What’s the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the word boundaries? Do you think of a map? A fence? A baby gate? Boundaries are necessary to keep us safe (e.g., locked doors). Physical boundaries are important to our well-being and so are relational boundaries.
Have you ever heard of the Boundaries book series by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend? If not, run to your local bookstore or go online and order at least one book from the series today. I’ve read Boundaries in Marriage and Boundaries in Dating – both after I was married. They were both amazing, but interestingly, I enjoyed Boundaries in Dating even more than Boundaries in Marriage. Over the next few blogs I’ll be discussing a few topics that stood out to me in this awesome book. If I were you, I’d buy it today! ~smile~
Sometimes I enjoy people watching. It’s fun to blend into the background and observe how people interact with the world and each other. The girl on the corner is wearing an unusual outfit and she has an incredibly unhappy look on her face. I immediately begin to wonder how her life is going. How is her relationship with her dad? Does she feel loved or cast aside?
The guy walking down the street is wearing a suit and tie. His pace is fast and the expression on his face is grim. He quickly glances around before jumping into his sports car and speeding away. I wonder what he was thinking. Why did he look so concerned? Was he feeling guilty? Was he on this side of town visiting someone he should not have been visiting?
It’s also fun to watch couples interact. I’ve seen and heard couples tell each other off. I’ve seen couples that were so in love it was nauseating. There was that time I passed a middle aged couple making out in a parking lot near where I worked. I can’t be sure, but they didn’t give off that “married” vibe. It’s almost always interesting watching men and women interact.
What breaks my heart is when I see a couple dating each other for the wrong reasons. It’s not always so obvious, but sometimes it is. When I see a guy sitting with a group of his friends, drinking, laughing at crude jokes, and completely ignoring his girlfriend, I can’t help but think the poor girl is desperate for a relationship – so much so that she’d put up with a guy who clearly didn’t respect or care about her.
At the same time, when I see a guy tagging along after his girlfriend with his head hung down, listening to her spout off at the mouth about how worthless he is or how he screwed up again, I want to grab him and say, “Seriously, being single is so much better than putting up with this!”
Sadly, there are so many people out there in poor dating relationship simply because they are lonely. I’m not knocking them… loneliness is a horrible feeling. However, dating just to avoid loneliness doesn’t take away the loneliness. We can be in the presence of others and still feel that desperate need for connection. If we date people who clearly don’t care about us, it will only serve to make us feel lonelier. Dating is not a cure for loneliness.
Signs of Loneliness Dating
We all need to have boundaries in our relationships. If we don’t, we won’t be able to protect ourselves or show others where we draw the line. If Sarah calls and talks for six hours a day but I never tell her to stop, is it her fault that she keeps calling? I need to have a boundary that says, “I am available for this much time and no more.” I wouldn’t be doing her any favors by putting up with her while secretly growing to detest the sound of her voice.
Boundaries in dating relationships are extremely important. You need to set physical boundaries to keep your body safe and pure. You need to set emotional boundaries so your relationship doesn’t progress faster than is healthy. You need to set time boundaries so you both don’t spend so much time together that you neglect sleep or other important tasks.
If you are dating someone because you are afraid to be alone, there is a strong possibility that you aren’t erecting solid boundaries in your relationship. Boundaries are not always pleasant to others. If you are dating a guy who doesn’t want to wait until marriage to have sex, he’s probably not going to like your abstinence boundary. And, if you are holding onto a relationship because you are terrified of being alone, the likelihood of you keeping the boundaries you have set is slim.
In the fourth chapter of Boundaries in Dating (Dating Won’t Cure a Lonely Heart), Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend list a few ways to tell if you might be dating someone simply to escape loneliness. Consider the following list and examine your relationship. Have you been allowing some of these scenarios to take place in order to hold onto a relationship? Have you been…
- Enduring disrespectful words or behaviors?
- Agreeing to behaviors that don’t line up with your values?
- Settling for less than you want or need in a relationship?
- Staying when you know you should break up and move on?
- Continuing in a relationship that is clearly not going anywhere?
- Breaking up and getting back together?
- Staying on top of everything your boyfriend or girlfriend is doing (e.g., constantly calling or texting, demanding his or her complete itinerary, smothering, being excessively needy, etc.)?
If any of the items above resonated with you, it’s time to take a long look at your relationship and ask if you are dating him or her because you believe there may be a future, or if you are still in the relationship simply to fill a void in your heart.
So Tired of Being Lonely
There are so many singles around the world who can relate to the weary ache of loneliness. It is tempting to enter a relationship, or hold onto a relationship, to escape that empty feeling. Unfortunately many people date, marry, and then realize they are not only in a miserable marriage, but that they are still lonely – probably even more than before.
If you are experiencing loneliness, I would encourage you to write out a list of what you’re looking for in a relationship. I’m not suggesting you write out the eye and hair color you most desire in a mate, but what really matters to you in a potential mate. A relationship with Christ? A strong desire for children? A solid work ethic? Be honest with yourself about what you want in a mate and don’t compromise those needs and desires in an attempt to have a relationship. If you compromise what you truly desire, you will regret it.
Take time while you are in this single season to invest in friendships. Friends connect with us and validate us. When we need to pour out our hearts, friends are there. Friends make the best spouses, so seek to build good friendships with men and women. Join clubs, get involved in church groups, go to game nights – get out and meet people. That’s a lot harder for some people than others, but it’s necessary. We can’t wait at home for friends or love to find us. We have to be willing to meet people. Also, be sure not to neglect personal time with God. He is truly all we need.
Buy, Read, Apply!
Boundaries in Dating is full of useful, practical information, and they follow each chapter up with take away tips. I assure you that you will be blessed by it, so buy it, read it, and apply it to your relationships. Let us know what you think!
Have you ever stayed in a relationship to avoid being alone?