Dating Boundaries After Divorce

Dating Boundaries After Divorce

BFFN: best friends for now; boyfriend for now.

So when you begin “dating” a new person how quickly do you become attached? How soon do you both actively use the word “boyfriend” or “girlfriend?” As you begin to lean into a new relationship the boundaries between you can become very abstract and blurry. This lack of boundaries or inability to articulate what we need or want is the cause of many early dating failures. I recall a woman, years ago, who had given me her phone number after a stellar first date, saying, “We should just hang out sometime. Call me.”

I was so thrilled that I emailed her a few times. I connected to her phone # and sent her a few texts. I thought I was being enthusiastic. She thought I was going way to fast. “You need to slow your roll,” is how she put it. We never made it to a second date. I don’t know what boundary I crossed, or what previous dating experience had caused her to be so dramatic in her pushback.

As I am entering into some new “dating” relationships I want to get very clear about what my needs are.

  1. I don’t need a rescue.
  2. I don’t need financial support.
  3. I don’t need someone to validate me.
  4. I don’t need a support system. (see Liz Phair: Support System)
  5. I don’t need to move quickly towards defining the relationship.
  6. I’m not heading for a hookup. (When I decide to have sex, it will be because I am choosing you above all others, and I will immediately become monogamous and drop all dating profiles and apps.)
  7. My intentions are set for a long-term relationship, not a dating partner.
  8. You must be on your own path of strength and beauty.
  9. You don’t need me to support you emotionally, financially, or spiritually. (These are parts of a relationship that might evolve, but at the outset, we need to be two individual countries engaged in becoming allies and trading partners.)
  10. Your sexual energy enlivens and engages my chemistry in a way that we both enjoy.

I’m not looking for a lot. I’m looking for exactly EVERYTHING. There is no “almost” in my next relationship. And I am willing to stand in and be a good celibate man until I find her.

How you define your boundaries early in the relationship is how you will relate to each other for the duration. If you cross boundaries and violate minor issues of trust, you will break the fragile bond that is forming between the two of you, even before the first fibers of love have begun to form and enmesh.

As Brené Brown puts it in her talk on BRAVING, you develop trust and love through hundreds of tiny engagements and opportunities. You either show up or you turn away. I am showing up. My next mate must show up too. First for her own life. Is she standing in her own power, her own dream? And then as an equal, as she considers joining together and combining forces.

I want to be a better man by being with a woman who calls me to attention and accountability. Today, I am alone and doing fine. I am doing some of the hard work of healing past wounds (mine have to do with childhood trauma) and celebrating a positive self-image. As I learn about loving myself, I am readying a place in my heart to love another.

I’m not quite there yet. But I’m excited by the opportunities ahead to become someone’s BFFN. The “for now” part is critical. I can’t plan the future of my next relationship. I can only show up, be honest, and remain open. The other person has 50% of the balance in how things turn out. In the past I have tried to be bigger than my 50%, I have compensated for the qualities that were lacking in the other person, I’ve sacrificed some of my must-haves. I’ve learned that being unbalanced in any way (sexually, financially, physically, spiritually) can cause problems in the future.

Let’s keep returning to the now of our relationship. Sure, let’s become girlfriend and boyfriend and then let’s see where it goes from there.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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