Setting Relationship Boundaries: 4 Important Limits When You’re Dating

Setting boundaries early on in a relationship is important to date successfully. In this article, you will learn four important boundaries to set when you’re…

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Setting boundaries early on in a relationship is important to date successfully. In this article, you will learn four important boundaries to set when you’re dating someone new.

What Setting Boundaries in a Relationship Means

The fundamental purpose of boundaries are to ensure your sense of safety. While, at times, this may be physical, your boundaries also protect your emotional sense of safety.

setting relationship boundaries

There are two parts of effective boundary setting in a relationship. You are likely most familiar with the need to set external limits. These are the boundaries around how others may or may not treat you. When someone respects these boundaries, you cultivate a sense of safety and trust in the relationship.

In addition to these limits, you also need internal limits for safety.

Setting Internal Boundaries

Internal boundaries allow you to be a safe person for others – and yourself. When you decide not to say that hurtful thing to someone, you are using internal boundaries. You’re also setting healthy limits on yourself when you decide to care for your emotions or practice self-care.

Related: How to Be More in Control of Your Emotions: Therapy Skills to Help

To date effectively, you must also set internal limits to ensure you are protecting your own time, energy, and emotions as best as possible.

Effectively Setting Boundaries in a Dating Relationship

There are numerous boundaries you may need to set as your relationship with someone evolves. However, in the beginning, to ensure you date wisely the boundaries outlined below will best guide you.

Related: An Essential Therapy Skill: Wise Mind from DBT

These boundaries help you feel more grounded and less anxious during the dating process. They also help guide you to right person for you with the most ease and clarity.

setting relationship boundaries

Set this Relationship Boundary When You’re Dating #1: Get Clear on What You Want

Your boundaries in a relationship are unique and personal to you. These personal limits are connected to your authenticity. Therefore, part of healthy boundary setting, is developing the self-awareness to know what you authentically need and want.

There are some helpful exercises to get connected with your truth. One especially helpful tool is to visualize your boundaries. Once you see yourself protected, you can notice with greater clarity what does and doesn’t work for you. You may access this exercise for free here.

It’s also featured in my book,  Setting Boundaries: 100 Ways to Protect Yourself, Strengthen Your Relationships and Build the Life You Want…Starting Now! 

You may also find value in these three tips to gain clarity on your boundaries provided here.

Set this Relationship Boundary When You’re Dating #2: Honor Your Non-Negotiable Needs

In a relationship, there are a few things you need to feel secure and satisfied. When these needs are met, you feel fulfilled. You never feel like you are settling or compromising. If even one of these non-negotiable needs is unmet, you will feel dissatisfied. Either this is because you are compromising your authentic self too much or because the relationship will ultimately end.

Honoring your non-negotiable needs from the beginning is the wisest way to date effectively. This means that as soon as you discover your dating partner doesn’t meet even one of these needs, you must end the relationship to protect yourself. Setting this boundary allows you to date most effectively. You minimize the amount of time, or energy, invested in relationships which won’t be healthy or fulfilling long-term.

For support identifying your non-negotiables, you may download the free worksheet here:

Set this Relationship Boundary When You’re Dating #3: Prioritize Consistency

It can be easy to get so excited about having a great connection or chemistry with someone that you focus on making the relationship work despite warning signs. This is especially common if you have anxious attachment or symptoms of codependency.

An important boundary to set with someone when you’re dating is to prioritize consistency in addition to your non-negotiable needs. While you may have a relationship with someone who is inconsistent, you cannot have a healthy relationship without consistency. These are qualities necessary for safety and trust.

Viable partners with whom a long-term healthy relationship is possible with say what they mean and mean what they say. You will never need to spend time analyzing what they really mean as they never give mixed signals.

Set this Relationship Boundary When You’re Dating #4: Stop Making Excuses for Your Dating Partner

When you set healthy boundaries, you prioritize your own mental health and needs. It can be really hard at times to set effective boundaries when you’re dating because you may want to make this relationship work deeply. You may really like this person. Yet healthy, authentic love and connection doesn’t hurt (and feeling confused, stuck, or like you’re settling is painful).

If someone doesn’t meet your non-negotiable needs – even one – or is inconsistent, you must work to let go of the relationship rather than trying to figure out how to fix it or what your dating partner’s intentions really are.

You must learn to set limits on the fantasy or hope of someone’s potential over reality. If someone’s words and actions don’t align, it’s not worth analyzing. It’s not about you. Instead you must set boundaries and release the relationship.

Related: Interdependence vs Codependency: 3 Clear Ways to Tell the Difference

Or if someone is great but doesn’t meet a non-negotiable need, you must release them to be loving for both you and them as you know you don’t have the right to change others when you have healthy boundaries.

Saving Yourself Time, Energy and Heartache

It can be so hard to date with healthy boundaries because you may connect with someone that isn’t aligned with your non-negotiable needs or isn’t consistent. But please know that it’s feeling passionate about someone who is consistent that’s the true healthy relationship goal.

If you spend a lot of time trying to figure out your dating partner’s intentions, making excuses for them, or minimizing your needs, it’s important to set internal boundaries on yourself. You have the right to your needs and you have the right to a healthy, consistent relationship.

Learning to protect yourself with these boundaries early in a relationship is the most self-loving thing you can do. It’s also the best way to stop wasting time in relationships which ultimately aren’t right for you. For more support, please check out: Setting Boundaries: 100 Ways to Protect Yourself, Strengthen Your Relationships and Build the Life You Want…Starting Now! 

setting relationship boundaries
Setting Boundaries: 100 Ways to Protect Yourself, Strengthen Your Relationships and Build the Life You Want…Starting Now! by Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT

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About The Author

Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist and author with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to find their voice, deepen their ability to self-love, and improve their relationships.

Her newest book, Setting Boundaries: 100 Ways to Protect Yourself, Strengthen Your Relationships and Build the Life You Want…Starting Now! (Therapy Within Reach), gives you the tools necessary to identify, set, and stay firm with your boundaries.

Her other books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many overcome people pleasing, self-neglect, and resentment to have a healthier relationship with themselves and others.

If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to krystal@confidentlyauthentic.com or DM her on Instagram. We will always keep your name and other identifying information confidential.

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