Boundaries: Make sure your bounnnndarries aren’t blurrrrrrred.

Are we friends? Are we dating? Are we on a date? Does she know I’m asking her out on a date? All of these questions are answered by making sure that your boundaries aren’t blurred.

“Girls don’t call boys”, my mom used to say.  I thought she was ridiculous. (Love you Mom!) In this day in age it’s hard to tell what sort of behavior is appropriate between the sexes- on and off the dance floor!

Texting, Facebooking, emailing, and mobile phones have provided us with the benefit of being much more connected with others.  They can be wonderful avenues to propagate friendships, but, as I discovered, they can also be huge impediments to having healthy boundaries.

Technology has progressed much faster than our dating traditions.  Dating traditions have been thrown out the window and it’s left both the men and the women in the dating scene wondering what’s going on.

During my (abundantly) numerous years as a single woman looking for a good man, I read many books on dating.  They were either horrendously out of date, expected me to be a “Sex In the City”-modern-gal, or written for 13 year olds.

So I had to learn the hard way: by trial and error, heartache after heartache, and by setting boundaries and then quickly realizing they needed to be revamped.  To save you from (some) of the mess that I had to endure (btw, some of it is impossible to avoid), I thought I’d give you some tips.

Don’t blurrrr your bounnnndaries.

If you are friends, act like friends. Don’t give someone boyfriend/girlfriend privileges if they are not your boyfriend/girlfriend and, this should go with out saying, don’t give someone spousal benefits if they are not your spouse. In other words: “friends with benefits” is lame-o.

Ok but what does that look like in real life? I’m going to go over some of the more obvious ones, because I think it’s just a good idea to reinforce them, and then follow up with the more seemingly trivial-yet pivotal ones at the end.  ****Please try to stay with me.  I know some of you may want to shut your brain off because you think I’m a super-freak, prudish, out of touch gal – but I assure you, I’m not.  🙂

Ok.  Proceed with an open mind:

1.)  Don’t have sex (of any sort) with someone who is not your spouse.

What? not even if you’ve been dating a long time?!?!?!

Nope.

Why not?

Because sex is a gift intended for your spouse.  Sex is a physical renewal of your wedding vows.  So if you haven’t made any wedding vows yet, then don’t be having “the renewal of the vows” (sex) yet either.  (There is a much longer answer to this – so be sure to look at my other and future posts.)

An even shorter answer on why it’s a bad idea to have any sort of sex with someone that is not your spouse is: because it makes things messy and confusing.

OK – now more on making sure you don’t have blurry boundaries:

2.)  Don’t go on long vacations OR spend family holidays with someone unless you are ENGAGED.

What? not even if you’ve been dating a long time?!?!?!

Nope.  (sound familiar? :P)

Why not?

Well, because we gals will immediately start to (subconsciously) attach ourselves to that man as if he is our spouse- even if we just met him a month ago – or heck, even a week ago.  When you are married, you spend time with your spouse and their family. When you are dating, you spend time with your family….even if, ESPECIALLY if your family is inconveniently far away or “not as fun” as the boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s family.

IF you’ve been talking about getting engaged soon, then you meet the family to get a better perspective of who it is that you are considering marrying. Until then, don’t launch yourself into this Amazon River teeming with piranha.

3.) Bring emergency cab money with you on dates…. and, well, all of the time.

This might seem silly to clarify, but I wish it had been said to me, so I’m saying it now: Don’t spend the night at a friend (of the opposite sex)’s house.  Especially if you are “just good friends” and “it’s too late to travel home”. This blurrrrrs the boundary between friendship and spouse.  You spend the night at your spouse’s house or at your family’s house.  BEWARE: Don’t let your standards drop just because you don’t want to spend the extra $$ on the cab.

I fell for this temptation WAY too many times.  Oh sure, I’d go out for dinner, some drinks, spend a decent amount of money and then when it was time to get home, I’d squabble over the $$ I would have to pay for a cab and how long it would take or how dangerous it would be if I took public transportation.   It’s just a bad idea.  It gives the person you are staying with the idea that there is more familiarity- more of a relationship there than there really is. Be sure to not lead anyone on, including yourself.

Sometimes I ended up leading myself on.  I told myself that it was “no big deal.” But then I ended up being “clingy” – because I had allowed myself to behave – at least in one area – like we were more than friends.  I allowed the boundaries to be blurred because subconsciously I was trying to make (a.k.a. manipulating) the friendship to be something more.

