Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Hannah Fuhlendorf M.A, LPC
How To Set Boundaries In Dating Relationships
Published May 25th, 2021 & updated on Jan 19th, 2022
You’ve probably heard before that boundaries are a good idea if you wanna maintain happy, healthy relationships. But maybe you’re not sure what boundaries even look like, especially when it comes to dating. Or like, ya know…how to actually set them? It would be 100x easier if everyone could just read our minds to know what we’re okay with and never cross our boundaries, EVER. If onlyyy it was that easy!
The thing about boundaries, though: they’re not some unspoken rule. You gotta make them crystal clear if you don’t want them crossed! Here’s a great definition of boundaries, thanks to our in-house mental health professional Natalie Asayag. A boundary is “a clear line or limit you draw with those in your life to maintain healthy relationships (with the intent that you don’t feel overextended or taken advantage of).”
So, whether you’re dating someone new or you’re in a long-term relationship, boundaries are a MUST! With them in place you feel safe, validated and respected (and you deserve allll of the above, okay?). Btw, it’s never too late to set boundaries no matter where you’re at in the dating game. So let’s dive thru the types of boundaries and how to use them in your dating life!
Types of Boundaries
Boundaries are a 10/10 measure for your mental wellbeing. They help prevent any added stress or anxiety that you wanna avoid (umm, yes please!). When it comes to dating, having those boundaries in place can make you feel more at ease when you’re getting to know someone. Being open with each other about what makes you feel comfortable, safe and heard? That’s the healthy communication we looove to see!
Okay, here are the different types of boundaries and some convo starters for common scenarios you might experience while you’re dating.
1. Physical Boundaries
Physical boundaries include your body, physical touch and personal space. So, of course, things like hand-holding, hugging, cuddling and kissing. Your privacy is a physical boundary too. If you don’t want the person you’re dating to have the password to your phone to snoop around like a lil’ sleuth (even when you have nothing to hide), guess what? You have the right to your privacy! And if you don’t want them to spend the night at your apartment just yet, that boundary should also be noted.
Sending nudes can also be a privacy boundary, like whether or not you’re cool with sending them and receiving them, and of course, timing. For example…maaaybe you’re not super comfy with receiving a nude while at your cousin’s baby shower. And the idea of heavily making out with your partner in front of your whole crew at Sunday brunch? *Cringe*
Still unsure what to say when it comes to setting those physical boundaries, though? Hey, we gotchu. Try out some of these:
- “I’m not in the mood for cuddling.”
- “I don’t like being touched like that in public.”
- “I need my personal space.”
- “I have the right to my privacy, including my phone.”
- “I don’t want to send a nude right now.”
- “I don’t send nudes.”
2. Sexual Boundaries
Sexual boundaries are all about your comfort level as far as when you have sex, where you have sex, who you have sex with, and what contraceptives you want to use. These factors right here are up to your consent, 100% of the time!
These boundaries also include what you’re okay with during sex. Sex acts, sexual comments, you name it. Maybe certain things are triggering for you, so you ask to avoid them altogether. There could also be things you wanna explore sexually, like any kinks or fantasies you have. So be open! Share those desires with your partner and ask what they’re into.
Here are a few phrases you can use for setting sexual boundaries:
- “Are you okay with this?”
- “I don’t like this. Let’s try something different.”
- “I don’t feel like having sex right now.”
- “I have a kink/something new I want to try. Are you comfortable with that?”
- “Tell me what you like/don’t like.”
3. Emotional Boundaries
Setting emotional boundaries means respecting and validating all of the #feels. But it also means separating your emotions from your partner’s — not letting their mood control your own, not taking responsibility for their feelings, and not sacrificing your wellbeing or comfort to please them. It’s knowing what your emotional limits are, plus communicating your needs!
If you’re dating someone new, opening up and being vulnerable with them can be, well…scary AF. So, here are some examples, ‘cause we aren’t just gonna leave you hanging:
- “I know you’re trying to help, but I just need you to listen instead of giving me advice or trying to fix my problems for me.”
- “Can we talk about this later when I’m in a better headspace? Now’s not a great time.”
- “It’s hard for me to share things with you when I feel like my feelings are being dismissed.”
- “I can see that you’re not in a great mood right now, so let’s give each other some space.”
- “It feels like when you’re upset about something else you take it out on me and it’s unfair.”
4. Material Boundaries
In relationships, material boundaries include finances and possessions. It’s safe to say money can be a touchyyy subject. In the early stages of dating, this might not come up right away. Except maybe when it’s time to decide whose turn it is to pay for the date (could be a red flag if they always “forget” their wallet at home).
For those long-term relationships, you’ll wanna talk about finances more in-depth and make the big decisions together. It’s a good idea to talk about your separate incomes, how you decide to split costs, whether you want joint bank accounts and all of that good stuff. You wanna be on the same page here!
These examples might help you out:
- “I’m a little tight on cash right now. Can we have dinner at my place tonight instead?”
- “I can’t lend you money. Is there anything else I can do to help you out?”
- “Since we have different incomes, I think we should decide the best way to split our rent.”
- “I bought groceries the last two trips, do you mind paying this time?”
- “I don’t mind if you borrow my car this week, but please fill the tank for me.”
5. Intellectual Boundaries
These boundaries mean showing respect for each other’s differences in opinions, beliefs and ideas. You and the person you’re dating might have different faith backgrounds, political views, or maybe you believe Bob’s Burgers is the greatest show to ever exist but they’re “not really into cartoons.”
It’s okay if you don’t agree on everything. You decide what things you can “agree to disagree” on and what things are dealbreakers. If your partner’s values don’t align with your values, it’s okay to end the relationship. No matter what, your opinions and beliefs shouldn’t be put down in a relationship!
Try these out whenever you need ‘em:
- “I can see where you’re coming from, but I don’t see it the same way.”
- “I don’t like where this is going. Maybe we should drop it before this becomes a fight.”
- “Let’s talk more about this later. This doesn’t seem like the best time for either of us.”
- “It’s okay for us to disagree, but I’m not okay with putting each other down.”
- “I don’t think this is going to work between us. I can’t move past this difference we have.”
6. Time Boundaries
We don’t need to tell you that your time is precious AF. You already know that! There are only so many hours in a day, and when you’ve got work, school or other responsibilities on the go, that doesn’t leave much free time. So, when it comes to making plans with your partner, like a fun date night on the town or a weekend getaway to the mountains, you really look forward to that quality time. On the flip side, you might just want some time to yourself. Both are valid!
You know what you gotta do: SET THOSE BOUNDARIES.
- “I could really use a chill night by myself. Let’s hang out tomorrow instead.”
- “It’s been a while since we had a date night. We should make it a regular thing.”
- “I can’t, I have plans with my friends that day. It’s important for me to spend time with them.”
- “I can come along, but only for a couple of hours. I have to be up early.”
- “Can we cancel our plans with your family I’m not feeling up to it.”
Boundaries can be a scary thing, we get it. But they’re sooo important for your mental and emotional wellbeing. Don’t feel ashamed for asking for the things you need. ‘Cause your feelings matter, always!