Essential Boundaries for Online Dating: Safeguard Your Mental Health

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The era of swiping left or right has no doubt revolutionized the way we find romantic matches. While dating apps offer convenience and accessibility not available IRL, traversing the online romance realm can be a danger zone if you’re not careful and on top of your game.  

Too much swiping can lead to an infinite loop of ghosting, catfishing, or—dare we say it—dating app fatigue. As exciting as it is to meet new people from your cozy domicile, it’s absolutely necessary to establish healthy boundaries to protect and maintain your mental and emotional well-being. But how do you keep that balance and stay in a healthy middle ground when it comes to dating apps? We have some guidelines for you!


glitz and grit

The Glitz and the Grit

There is no denying the allure of dating apps—your ideal partner could pop up on your screen, and all you need is a couple of great profile pics and a clever dating bio. 

But here’s the catch: the online dating sphere is also a hotbed for emotional angst. You’re exposed to an overwhelming number of potential matches, each carrying their own set of emotional baggage. Without boundaries for online dating, the search for love can quickly morph into a not-so-exciting, actually draining experience that takes a toll on your mental health.


self-awareness

The Foundation: Self-Awareness

Before forging full-steam ahead into online dating, take the time to think about your own needs, values, and dating expectations. What are you looking for—something casual or a serious, long-term relationship? What are your deal-breakers and icks? 

Self-awareness is the key to having healthy boundaries for online dating. When you really know yourself, you’ll find it easier to navigate the, at times, booby-trapped land of online dating without losing sight of what’s important to you and what you’re looking for. 


set ground rules

Set the Ground Rules

Time Management: Dating apps can be a time-suck; we’ve all gone down a rabbit hole of saying, “Just one more swipe,” and the next thing you know, it’s 2 hours later. To avoid this, try setting specific time slots in your day or week to engage on dating apps. By setting a limit, you prevent yourself from compulsively checking your matches and messages—this helps to safeguard your emotional well-being and not get too obsessed.

Emotional Investment: It’s super easy to get carried away in a whirlwind dating app romance, but remember, not every match deserves your emotional investment. Yes, it’s exciting to be talking to a potential match that gives you butterflies in your tummy. But be cautious and keep your emotional boundaries in place until you’re sure that the person is deserving of your time and energy.

Personal Information: Be careful (to the point of paranoia) with how much personal information you share. It’s not just about protecting yourself from scams or ne’er-do-wells but also about preserving your emotional safety. Giving away too much too soon can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. If you have doubts about the person you are communicating with online, use a tool like Social Catfish to make sure they’re legit.


navigating interactions

Navigating Interactions

Be Assertive, Not Aggressive: Assertiveness is the art of expressing your needs clearly and respectfully. If someone’s actions or behavior makes you uncomfortable, say so. Clear communication leaves zero room for misunderstandings and allows you to keep up your boundaries in a constructive way.

The ‘Block’ Button is Your BFF: Never be afraid to use the ‘Block’ feature if someone crosses the line. Your mental health is much more important than the fear of appearing rude to a random stranger on a dating app. Block away!

Ghosting is a No-No: We know this is hard, and it’s easier to take the coward’s way out and just ghost. After all, you don’t really know this person, so it’s harmless, right? Well, that’s sort of true, but it’s unkind. If you’ve decided that someone isn’t a good match for you, be kind and let them know instead of disappearing like a magic trick. Think about how you’ve felt when it’s been done to you—it doesn’t feel great! Ghosting can cause anxiety and self-doubt, and remember, setting boundaries is a two-way street.

Recognizing Red Flags: Pay strict attention to warning signs like inconsistencies or flat-out lies in someone’s stories, a reluctance to disclose even mundane details, or aggressive behavior. Your intuition is your bestie; if something feels off, it probably is.

Setting Physical Boundaries: If you’ve made it past the initial stages and are planning to meet in person for that all-important first date, communicate your comfort levels regarding physical contact beforehand. Whether it’s a handshake (weird, who shakes hands, but whatever), a quick “hello” hug, or a chaste kiss on the cheek, make sure it’s something you and your date are comfortable with.


emotional check in

Emotional Check-ins

Regularly check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling emotionally. Are you anxious, drained, or having the time of your life? Your emotions will serve as a touchstone, indicating whether your boundaries are working or need to be revamped. And that’s okay if you need to reassess—we are all works in progress!


resilience

Resilience and Moving On

It’s okay to be disappointed; it’s a crappy part of the dating game. What matters is how you bounce back. Use your support systems, like friends or family, and don’t think twice about seeking professional help if the emotional toll becomes too much to shoulder on your own.


Takeaways 

Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries for online dating is the key to a fulfilling and healthy online dating experience. Protecting your mental health isn’t a one-time thing—it’s a continuous process of adjustments based on your experiences. So get out there, sign up for your favorite dating app and date, but do it with these guidelines in mind!

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