As a dancer I traveled the country for dance weekends and even a few competitions along the way.  There were many occasions where I stayed at someone’s house instead of getting a hotel.  What I learned from that experience is that, the dynamic changes when/if you have a companion traveler (of the same sex) or if you are traveling in a group.  There is much less temptation to fall into a blurred boundary situation if you have a third, fourth, or fifth wheel, but be warned it may still be present.

4.) Bestfriend or Boyfriend?

Not sure? yep- it’s tricky. When you are 10 or 12,  it’s fine to have a best friend who is the opposite sex (who btw, should also be about 10 or 12 NOT 20 or 30… ewwww!!!).  Once you hit 13 or 14+, it no longer becomes a good idea to be UBER close friends with someone who is the opposite sex.

Oh it’s totally natural for people of the opposite sex to get along really well, but it’s not a good idea to actively propagate that friendship with your time, texts, emails, Facebook posts, and phone calls.  Why? Because sooner or later someone develops feelings for the other person.  That’s when things get tricky.

So – if you are between the ages of 13 and 93 (just for exaggeration’s sake), it’s best if you actively work on friendships with people who are the same sex as you are.  These are honestly, in my opinion, harder to develop.  Maybe it’s just me, but it was always easier for me to talk to guys than it was to talk to girls. (Maybe it was because I was subconsciously interested in them or vice versa!)  So if you spend your time working on these relationships, you’ll end up with great friends and no confusion at the end.

5.) Is it a date? Just say it!

How do I know if I’m out on a date? How can I let her know that when I’m asking her to go somewhere with me, it’s because I want it to be a date.

The best way to let a gal know that you are asking her out on a date is to use the word “DATE” when you are asking her.  Then there is no confusion.  I know it seems simple – but it works like a charm. (Yes it will seem very awkward at first.)If you are a gal who is being asked out by a guy and aren’t sure if it’s a date or not, just ask him.  Say, “Wow that sounds like fun.  So just to clarify, is this a date?” He should be able to answer you in about 1 word.  🙂

(If his answer is no, then invite a girlfriend along.  He’ll be oh so surprised when he can’t put his mo-jo on because there is a third wheel.  That’s when you think to yourself, “Oh- hmmm.  Thought you said it wasn’t a date?” 😛 )Just think of the dance floor:  when you want to ask someone to dance, do you grab her arm, twirl her around out onto the floor and hope she gets the idea that you’d like to dance?  No.  Of course not.  You use your words and say, “Would you like to dance?”

Gals:  sometimes I’ve come across a guy who hasn’t learned this skill on the dance floor.  He tries to grab hold of my hand and drag me out on the dance floor without even acknowledging that I might not be prepared to dance.  I resist this man-handling and wait for him to ask me.  If he fails to ask me, I clarify it quickly by saying, “Oh did you want to ask me to dance?”  Sounds a little snippy, but I think it’s important to let him know that he can’t just throw me out on the dance floor without my permission and expect me to go along with it.

Likewise, I’m not going to allow him to scramble to pay for my lunch and hope that it counts towards being a date because he couldn’t muster the courage to ask me out.  When I sense the bait and switch about to occur (and yes guys, we DO sense the switch – I guess you can call it one of our feminine-jedi-senses), I clarify the situation with words.  This ensures that my boundaries are not blurred and that both he and I are aware of what is intended.

But what if someone asks you out on a group thing? is that a date?   The short answer is: no.  If it’s part of the first 3 getting to know you dates, then it’s definitely NOT a date.  He may still be very gentlemanly in paying for the group activity, but it’s one on one date that helps you proceed in the dating process (ie determining if there is chemistry.)

6.) Don’t call/text him FIRST: He’s just not that into you.

(Did you see that movie? Painful, but sadly true.)  This goes back to my mom saying that I shouldn’t be calling boys.  Back before the days of mobile phones and answering machines (my folks were slooooowww on getting technology), that left me waiting by the phone for some boy to call.  Now that we have technology at our fingertips we gals are much more tempted to follow our impulse to initiate communication, in general, and specifically with boys that we LIKE!

Ask yourself the question: am I contacting this boy because I hope he will think about me and I hope he will ask me out…

If so……WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! The bridge is out! Do not proceed!

If he likes you, HE will call (text, facebook, im, email) you.

Likewise, ask yourself the questions: am I contacting him because I’m afraid that he won’t follow up? that he won’t pursue me? that he will forget about me? that he will be distracted by other girls who DO call? that he will never ask me out?

or the dreaded:

“Oooh I heard he’s having a party – I hope he invites me! Hmmm I wonder if I should call him now?”

