How far is too far?
It is no surprise as an elderly adult, I get asked this question almost all the time from youths and young adults looking to set up some boundaries in their blooming relationships.
But it is so interesting that when I get asked this question, they tend to fixate on the physical aspect of the relationship.
As someone who is being trained in counseling and therapy now and as a woman who has gone through and is still going through the world of dating, I think the question of physical boundaries is very important and really requires very clear lines that need not be crossed.
But is the physical aspect of how far is too far the only most important thing?
We can get so fixated on all the physical aspects of intimacy that we neglect the emotional boundaries that can be as binding and just as devastating in the end when lines are crossed and one party isn’t ready.
Equally important is putting emotional boundaries.
I personally and strongly believe there is deep power in emotional intimacy, more power than we give it credit. I even dare to say that most marital affairs start with an emotional bond before it even becomes physical.
Author Debra Fileta writes, “More powerful than a kiss, more seductive than an embrace, there is something that happens when two people connect emotionally. Something that has the capacity to outweigh even the physical. A sort of “emotional sex” that can be just as harmful and heartbreaking, when it moves too deep, too fast.”
My friend Rachelle learned this the hard way. She did not date around but when she did she went too deep, too fast. She’s let her emotional floodgates wide open. Rachelle felt so connected to Henry that when their relationship ended up not working out, she felt so confused, empty, and incredibly hurt.
Through the years, here’s what I learned, and let me share it with you here for you to consider in order to avoid the pain of premature emotional bonding in a dating relationship – a relationship that may never translate into a marriage.
1. Curiosity can kill the cat and assumptions can break the heart.
Do not assume more than what is in front of you. Refrain from thinking beyond just a response especially when the gent is not leading you on. If you sense the guy is leading you on, you can cut the conversation and move on. Do not let your emotions go ahead of your logic. This is especially true if you have not met the person in your actual right now life.
Your dating relationship in its early stages is meant to be a time of getting to know each other and learning all the superficial things you can know before taking it to the next level. Use this season for just that! Don’t go too deep too fast, because the emotional intimacy that comes with deep shared moments can actually pull you in far deeper than you were ever meant to go, and in the end, leave you with a broken heart and a broken spirit.
2. Guard your heart.
Okay, when it comes to Christian relationships, guard your heart is probably one of the most common pieces of advice. But what does it mean to guard your heart?
Here’s what it means to me. First, know when to open up and when not to. Dating is a good time to invest in getting to know someone. It’s a time to let your guard down a little at a time and begin to share the truths of who you are. The key word is – little-at-a-time!
When you engage in dating, you should be at a point in your life where you are ready to be open, share and communicate, but there should always be limits to your openness. There are times to be open and share your heart out, but there are also times to withhold.
I don’t recommend sitting down on your first date, or your first conversation and spilling every detail and secret in your life. Relationships should be seen as a journey of building trust. You build a little at a time. You give a little at a time. Lay the foundations first, then begin building the house. Be real, be genuine, and be honest- but never without the anchor of boundaries and the weight of wisdom.
Second, avoid talking about commitment before you’ve actually committed.
There is a temptation to talk about the future, prematurely, when you’re dating. You want to dream together, envision the future together, and create this world up ahead to live for. It is exciting but there is a proper time for this discussion. When you have made the commitment then it is important to be on the same page, but this should not happen early on in a dating relationship. It’s a problem when people commit to things far beyond the place they are at relationally. It’s a problem when you commit to the future before you’ve actually committed to the present.
Slow down. Take your time. Where your conversation goes, your heart will go, too so just enjoy the friendship without the assumption. Allow your relationship to go through the necessary seasons.
God knows how fragile our hearts can be, and He’s instructed us to protect them, to watch over them, and to take care of them. However, guarding your heart does not come in the form of some magical process or spiritual language, it comes in practical, everyday decisions.
3. Manage your expectations.
In dating, you might just be building a new friendship not leading to marriage. Yes, don’t be afraid to say hello, start up a conversation, or make some plans. You are just as capable of furthering your friendship with this guy as with anyone of your friends. So go ahead and show a little love (and by a little, I mean a little. We ladies have the tendency to go all out), and then step back and see what happens.
So you went ahead and showed a little love, and you hear crickets. Maybe it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with him. If he’s not that into you then he’s not for you. I always remind my single friends that at the end of the day, you want to be with someone who is just as crazy about you as you are about them. Don’t force the fit with a man who doesn’t appreciate you just where you are at. You are worth far more than that.
I think the biggest favor we can do for ourselves, as women, is to stop blaming his lack of pursuit on ourselves. If he’s not asking you out or is not texting or calling you, there is a good chance it has so much more to do with him, and so very little to do with you. Many of the guys I’ve spoken to explained that their failure of pursuing a girl is a reflection of the fact that they are still getting their “stuff” together – figuring out his career, finding a good job, moving out from under his parent’s roof, dealing with past hurts, or getting right with God – these are just some of the things I’ve heard from men who are working out some things in their lives.
I applaud those men because at the end of the day a healthy relationship begins with two people who have done some good solid work on themselves. Those who are willing to put the work in upfront will have so much less work to do when they are united with another in holy matrimony. If he’s not ready to pursue you now then there’s a good chance it’s better he didn’t!
Take that as a sign and instead of waiting around obsessing over his next move, use your time to reflect on your personal journey. What areas of your life need some focus? Some healing? Some work? What goals should you be working toward? Take some time to do some of this work in your own life because healthy people will always make for healthy relationships.
So, go ahead. Date. But while dating, avoid assumptions. Guard your heart by enforcing emotional as well as physical boundaries. And manage your expectations.
Happy Hearts Day!