Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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In Dating Relationships, Are Boundaries Enough?

I spend a lot of time with men and women who are in dating relationships. Once a new dating relationship begins I usually cut to the chase and find out if they have any boundaries in mind for the physical part of that relationship. I ask them about this I think boundaries are important for Christians to consider.

I’m a perfect example of someone who did all the right things in my relationships. I prayed with girlfriends, I did my best to center our relationship around God, and I always had the physical boundaries talk with them. But I couldn’t stick with the boundaries. I always found a way to get into a situation that rendered all my best laid plans powerless. I want you to do better.

When I talk with couples they have typically thought about boundaries and I typically find them to be appropriate. I’m no boundaries hawk though. When Rose and I were dating, a pastor told me I shouldn’t touch Rose’s leg because it would cause me to stumble. I didn’t listen to him.

Some boundaries are so strict they hold the relationship back from natural desires of sharing affection. I also knew where our weak areas were and touching her knee wasn’t an issue. I do, however, understand why the pastor was concerned. Once one line is crossed, the next barrier falls more easily and you quickly move far beyond your intended boundaries without meaning to. “It all happened so fast” is a common phrase because boundaries are often seen not as barriers but as hurdles.

After talking with the man, woman, or couple, I always tell them boundaries aren’t enough. It’s not enough to tell someone you shouldn’t do this or that. The boundaries I helped put in place for my relationships, I broke 100% of the time. Boundaries hardly ever work if they stand on their own.

So the question I always ask after I hear their stated boundaries is, how do you plan to accomplish following those boundaries? Do you have any spatial boundaries in mind to help you follow your physical boundaries?

*blank stares*

“Tyler, what you mean?”

I respond by saying, “the boundaries are great, but what happens when the movie gets boring and you’re both under the same blanket, alone, in a dark room? What happens when he touches your leg further up than you’re used to? How do you plan to follow your boundaries then? Because self-control doesn’t always cut it.

Then begins the real conversation about boundaries. Boundaries are great, as along as you know how you plan to be held accountable to them.

So if you’re dating someone and you haven’t talked about boundaries, have that conversation. Or if you’re like me and you spend time with couples who are dating, encourage them to take these steps. Walk alongside them closely enough to help them see how mere boundaries are not enough. If there is a marriage epidemic going on in the world, one of the best ways to change it is by caring for couples before they’re married.

If you’re dating and you’ve set some boundaries, have the harder conversation of figuring out how to follow them. You need spatial boundaries to succeed with your physical boundaries.

A few ideas:

  • Don’t be alone.
  • Don’t lay down next to each other.
  • Don’t turn off the lights when you’re alone.

The idea with this type of spatial boundary is to avoid a situation where you can lose control. If you’re strict with these kinds of spatial boundaries, then your physical boundaries will become much easier to follow. It’s human nature to want to push boundaries, but setting barriers around your boundaries will help you avoid giving into the heat of the moment.

Boundaries can be followed, but only if you put yourself in a situation for them to work.

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