STOP.  Be a woman.  Wait for a man who will pursue you.  It’s what you want.  Know what you want and let your actions match that.

Guys: do not pay attention to girls who (are just friends/acquaintances who) pester you with phone calls, texts or emails.  Do NOT REPLY. Stop.  Be a man by going after what you want, not what is convenient at the moment.   Be a leader.  You do the initiating.  Don’t just “be nice” to the friends/acquaintances who are girls who are launching themselves at you like you are a piece of velcro and they are a fuzzy tennis ball. 

Be like a pane of glass.  (Imagine: splat.  sqweak! as she hits the glass and slides down.)  Don’t reinforce bad boundaries by being nice.  That leads me to my last point.

7.) Be honest ….with kindness.

Learn to use short sentences.

Just say, “no.”

Say what you mean.

This is harder than you think! It is kinder to be honest than it is to lead someone on.  This goes for both men and women.

This clip illustrates what I mean when I say that if you aren’t explicitly clear, people will hop on the maybe train.

Woman usually have a harder time with this because we LOVE words.  We talk about something and go around in circles until we arrive at our point. It’s sort of like a little bee flying around a flower and then finally landing.  In general, guys have an easier time being more direct.  For men, it may be harder to accomplish the kindness part.

It will be a challenge for both sexes, but well worth it.

Lastly, I just want to add that this can also work in reverse; Sometimes our boundaries get blurred downward instead of upward. Instead of acting like spouses who have pledged to love the other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death, we fall short and act like our spouse is only a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Perhaps we don’t have to love them unconditionally. Perhaps we flirt with other women as if we are still on the dating circuit. Perhaps we still flirt with other men because we think “we have to keep our options open.” (ewww!)

OR perhaps we are acting like a friend or acquaintance (like a man not paying for dates or a woman not allowing him to!) when we should be being more like a boyfriend/girlfriend, initiating and actively receiving the gift of each others company.

That being said, THIS POST IS TOO LONG.  Time to get off the soap box. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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8 Responses to “Boundaries: Make sure your bounnnndarries aren’t blurrrrrrred.”

  1. R Says:

    Some interesting points – I think many of these points well set out and logical to an extent. Of course it is good to keep some boundaries between the opposite sexes so as not to lead to confusion. Though I think some of the finer points touched on are rather subjective – people need to realise themselves what they can handle in friendships or relationships with the opposite sex. One point I do disagree is Point 4 re not developing deep and close friendships with boys who are just ‘guy’ friends and not boyfriends.
    This line particularly: ‘Once you hit 13 or 14+, it no longer becomes a good idea to be UBER close friends with someone who is the opposite sex.’
    I went to a girls school which seemed to have the same mentality ‘oh boys don’t exist’ or ‘friends at distance’ – I think this is ridiculous. I think not developing just guy friends during this period can lead to an over thinking of any friendship with the opposite sex later in your life – it makes it more difficult to be just friends with guys or develop any really good friendships with them.
    Two of my very best friends now are guys – friends – nothing more – but I love them and appreciate them as much as my closest girl friends without being in a relationship with either. Once again I suppose this is subjective – certain people wouldn’t be able to handle close friendships with people of the opposite sex – I don’t think however this should be put out there as a ‘should do’
    Otherwise I think most of your other points are sensible.
    Thanks

    • Genevieve Says:

      Hi R – glad you commented on #4. 🙂 It’s funny, I thought people might have a problem with #1, but it seems that #4 is what is causing a buzz.

      Let me see if I can clarify it a bit.

      If you are imagining a world much like a 7th grade dance where boys are lined up on the right side of the dance hall and girls are lined up on the right side of the dance hall and never the twain shall meet, it is not the world I am suggesting or hoping for. 😉

      It’s tricky. It is absolutely 100% important for opposite sexes to relate to each other, all through out life. That is why I love Swing dancing so much. It enables the sexes to relate to each other in a context that is outside of the sexual/dating arena. It encourages men to “ask” and it enables women to actively respond to them.

      I agree with you that if your only contact with the opposite sex is on a date, then it over emphasizes the importance of that interaction. Basically it creates a feast or famine dynamic. A starvation and over-indulging dynamic – and that is a VERY bad idea.

      It is important for us to have friends – whether they be of the opposite sex or not. But – it’s not a good idea if ALL of our close friends – in fact our closest friends are ONLY of the opposite sex. For one thing, it robs us of the chance of developing the skill of having/maintaining a friendship with the same sex. I had a REALLY hard time being friends with girls – and it was only until I was in my 30’s that I realized how important it was. I’m not saying that it is a sin to be friends with the opposite sex – that would be ridiculous. I am saying that the path of least resistance for me (and many of the guys and gals that I’ve talked to) has been to be friends with someone of the opposite sex and that it lead to situations that were less than favorable. I think balance is the key.

