How Do I Set Boundaries?

Our dating pro shares how to prioritize our own needs in a relationship.

It’s odd how we feel bad about not giving in to another person’s demands. We wonder if we’re being too demanding in having our own way. However in order to meet someone who is a good fit, in order to find a relationship that will last, you’ve got to stand up for yourself. Say yes when you want to and no when you don’t. Pleasing people and giving in when it negatively affects you isn’t a good life strategy.

Think about it in terms of healthy boundaries: When we are able to walk over someone’s boundaries in the beginning of a relationship, we walk over them entirely. When we let others demolish our personal boundaries and we’re no longer our own person. Having no personal boundaries doesn’t make for a healthy relationship, it makes for a master and servant combination.

Think back to the last time the words “send me a pic” showed up on your phone in the form of a text message. You just met a possible new love interest on a dating app, online, or in real life. In this situation they don’t want your pearly whites to fill the phone screen, they want to see it all and then store it on their phone. I’ve had clients come into my office and talk about this exact situation happening to them. 

They were out with friends for brunch at Komali, Breadwinners, or Nick and Sam’s Grill when they received this particular text request. A few of my clients were working at their office, received the text, and immediately started darting their eyes around their cubicle to make sure no one was looking—almost like they had already done something wrong. They became fidgety, stressed, disappointed, annoyed, and uncomfortable. None of my clients wanted to send a picture; however some of them regrettably sent one anyway.

I found that all of my clients except one were internally divided on what to do. Do they acquiesce to what’s being asked, (to people please), say no, or avoid the person and their texts all together? One client told me about a particular guy: He asked once and she didn’t send anything; he asked again, she responded with emoticons laughing; he asked again, she sent a picture of an unattractive woman in a g-string; and the last time she finally said no more.

In the beginning, in order to get the first date or second date, you may feel compelled to go against your values slightly to please another person, however it usually doesn’t benefit you in the end. Don’t cower to another person’s whims to make them like you. When we do, 90 percent of the time, the person moves on anyway to another person that he or she can do this to. The remaining ten percent find themselves in a relationship and even a marriage where feeling unhappy and powerless is the mainstay. In order to find true love, you have to be willing to make decisions for your authentic self. I’ve made choices in my past that got me the “it” guy but the “it” guy didn’t make me happy. Apparently he wasn’t “it” for me.

Ashley Berges is a Dallas-based life coach, family therapist, and syndicated radio talk show host of Perspectives with Ashley Berges, which can be heard on 570 AM KLIF and 660AM KKSY.

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