How to Set Boundaries When Getting Back Out There

If you ask nearly anyone, they’ll admit that dating can be difficult. Finding the right person can feel like a huge game of Hide-and-Seek. Your dream partner is concealed somewhere in the crowd, and you just keep looking. It’s understandable if you get frustrated and bow out for a while.

Now that you’ve taken a dating scene break, though, you may be ready to get back out there. This time, you probably want to avoid much of the ridiculousness that comes with partner searching. It sounds like a great idea, right? So, how do you do it?

Before you dip your toe back into the dating pool, think seriously about setting boundaries. They can keep you from investing time in the wrong person. Plus, they protect your feelings. Consider these six tips as you’re getting back out there.

1. Be Clear About Physical Intimacy

In a world of swiping left or right, the idea of hooking up is appearing earlier in conversations. More people are cutting to the chase about what you will and won’t do on a first date. Don’t get surprised by this question. If you don’t have an answer, you may make a decision you’ll regret later.

Before you accept any dates, think seriously about your comfort level with first-date intimacy. Are you OK with holding hands or a goodnight kiss? Maybe going further is acceptable if you really click with someone. Only you know how to set this boundary. The important thing is to stick with it, and don’t give in to any pressure.

It’s also safest to take steps to protect yourself. If you’re just venturing back into dating, preventing pregnancy is likely a priority. There are lots of options out there, so find the one that works best for you. A birth control subscription makes it easy to keep protection on hand.

2. Go at Your Speed

Even after you find someone you want to see again, it’s completely acceptable to stick with your own speed. Just because you’re “dating,” it doesn’t mean you must hit the gas pedal. Don’t let anyone push you into making a relationship too serious too fast.

This could mean you design your first few dates in specific ways. Choose locations where you can sit and talk. Getting to know how the other person thinks and what’s important to them is valuable. Consider spending time doing activities. It’s a great way to find out whether you have shared interests. Controlling the speed of the relationship this way can set you up for future romantic success.

3. Explain Your Communication Style

It’s amazing when you discover you have off-the-charts chemistry with someone. But all the fireworks in the world will fizzle if you can’t communicate well. People communicate in different ways, so talk about expectations with your potential partner.

Be clear about what you expect for communication from the beginning. Are you a texter? Do you prefer phone calls? Does meme-bombing bother you? You can avoid being overwhelmed or overwhelming the other person with this simple conversation. If your relationship blossoms, your digital communication will likely evolve. Still, setting parameters around communication from the get-go is helpful.

4. Talk About Personal Space

Yes, you’re back in the dating scene. That means you could be looking for a long-term partner — someone to share your life with. That’s awesome, but it doesn’t mean you must give up all your “me time.” Doing that can be unhealthy, so think seriously about what your personal space needs are.

Perhaps you need a few hours a day or days a week to yourself. It could be your way to recharge your batteries. Are you comfortable sharing private information like your email or phone password? If the answer is no, that’s perfectly acceptable. Just be sure you’ve thought seriously about your personal space boundaries because you don’t want to feel smothered.

5. Be Honest About Deal-Breakers

Everyone has a few things they’re willing to compromise on for the right partner. There are also some factors that are legitimate deal-breakers. You need to know what yours are. It’s critical that you’re honest about those boundaries from the beginning with anyone you date.

It doesn’t matter if it’s smoking, drinking, or even using plastic bags at the grocery store. You’re allowed to draw the line somewhere. Explain your deal-breakers as part of a calm conversation. Remember to be respectful during the discussion — don’t be rude or judgmental. Then, turn the table. Ask your potential partner about their deal-breakers, as well. It’s good information that you should know before you decide if you’re a good fit.

6. Be Open About Your Dating Goals

A decision to venture back into the dating scene could mean you’re looking for something more serious this time. If so, set some parameters that can help you find someone who’s looking for the same thing. That will make it much easier to release all the fish in the sea who are just looking for a fling.

On the first date — or in a pre-date conversation — discuss your long-term goals. Let the other person know if you’re searching for “the one.” If they aren’t, you can part ways on a friendly note. This way, no one feels duped or gets their feelings hurt. At the very least, if you have shared interests, you may make a new friend.

Dating in the adult world can be complicated and frustrating. If you’re jumping back into the dating pool after some time away, it can also be confusing. Don’t stress too much, though. Go ahead and set some boundaries for yourself. With these parameters in place, it can be easier to zero in on what you’re looking for in a partner.