      Another thing is: how is that going to play out when/if you get married? If your best friend is a guy and then you marry a guy, is it appropriate, or more importantly – is it wise, for you to be better friends with your guy friend than with your spouse? If you are texting, emailing, phoning, and Facebooking someone who could potentially be your spouse, then I think your current spouse is going to have a problem with that. Taken too far, it is a temptation to infidelity – either emotionally or physically.

      Thanks for the opportunity to clarify it a bit. I think some of the intricacies are going to be lost in me trying to summarize it into one post… I think probably a whole book could be written on #4 😛 What I’m hoping for is that we can re-learn what boundaries are and actually implement them – so that we can have healthy and holy friendships- that don’t lead to confusion and chaos. 🙂

  2. Bonnie Says:

    Very insightful! Kids in highschool (and I’m sorry to say middleschool )need to know this stuff, but how would you get them to read it? Kids, and for that matter, most adults, thesre days want everything instantaneously.

    • Genevieve Says:

      Actually I’m writing this in hopes of reaching people in their 20’s and 30’s. High School and middle schoolers need it too, of course, but I felt particularly called to write about this topic because of my experiences as a 20 year old which ultimately lead me to being in the dating scene as a 30 year old! 😛 So we’ll see – hopefully someone will read this and it will be fruitful, even if only for them 😉

  3. Bonnie Says:

    I liked how you used the movie clip. It was perfect!

  4. R Says:

    I understand your clarification – yes it is best to have a balance – guy friends and girl friends. I do however disagree with your point about being best friends with a guy and it being a problem if and when you get married to another guy.
    I have had this point put forward to me a number of times and i disagree with its ‘logic’. If you are to marry someone I would assume you love them more than anyone else in the world – I assume you would love them more than your best friends so having a guy as a best friend isn’t a huge problem because you’re better friends with him than with you’re spouse – the idea is your spouse is your number one best friend.
    Furthermore if in the initial stages of that relationship before marriage if that guy has a problem with your best friends being other guys than he isn’t worth it. I wouldn’t put a guy coming into my life over men who have been in my life longer and at that moment mean more to me. If a problem is going to arise it should arise then before the relationship leads to marriage so either it can be sorted out or called off.

    But once again I suppose that’s subjective – if a person finds it too difficult to have a spouse and guys who are best friends then they sort it their way. I just wouldn’t wanted it expected for me to lessen friendships with other guys because i’m getting married.

  5. Ashley Says:

    Hi Genevieve,

    Thank you so much for this incredible and much needed post! I hope you don’t mind if I spread it around to my friends and all the students I work with… I have often been drawn into conversations with friends about the topic “can men and women just be friends?” To which I always reply in the affirmative, although so many people do not think it’s possible… and yet, if we are called to imitate Christ’s friendship in and through a spiritual bond/ familial bond, then it certainly is possible ( i.e. St. Clare and St. Francis, Christ and Mary Magdalen, etc). And yet, these clear boundaries coupled with grace and an abiding priority on purity are so important and have often been lost….

    I loved how you mentioned girls don’t call boys… this has been my personal principle for ages and has worked like a charm. But are you saying NEVER call boys, even after you’re in the relationship? or only prior to?

    Other boundaries: no holding hands, kissing, or prolonged hugging when not in a relationship… gaahhh, I’ve seen girls do this way too many times and it’s just strange, plus it puts the guy in the awkward position of refusing the hand holding, which they will rarely do, even if they don’t want to hold hands… it’s just uncomfortable. Perhaps most importantly, as a girl it’s important to keep the emotional boundaries in place… which means 1. not divulging your deepest innermost thoughts and *feelings* to a guy who is just your “friend” 2. not acting as if you’re in a relationship if you’re not, excluding any other possibilities to go on dates with other guys 3. not fantasizing about being in a relationship with a particular guy unless they have made an explicit statement to that effect or concretely expressed the desire to pursue that. And 4. in everything, concentrating on maintaining a surrendered and peaceful interior with a focus on God and your relationship with Him so that he can form your identity, and your identity will not constantly be changing as you flit from person to person…

  6. Sally Krenger Says:

    This is really good. True . . . and sad that most of us learn these truths years later in life instead of listening to trusted loved ones (mom) who wishes only good for us 😉

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