If Good Fences Make Great Neighbors…

by Dana Boyle on July 7, 2011

It feels like eons since I was in the dating world, even though I am married a little under a year.  I dated my husband for three years and I didn’t want to go back to first dates ever again.  I didn’t want to go back to dating because I remember what it’s like to kiss all those frogs along the way to finding that special someone.

If you were raised to articulate and understand your own boundaries, bravo for you.  Unfortunately, many of us didn’t get a clear message about what healthy boundaries are or we weren’t taught how to effectively implement them or define them for ourselves.

I recall a time when the concept of boundaries was foreign to me.  I literally didn’t know what boundaries were.  I had to actually read articles and books to learn what people meant by the term boundaries.  I was a little shocked and overwhelmed to realize that I had the right to lay down rules in my life and make people respect them, and I was giddy to learn that I had the right to disengage from people who violated my boundaries.

As I learned how to recognize my own boundaries and articulate them to others, I practiced saying, “That is not ok with me,” or, “That’s unacceptable.”  It felt good to at least say those words out loud and make another aware that what they did or said was not going to pass muster with me.

I had spent five years in a toxic dating relationship where I reacted like a frog placed in a cold pot of water, then set on top of a flame until the water slowly heated up and cooked me without my ever even feeling the heat.  Without boundaries, behaviors that told my gut something wasn’t right were simply ignored.  I made up excuses for the person I was spending time with who didn’t respect me.  He must be having a bad day, month, year, decade.  The poor thing must have been through something horrible.  He’s got some things he’s working through.  He doesn’t realize what he is saying is hurtful.  He means well.  He is just joking.

I didn’t just do this with that person.  Looking back, I did this with everyone I dated for my entire adult life.  I dated someone for four years who didn’t want to get married or have children.  I was one of those women who thought I’d change his mind.  Instead of listening to the truth when he told me what he wanted, I decided that I’d convince him INSTEAD of telling him that was a deal-breaker for me and walking away.  It only truly hit me when he proposed (victory – right?) but conditioned his proposal on not ever having children, which was finally a deal-breaker for me.

Later, I dated someone who I wasn’t in love with at all…for over two years…and I said yes when he proposed to me.  It only dawned on me that I shouldn’t be marrying him when HE refused to set a date and book anything for our wedding.  I broke it off with him because he was dragging his feet in actually walking down the aisle – when I never wanted to even date him to begin with.  I can list the deal-breakers and red flags he violated, and the reasons why he wasn’t a good match for me.  Somehow, I kept giving him one more date until we were engaged!  They say God keeps tapping harder and harder until you get the message.  I sure dodged a bullet there.

The next relationship was even worse.  That’s when I seemed to get the lesson and I sat down with myself and explored my boundaries for the first time, and thank God I did.

Teaching myself to define and articulate my boundaries with others, particularly in the dating realm, helped me to say no to many guys who I might have spent another two, three or five years with before something imploded.  That was the first step toward being able to effortlessly speak up for myself, honor myself and move on from people who weren’t worth my time so that I could find the one who is.

My dates got better and better as my boundaries got clearer and clearer.  I had more fun, I enjoyed the process of meeting new people, and I showed up for myself when I knew my rules were being violated, no excuses.  Let me tell you, I did it all to get to the man I’m married to and if I’d known how great he is I’d have changed my dating habits and patterns a decade sooner.

If you see yourself in a similar pattern, my Dating Playbook Course may be a good first step for you toward making your dating experience more meaningful and productive.

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