Updated: Jun 10
Creating strong personal boundaries and standards very early in the dating process is essential in your search for the right partner. The boundaries you establish will help you avoid many common pitfalls in the dating process and will save you time and help you find your person faster.
One reason to establish your boundaries early on is that men actually want to know your boundaries. The earlier in the dating process you establish them, the sooner you will discover what someone is looking for, whether it’s a long-term committed relationship, getting their needs met (not yours), looking for a playmate to have fun, a hook-up, or a long-term committed relationship. Men want to know what is or is not acceptable to you. Even the nicest guys will test you to see what your boundaries are. When you start establishing your boundaries or standards from the very first contact with a new person, this gives them helpful guidelines on how to do the things that will please you and how to avoid the things that you won’t like.
You’ve probably heard the saying that “we teach people how to treat us”. Boundaries teach men how to treat you, how to value you and your time. Boundaries send the message that you respect yourself, you’re serious about achieving your dreams and you aren’t playing games with them. The high-quality men you meet will appreciate your directness (and that you don’t play games), while the men who aren’t looking for a long-term committed relationship will self-select out of your life. We want the wrong men to disappear! When the wrong men run away, I help my clients look at this as a gift from these guys. It’s the gift of time that you won’t have wasted on them and the opportunity to quickly move on to find your true soulmate.
Boundaries will give you the best chance to find your person faster. They help you go through the dating process with more ease and confidence, date smarter, not harder AND you will avoid wasting time with the wrong people and getting your heart broken unnecessarily.
When you look back on the men you’ve dated, with how many do you feel you wasted months and years of your life when you could have been available for the right man?
Once of the biggest pitfalls that occurs early in the dating process is when the relationship advances too quickly. These are some key ways you can set healthy boundaries and standards that will help to slow down the pace of getting to know someone so you truly have a chance to get to know them first as a person, especially as a friend. These protect your time, demonstrate to others that you value your own time and avoid moving too quickly with the wrong person.
Let’s say you just spoke with a man on the phone for the first time, the conversation went very well and you’ve agreed to meet in person. You’ll want to allow a week’s time before meeting them for a first date. If they suggest meeting in a few days, you can suggest times when you are available the following week, while also letting them know you’re excited about meeting them. Waiting a week gives you time to slow down the process from the very beginning.
In the early weeks of dating a new person, don’t make yourself available on short notice. The other person should learn that you have activities and people you’re passionate about and that you don’t cancel or change plans on short notice. Schedule dates when you’re available. Don’t drop other plans to go on a date with someone new, including plans to stay home and clean your place or have a quiet night alone.
Seeing each other on one date per week is the ideal pace during the first few weeks of dating. After the first date, continue to take a slow and measured approach in scheduling the second, third and future dates. Dating at most once a week allows you to have the time to date other people at the same time and prevents you from accelerating the process of getting to know any one person.
Don’t accept invitations for last minute get-togethers with a new person. It’s important to let them know you’re interested to see them, that’s if you really are, but don’t make yourself available for last minute get-togethers.
Establish boundaries around the times of day and night that you will and will not be available to talk by phone, meet in person or even text. A client recently told me about a man who didn’t call her when he said he’d call her and then wanted to talk late in the evening at a time she had told him she would be in bed. Even though she reiterated to him the time she would go to sleep that evening, at the last minute he still asked her via text to stay up to talk to him. My client saw his text but did not respond to him until the following day. I was so proud of her! That was an example of someone pushing boundaries, expecting her to drop her plans for him and essentially not respecting her and her time.
Limit the amount of time you spend with someone on each date or phone call. Think of it this way, when you’re meeting with a new colleague or a female acquaintance the meeting doesn’t drag out the for 4, 5 or more hours, right? It’s lasts an hour, maybe 2 hours at most. Similarly, even if you’re having the time of your life on a 1st or second date, I recommend that you don’t overly extend how much time you spend with someone new in the early weeks of dating them.
How frequently you see, text or call each other and the duration. Some men will want to see you a couple times a week from the very beginning. Others will let weeks go by in between dates. It’s important to let the other person know the pace you’re comfortable with, what you want and your intentions early on when talking to and dating someone new. This includes asking them if they’re willing to go at the pace that you are comfortable with.
