Nothing is more exciting than casual dating.
Being with a person you like with zero strings attached is an electrifying feeling.
For many of us, hooking up is a way to escape the responsibilities of traditional relationships. That usually means staying a little reckless for just a little longer before we eventually commit. To involve personal growth in casual dating is – the way we hear – to take all the fun out of the experience.
However, boundaries are way too important, and here’s why.
What does it mean to have healthy boundaries?
In romantic relationships and life, we need boundaries to know where we end and where the other person begins. Failing to set clear boundaries and communicate them to other people is always detrimental to our emotional health. It often leaves us feeling vulnerable and defenseless.
Look at it this way:
We often talk about emotional maturity in terms of wholeness – when someone is happy and fulfilled, we say that person is whole. When we get hurt and heal, we’re whole again. When we find love, the feeling of completeness that comes with being loved back makes us whole.
To be whole or complete is to be rounded and fully developed in all aspects.
However, wholeness needs boundaries to keep it from dissolving.
Boundaries are our personal limits. They’re a stretch of our confidence and comfort. A person with healthy boundaries is the opposite of defenseless, but you can also set boundaries for yourself to know what limits not to cross. In that sense, boundaries keep us from being self-destructive.
Setting boundaries is not about building walls
Passionate people like their extremes. If you’ve ever been hurt by somebody you’ve loved with every atom of your being, you know what we’re talking about. After being hurt in a relationship, we usually have a strong impulse to isolate and never let anyone in ever again.
The harder you love, the more you get hurt, and the less you want to love again.
In some cases, flirting with extremes can turn into a serious problem. Some people never recover and choose to stay isolated and alone inside their emotional closets. It’s important to note that building walls around you is not the same as establishing emotional boundaries.
True, both can protect us from being hurt.
However, building walls means never trying to love or be loved again.
Building boundaries is something different. It means learning from hurtful experiences and applying that newfound knowledge to future relationships. If you’ve been hurt because you didn’t know how to say no, setting boundaries is about not repeating the same mistake in the future.
How boundaries affect our emotional wellbeing
Think of boundaries as rules of engagement. They tell people how we expect them to behave around us, as well as what is appropriate and what is not. Now, some people will openly choose not to respect your boundaries. Trust us when we say you don’t need that kind of person in your life.
Never give up on your boundaries for anyone or any reason.
And here’s why:
- Healthy boundaries are self-esteem keepers. They will help you build and ooze confidence.
- Having boundaries is about respect – when you respect yourself, others will respect you too.
- Respecting your own boundaries will help you become more mature and self-dependent.
- Having clear boundaries means knowing who you are and what you want from other people.
- When you define boundaries for yourself, you simultaneously define and solidify your identity.
- Boundaries will make you emotionally strong and protect you from being emotionally abused.
Psychologically speaking, this is the foundation of being your own person.
We often say that you can’t expect to be loved if you don’t love yourself first. That’s precisely what that means – there is no reason to expect other people to have respect and care for your emotional wellbeing if you don’t have respect and care for yourself either. We also say – you, do you.
How to establish clear boundaries as a casual dater
Do we dare say that establishing boundaries is easier in casual relationships?
Take it as one of many sweet, sweet advantages of hookups.
Who doesn’t get carried away when there’s love involved? Add respect, partnership, and friendship to the mix, stir until combined, and you have a traditional relationship where you can’t separate one person from another. Setting boundaries with people we love is excruciatingly hard.
In fact, that’s yet another reason to try casual dating first.
Take it as a fun opportunity to get to know your boundaries in terms of personal space, communication, and intimacy. It’s a sexy way to understand your limits, if you haven’t already, and practice setting them for other people. Communicating this will potentially be the most challenging part.
So don’t put it off.
Get over that before the first date, so you can relax and enjoy yourself later.
1. Being upfront about your expectations
A hookup can quickly turn awkward if you’re not confident about what you want.
That means knowing exactly the kind of person and relationship you’re looking for. Are you in the mood for making out with zero strings attached, or do you want to get to know your date before the chitchat turns into sexy talk? What about sex?
If you’re new to casual dating, we should mention that hooking up doesn’t necessarily mean having sex. It’s a common misconception, just as many people believe that casual dating is reckless and immature. If you don’t want sex, that’s perfectly okay.
However, you need to know and establish that before the first date.
