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For Dating: Boundaries

So, you have that one attractive co-worker. Or maybe he's a friend of a friend. Or maybe you met online and things have been going well.

But then it happens.

You notice the shift, ever-so-slightly, from enthusiastic and consistent communication silence. Or bread crumbs. Or cryptic messages and a "maybe, maybe not" kind of tone. You become a bit uneasy. You don't like it.


Background: Relationships have something called a "pursue-withdraw" dynamic. That is, sometimes there is a partner who will infuse more activating energy into the relationship: they are the one who is first to initiate conversation after an argument, or first to say what they are truly feeling. Then you have the withdrawer: the person who may feel uncomfortable with confrontation and, consequently, shut down or back away. It's not that they don't want harmony and peace...they just seek that peace by removing themselves from the stressful situation. It could be that you are naturally a pursuer, naturally a withdrawer, or both - depending on the relationship you're in.

If you are currently the pursuer, you may meet this person's distancing with anxious grabs for their attention. You'll text more, call more, do whatever is necessary to reel them back in. It's human nature. You enjoyed what was happening, and you don't want it to stop.

If you are also a withdrawer (I say "also" because distancing, in and of itself, is a type of withdrawal), you may meet this occurrence with trying to stuff your feelings, shut them down, pretend you didn't care. You may meet this person's attempts to re-connect with coldness or a taste of their own medicine.


Either way, the delicate dance of dating can evoke feelings that grate on our insecurities. Whatever your tactic is, I'll invite you to consider this: stop saving space. Space in your schedule (time), space in your heart (emotions), space in your future.

I was listening to a podcast by Justin and Abi Stumvoll and one of their comments jumped out to me: relationships can be resurrected. As followers of the Christian faith, Justin and Abi believe this strongly. And, as a therapist, my entire profession revolves around the idea that rebirth, renewal, resurrection can happen. Broken relationships can be repaired. Marriages can live again. Sexuality can survive and thrive anything. That's why we sit in the room across from people hurting deeply; we believe in resurrection.

All that to say: it's okay to stop saving space for the person who is unsure if they want to occupy it. If it needs to be resurrected, it can. If not, you still can have life abundantly.

Letting go does not mean giving up. It is a form of setting healthy boundaries for yourself, so that you can be full and free to love as recklessly as you'd like to - when the time is right. In dating, we are trying to ascertain if the time is right to move into committed, generous partnership - and if this person will make a suitable companion. You can't fully make that choice if it is coming from a place of desperation, of not believing your worth, of being boundary-less, of not requiring that person to respect you.

It is okay to let go, because if seasons change and that person does decide to approach you in a new fashion, the relationship can resurrect. Or even be brand new. You'll be healthy and ready to invite them in. You won't be stewing in a place of bitterness. You'll be able to enjoy a relationship where they choose you, and you also choose them. Choice can only exist when our boundaries are present.

And, if you let go and they drift off - you are free to chose again. I'm not going to take away what this person or your time with them has meant to you. Loss of a relationship can hurt. But only for a time.

In time (much like winter to spring), the grounds will thaw, the birds will chirp, the soil will warm. You heart will be open again. Your energy will be inviting to positive energy.

Letting go and refusing to save space for someone who is unsure if they want to be at the table is just one way you can uphold a boundary that reflects how you feel about yourself. Or, maybe you feel it is more appropriate to save just a little bit of space...

Either way, go. Live. Be. Date. Explore.

As great philosophers Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line declared: "If it's meant to be, it'll be... so baby, just let it be."


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