A dating relationship gets rushed when you or the man gets ahead of himself. He may do this by wanting to see you or speak with you several times within the first week of meeting you or in the weeks that follow. He may talk about you meeting his family/friends or about going on a trip together. He might make over the top gestures of gifts, letters or compliments within the first conversations or dates after meeting you. Or he might tell you he’s in love with you, or that he misses you when he’s not with you. He may very well be in love, but this doesn’t mean you should join him in hitting the gas pedal on the relationship.
Becoming exclusive with someone before you really know them is a pitfall most women I talk to encounter. This is because they feel very uncomfortable with the idea of dating a couple of men at the same time. They feel they are cheating or being dishonest if they date more than one man at a time.
Men, on the other hand, in general, date differently women. More often than not, they are dating multiple women at the same time. Unlike women, men don’t tend to feel guilty about dating several women at once.
In order for you to date differently and actually see different results, it will require a shift in mindset and approach to dating. Your thinking and intention will need to be that you're dating to qualify candidates for the lifetime role of being your equal partner on every level; emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually and financially! Think of it this way. If you need major electrical upgrades for your home, you know you have to look for a licensed/bonded electrician with specific expertise and experience in this area. A handyman is not qualified or even licensed to handle that kind of work so you wouldn’t consider hiring a handyman even if it’s the quickest, cheapest option, right?
For the role of your lifetime partner, you want to tell yourself that you are looking for the most qualified, experienced candidate. If you choose the very first candidate or the 2nd one that comes along without taking the time to vet them properly, you will be choosing from a very limited pool of options and you will not have even found the right candidates, much less the best option. In your search for lifelong love, you can’t afford to take yourself out of the dating pool before you’ve had the time and experience to determine if someone is the best match for you. It takes time to learn what you need to know about someone so allow yourself this time.
Another downside of becoming exclusive with one person too early is that you prematurely take yourself out of the dating pool before you truly know enough about this person or anyone else, you’re dating. Recently, two clients told me that the men they had just started dating asked them to become exclusive within just the first two in-person dates.
There are many reasons why men (and women) may be eager to jump into a full-on relationship. It could be infatuation, the need to be in any relationship to avoid loneliness, to make sure a great woman like you is not claimed by another man, or they may be rushing to hide who they truly are. In the long run, rushing through the getting-to-know each other stage is not a good idea for either of you. If you slow down at first, you will get where you want to be much faster, with fewer detours and delays.
Women date with the intention to get into a relationship as soon as possible. This approach only prolongs the process because you will spend months and years of your life involved in a series of relationships that will end up burning you out before you can find your beloved. Initially, your primary intention should be to meet as many different men as you can to determine who is most compatible with you and if you’re the right match for each other. You’re qualifying candidates who will either move into the 1st and 2nd dates or who will fall into the category of “thank you, next” as in Ariana Grande’s song.
Just realize you always have your power in any dating relationship. If and when you agree to become exclusive with someone is your choice and on your timeline. My recommendation is to take your time and not become exclusive until after at least 2 months of dating.
A male relationship coach colleague recently quoted that it takes 100 in-person hours, doing activities together (not simply texting, video chats or phone calls), to know someone enough to decide to become exclusive and then to be sexually intimate with them.
As the woman, you set the pace of the relationship on many levels. What happens is that most women allow a man to advance the relationship forward because they don’t feel they should or know how to slow things down without hurting his feelings. They don’t want him to feel rejected and they also don’t want to risk that he'll stop pursuing them and move on to someone else.
The important thing is to not allow anyone to rush you or accelerate the process of getting to know each other. The best and fastest way to get to the relationship you want is to go slow at the beginning. The right men for you, those who are looking for a long-term relationship, will honor your wishes and will go at the speed you feel comfortable. If they don’t respect your wishes, this is a reflection of the type of person they are and how they will treat you in the future; it has nothing to do with how desirable you are.
When you don’t set and hold boundaries for yourself, you communicate to men how much (or how little) you value yourself, your dreams and your time. The kind of high quality, emotionally evolved man that you are looking for is going to respect you for pursuing the goals you have for your life and being committed to go after them. We do teach others how to treat us.
Your next steps are to think about how you want to be treated and communicate your standards to potential dates and partners from your very first conversations with them through actions that reflect the respect you have for yourself.