If you’re excited about things heating up sexually (and, to be honest, most of us are), then you need to figure out the level of emotional involvement. Do you want to keep texting for a while, or do you prefer getting casual with people you don’t know as much about?
(Please don’t forget that hooking up with complete strangers might be risky.)
All in all, you have a lot of fun questions to answer. Would you want to keep seeing your date, or do you like one-off encounters better? How long before the first date? Are you okay with polygamy, or do you want to be casual but exclusive? In casual dating, every nuance is allowed.
Where are the boundaries in all this?
All these preferences will be your personal casual dating etiquette.
In the context of casual relationships, these are your boundaries. You need to set them for yourself first to communicate them clearly to your dates. When both you and your partner know what you’re comfortable with, you can’t get disappointed or hurt.
2. Drawing a line for everyone involved
Preferences are about adjusting your expectations. If your date makes you feel comfortable enough and you’re in a safe and healthy place, you should be free to try something new every once in a while. You may prefer strawberries with cream, but dark chocolate might be fun too.
Let’s talk about hard no’s first.
These are your allergies – the things you should never try out, no matter how comfortable you feel.
For example, the topics you never want to talk about.
If you prefer your casual relationships with absolutely no emotions on top (aside from respect, because that’s a must), you might not be okay with sharing personal things from your life or hearing about your partner’s feelings and problems. It’s only fair to make that clear from day one.
A good-mannered “Sorry, but I don’t like talking about that” should do.
If your date keeps insisting on it, politely explain that whatever they want to know is off-topic. However, if they get pushy, that’s a red flag that your boundaries are not being respected. It’s better to excuse yourself from such a relationship than to feel cornered and victimized.
Let’s not forget casual dating should be fun.
Setting clear boundaries for deal-breakers is especially important in a sexual context.
Don’t like to be touched in some places or in certain ways? Want to make sure your partner is wearing protection? Know from experience that some positions are uncomfortable or painful for you? Think about this carefully – the more rules you have, the safer you’ll feel.
Your sexual taboos are the epitome of personal boundaries. Never let anyone break them unless there’s love and trust involved. Breaking sexual boundaries is something you should definitely leave for a steady relationship. Only a stable partner will know to appreciate that in the right way.
Except, of course, if you don’t mind experimenting in casual relationships.
3. A few words on emotional flexibility
So far, we’ve talked about two types of personal boundaries in casual dating. One is preferences, and the other is taboos. Defining your preferences for hookups is important because you don’t want to waste anyone’s time – not for yourself and not for the other person.
Here’s a scenario to help explain this. Shyness turns you off, and you know that about yourself. Despite having clear preferences and being aware of them, you keep texting that shy guy from your dating app. A couple of weeks later, you decide it was never going to work out after all.
Now reverse roles and see how you feel.
Instead of wasting that sweet guy’s time and potentially hurting his feelings, you could have simply said you’re not interested. If you really liked texting him, and hear us out here, perhaps you could have readjusted your expectations and pushed your boundaries just a little.
Here’s the right way to handle this scenario so that nobody gets hurt:
“Hey, I’m under the impression that you’re a shy person, but I like talking to you anyway. However, I’ve had some experiences with shy people before and found it hard to connect with them sexually. I’m willing to try it, but I can’t guarantee anything. Are you up for it?”
As long as you’re upfront and considerate, you can have flexible boundaries.
In another scenario, an amazing girl from your dating app is trying to convince you to have a threesome with that other guy she likes. You’re not okay with that arrangement, but you enjoy spending time with her, and you give in anyway. You feel awkward, uncomfortable, and embarrassed.
Dating apps have an age limit for a reason: casual dating requires a certain emotional maturity that comes from experience. You know perfectly well what your limits and taboos are. If you decide to break them anyway, your sense of identity will suffer.
Some boundaries are simply less flexible than others.
Defining and setting your boundaries is as challenging as growing up.
However, casual dating is so good for practicing this. It allows you the freedom to explore and experience. Most of us don’t know what we like before trying it all, but almost all of us know what we don’t like. There’s a thin line between preferences and taboos, but you’ll be able to recognize it.
Oh, and another thing.
Casual dating sometimes, though very rare, leads to real love.
At the same time, not falling in love is where many casual daters draw a line. That’s their boundary. By choosing to cross it, you’re risking getting hurt. Please be careful about this, but if this is your boundary as well, we say make it a flexible one. You may end up hurt, but what if you don’t?
When love is the alternative, there’s only the illusion of choice. Be safe and good luck!