Once upon a time, I was the “cool” girlfriend. However, as I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve not only developed a sense of self-worth but some serious standards and boundaries in my relationships too. I thought that would make dating a lot harder but in reality, it actually made the men I dated—including the one who’s now my husband—respect me more.
I quit giving my number out to anyone who asked. There was a time when I didn’t hesitate to give my digits out to random guys. After all, even if I wasn’t interested in them romantically, I could always use more friends. I later came to realize that if I didn’t want to communicate with a dude any further, I could just say, “Sorry, I don’t give my number out to strangers.” Every single time they looked as if that’s precisely the response they expected and they gave me their numbers instead.
I refused to go on dates with guys I’m not interested in. The day I realized that I didn’t need to please everyone by being a yes woman all the time, I felt as free as a bird. It no longer made any sense to say I wanted to go out with someone if I didn’t. Actually, I realized it was insane to do so. Surprisingly, the guys I rejected thanked me for my honesty and for not wasting their time.
I was upfront about being ready for a serious relationship. Keep things cool, they say. Don’t talk about anything long-term or you’ll scare him away, they say. Whatever! When I stopped listening to “them” and looked to my heart, I finally began attracting men that wanted a relationship too. It’s true that I did scare emotionally unavailable men away, but that’s exactly the point.
I immediately shared that I wanted a family. Much like the previous boundary, my being open about what I wanted later on down the road made it much easier for men. They either wanted a family too or they didn’t. It was as simple as that. Not one man got upset with me for expressing that. If he wasn’t on the same page, he thanked me for my honesty. If he was, then he was likely already thinking about date number two.
I politely stated my values. I was over the party scene and I rarely drank. At the time, I was even vegan. You would think that would make most guys cringe, but you know who loved it? The guys that were over the party scene, rarely drank, and were conscious about their diets too. Honesty for the win.
I refused to make out until we got to know each other better. OK, now we’re getting to some serious boundaries. This isn’t the 1950s, so what gives? The reason is that once some physicality took place, I found myself becoming emotionally attached, whether a deeper connection warranted that attachment or not. “I would like to get to know you better before doing anything physical” became my go-to phrase. Not only did men respect my wishes, they appreciated knowing that I wasn’t making out with every guy I met.
I kept my Facebook status blank until I got engaged. Back in the early days, Facebook used to have a feature that displayed a little broken heart when one’s status changed from “in a relationship” to “single.” If that wasn’t horrendous enough, it would go out on the newsfeed of every friend and family member. I made the mistake of allowing that to happen twice before I decided no more. I told my next boyfriend that if he ever chose to put a ring on it, I would change my status then. Thankfully, he understood and putting a ring on it was already his plan.
I abstained from going all the way until I was ready. I just couldn’t go there again until I was sure it was with my future husband. Responses from men I dated were pleasantly surprising, containing a mix of awe and respect. Of course, some said that wouldn’t be for them. Others said they would be happy to wait. In this era of #metoo, perhaps women collectively need to understand that intimacy doesn’t need to be on anybody’s time frame but our own.
I consciously communicated my needs without judgment and attachment. Whether I was hungry for a bite to eat or I wanted my partner to take out the trash, I delivered it politely and without any judgment of him for not doing it in the first place. Men appreciate being kindly told by women what they want without being expected to read their minds. This boundary continues to be helpful in my marriage and all of my relationships.
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