Dating without maintaining emotional boundaries destroys your sense of peace and well-being. That’s why it’s essential to understand the purpose of dating and arm yourself with practical ways to set emotional boundaries.
Purpose of dating.
Humans naturally desire fellowship. God created us that way. He also designed males and females to join in marriage. While not everyone dates for potential weddings, most begin to consider the possibility sooner or later. Dating, therefore, provides critical information to evaluate a potential marriage partner. If you get married someday, setting good boundaries during dating will help you arrive healthy and whole, without regrets, and pleasing to God.
What is an emotional boundary?
A boundary is defined as a line marking the limits of an area or a dividing line. Roads have obvious boundaries marked by lines, shoulders, and guard rails. Road boundaries and emotional boundaries have many similarities. Painted lines delineate areas for travel, so cars stay separated in their lanes. Without them, drivers would end up in a snarled mess. Similarly, brightly drawn emotional boundary lines keep our hearts from premature entanglement. Let’s go to God’s word rather than Google to learn about emotional boundaries.
Your heart needs boundaries to stay oriented toward God. So does your mind. In dating, as with everything in life, guard your heart and mind to maintain holiness that is pleasing to God and dignifying to yourself. But this is easier said than done. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. God creates boundaries for us through His word and by His Spirit. The psalmist appreciated the boundary lines drawn by God. He did not grasp for anything outside God’s lines because the Lord was enough.
In the same way, God draws boundary lines for us. Boundaries that guard our hearts, especially in relationships, should not be ignored. Here are some ways to set boundaries while dating.
Approaching dating from the point of wholeness rather than neediness creates preexisting guardrails. Before dating, work on achieving spiritual and emotional health. Deal with past hurts to understand your inner motivations so you do not repeat unhealthy patterns.
Most importantly, develop satisfaction through your relationship with God above all others. Depend solely on God, so you do not expect your date to fulfill or complete you. Consider abstaining from dating until you have worked through this process.
Prioritize thinking over feeling.
Feelings fluctuate, ranging from excruciating to delicious. We all have them, but we cannot allow fickle feelings to determine decisions. Discipline your mind to take control. Remember, the purpose of dating is to evaluate compatibility for a relationship and possible suitability for marriage.
Maintain strong physical boundaries.
For both men and women, sexual contact outside marriage can quickly obliterate healthy emotional boundaries. More importantly, God sets a standard He expects us to follow. God says, “You must be holy because I am holy,” in 1 Peter 1:16. Holiness is God’s standard regarding all sin. Some think the “big sin” before marriage is sexual intercourse. Anything up to that point goes. This mindset is like scraping your car along the guard rails of the road. Instead, why not breeze down the center lane of God’s holiness by avoiding any physical touch or naughty talk that leads to sexual thoughts and temptations? This may seem radical because of our free-for-all sexual culture. But whether you marry or not, you will never regret protecting your boundaries by following God’s standards.
Maintain privacy about prior relationships.
A match on a dating site followed by a few texts and coffee together should not prompt a litany of the rise and fall of every prior relationship. While there may be an appropriate time for sharing additional information, you do not owe a relative stranger any information about previous involvements. This is true even if they tell you about theirs. Knowing too much often produces emotional insecurity as you press for even more details and make inevitable comparisons.
Have fun in the process of getting to know each other.
In a rush to know and be known, it’s tempting to volunteer and ask for highly personal information way too early. Of course, a discussion is a vital part of the discovery process. But the conversation that goes deep too fast leaves both parties at a disadvantage. For instance, if your date reveals intensely personal struggles early on, you may feel so emotionally bound to their problems that you neglect warning signs. Alternatively, you offer a would-be jerk a blueprint for wrecking your reputation and emotional health if you share your heart issues before trust is earned.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying more shallow conversations and activities at the beginning of the relationship. Become more serious only as you find evidence that your date is respectful, caring, and worthy of deeper trust.
Pray for God’s wisdom.
If you’re trusting God with your heart and for your future, ask Him to supply the wisdom you need to follow and honor Him in dating. Not only will He direct your dating path, but He will also give you the strength to obey His holiness principles.
Be honest about your relationships with a mature mentor.
Accountability motivates us to stick to commitments. While a godly peer may be a suitable mentor, choosing a mature person outside your immediate circle who values confidentiality is usually best. Resist the urge to dissect your dating relationships with all your friends. It tempts you to pick and choose just the answers and advice you want to hear. Also, if you move toward marriage with a date, your earlier gossip may disrespect your future spouse.
Have you noticed the progressive nature of emotional boundaries? Dating should begin with narrow boundaries that widen over time spent observing and evaluating character. Traveling along this spectrum of deepening trust always carries a risk to the heart and mind. But if our most profound faith is always in God, we hold fast to His promise. Trust in God to help you develop firm, God-honoring emotional boundaries so dating relationships will please Him and enrich your life.