional, physical, or mental, and they help people communicate their needs, preferences, and limits in different relationships.

There are five types of boundaries: 

  • Emotional, which involves regulating who has access to your emotions and how much you share about your feelings with them. 
  • Physical boundaries pertain to personal space and physical touch. 
  • Mental or intellectual boundaries relate to thoughts, values, and opinions.
  • Financial boundaries—aka talking about money.
  • Sexual boundaries are all about consent, what you are comfortable with, and what is absolutely off-limits.

The act of boundary setting is a simple tool that empowers us to break free from ingrained habits, becoming more conscious of how we present ourselves and how we allow others to treat us. 

Though the process of establishing clear boundaries can feel a little intimidating, the primary objective is to create a better, more meaningful relationship between you and those you care about.

When there is mutual respect for boundaries, it can make your interactions much more enjoyable, and by sticking to your personal boundaries, you naturally gravitate towards people with whom you feel the most comfortable. And in the dating world, if someone fails to honor or respect your boundaries, it’s a pretty safe bet they are not a suitable match for you.

While setting boundaries in dating differs from person to person, they can encompass a range of actions, such as making sure you’ve talked enough before meeting someone IRL or asking questions that help determine if you and a potential partner are on the same page about relationship wants or goals.


man giving woman balloons

Boundaries in Online Dating

When chatting up a new match on a dating app, the experience can be super fun—the giddiness and the butterflies are real! 

And then, uh on, there is a sudden shift in the conversation. It could be that you made a joke, and then the other person goes radio silent. Did they take your joke the wrong way? Or are they just busy at work or living their life?

To lessen anxiety about the early stages of text response times, it’s helpful to notify the other person about your schedule. For example, you might send a message saying:

“Hey! I’ll be occupied in a meeting soon and may not respond for a few hours”

“I had a work meeting, that’s why I disappeared.”

This helps to assure the other person that any lag time in messaging doesn’t mean a lack of interest or that your joke didn’t land but rather that they have commitments outside the dating app. That’s an easy boundary to set—let the other person know that you won’t always immediately respond to their messages. Creating boundaries when dating online allows you to avoid awkward communications and misunderstandings.


man giving woman flowers

First Date Boundaries

On to the first date! Setting boundaries on a first meetup can include decisions about the venue (like opting for a walk in the park or having drinks at a bar) and how long you intend to stay. 

You could establish a time frame in advance, saying you’ll need to leave after an hour or two, or subtly signal when it’s time to depart by mentioning you’ve had a wonderful time but need to go home.


couple close together

Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries might include avoiding discussions on potentially sensitive topics such as family dynamics, past relationships, salaries, you know, the heavier topics that you don’t usually talk about on first dates. And you should be on alert for red flags on a first date and take them seriously. There are so many red flags, but a few examples include your date criticizing you or others, racism, aggressive behavior, or obviously, them not respecting your boundaries!


couple kissing

Physical and Sexual Boundaries

Regarding physical intimacy, the only person who can determine the right time is you. Your comfort levels may evolve over time or as you become more familiar with the person you’re dating. It’s important to check in with yourself during a date, asking questions like:

  • Do I feel at ease?
  • Do I feel safe?
  • Are there any warning signs?
  • What are my thoughts about spending more time with this person?

Avoiding any kind of PDA or choosing not to have sexual contact on a first date are examples of physical boundaries.


Takeaways

If someone is pressing against any of the boundaries you’ve set, it might be an indicator of what to expect in the future of the relationship. If they are not respecting your need for space, time, etc., at this early stage, consider what that means for the long term. And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your boundaries. Simply put, if someone doesn’t respect them, they are not the right person for you.

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