Please note: Entries within this blog may contain references to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text “loveis” to 22522.

Establishing Boundaries with a New Dating Partner

It’s exciting to be with a new dating partner. However, even if things are casual, it’s important to set boundaries. Sometimes boundaries also shift and change as a relationship progresses, which is okay as long as you both agree to discuss the shift honestly and you both feel good about the changes. To have a healthy dating relationship, whether casual or exclusive, both partners need to know each other’s limits. Discussing your wants and needs early in a new relationship helps set the stage for healthy conversations when boundaries start to shift.

Communicating with a new dating partner is one of the most exciting experiences of a new relationship. Texting, calling, emailing, or messaging on social media with this new person can happen more frequently. Nonetheless, both partners should talk about what they want their digital relationship to look like. For example, what’s okay to say online to the other? Are you comfortable with them following your friends? What are the expectations for returning texts? It’s likely you’ll both have to compromise as you figure out a digital agreement that suits you both.

Keep in mind that checking in with a partner about date night plans or how their day is going let you know you’re thinking of them. But if one dating partner is checking up on the other too often, it could be a warning sign that they’re trying to control them. Be aware of excessive calling or texting, demanding to share passwords, or reading your incoming text messages without permission. These are unhealthy dating behaviors that cross digital boundaries.

Another exciting aspect of a new relationship is being physical. Don’t feel like you have to rush or do anything you’re not ready to do. You also don’t owe your partner anything. You’re never required to do anything physically or sexually you don’t want to do. And if they don’t want to do something physically or sexually, listen and respect that choice.

Emotional boundaries are equally important. It’s great to spend lots of time with someone, especially if it’s new, but it’s also necessary to spend time apart. Both of you should be free to hang out with family and friends, and do things you want to do, without having to get permission to do so. Moreover, some partners may feel a surge of emotions and want to say “I love you” before the other is ready. If your partner says it and you don’t feel that way yet, it’s okay. Let them know how it made you feel to hear them say it, and tell them what you want in the relationship.

In a healthy relationship, both partners respect each others boundaries. Talk to your partner about what your boundaries are, and listen to them about theirs. It’s important to set boundaries for everything, from physical intimacy to the amount of time you spend together to how they can or cannot use your tech devices. If you can’t trust each other or communicate openly together, then it might be best to reconsider whether the relationship is worth continuing. And if your new partner tells you that you’re stupid, or gets angry with you, or deliberately crosses your limits, then they are not showing you the respect you deserve.

Happy and healthy relationships are built on open, honest and respectful communication, and that includes setting appropriate boundaries that make both you and your new dating partner feel comfortable. Feel like chatting with someone? Call 866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 to speak with a trained peer advocate about your healthy relationships and boundaries.