Love Doctor's Blog

Dating Boundaries: What They Are and How To Use Them

Reddit’s Am I The Asshole sub has long been a source of entertainment for me. I won’t actually use the site – everyone I’ve met who uses Reddit is an insufferable know-it-all whose every word drips with condescension and white male supposed superiority – but other forms of social media seem to be keen to grab content from the site, so I get to see the juicy stuff there.

For those uninitiated, users of Reddit can post information about situations they’ve recently found themselves in and get a supposedly impartial audience to vote on whether they’re the asshole in this instance. It’s certainly not perfect, but it can be pretty entertaining. One of the subjects most commonly discussed is dating life, healthy relationships and dating boundaries.

What are Dating Boundaries? 

Dating boundaries are difficult. I would suggest that the more casual a relationship is, the more strictly one should stick to their boundaries. If nothing else, it’s a decent litmus test for potential partners: if you set boundaries and they immediately try to find their way around them, that’s a massive red flag. However, if you’ve been married for five years or are in a healthy long-term relationship, and the rule is ‘don’t call me at work’, but you’ve just found out that your partner’s mother was in a car crash, I think it’s probably ok if you don’t respect that relationship boundary in that instance.

What Was The Situation? 

Anyway. The situation on Reddit was this: a man and a woman went on a date. He was apparently mostly pleasant, aside from perhaps being a bit pompous. We’re only getting her side of the story, so be mindful of bias. He offers to walk her home, tries to make plans for the rest of the evening or the next day, and when she declines, he asks to use her bathroom instead. She declines.

Dating Boundaries

He gets annoyed and leaves. She thinks she might be an asshole. Reddit allows users to leave comments and vote in four different ways. These are 1) YTA (you’re the asshole), 2) NTA (not the asshole), 3) ESH (everyone sucks here) and 4) NAH (no assholes here). I personally think that there should be an IC (it’s complicated) option, but I digress. 

People who meet on dating sites and dating apps are, essentially, strangers. Whilst most of the time, things work out ok, it’s certainly not unheard of for someone to be attacked when all they wanted was a drink and possibly some casual sex. Therefore, lots of people, especially women, will have clear dating boundaries designed to ensure their own safety.

For the woman in this situation, it’s clear that she was not comfortable letting this man into her home, and when he becomes frustrated, she probably believes that she was right not to let him inn. Refusal to respect a boundary is clearly a warning sign.

What Would He Have Said? 

I do feel that we should attempt to consider things from this man’s perspective. He’s gone on a date, he clearly feels it’s gone well, and he offers to walk her home. He needs to use her bathroom. Does he have IBS, kidney stones, or just an uncomfortably full bladder? We don’t know. All he is aware of is the fact that this woman has denied him the opportunity to use the bathroom and, on top of his toilet requirement, this woman clearly doesn’t trust him enough to allow him into her home.

The immature reaction is to act annoyed and hurt, and the mature reaction is to hop from leg to leg and say that he understands and respects her boundaries, then go and piss in a bush. We know which option the man in question chose, but I do see why someone who is in discomfort would decide on the former path.

Perhaps it’s less the boundary and more the reaction to the boundary that is truly telling. If the man had taken the mature path, perhaps the woman would not have minded on the next date (which was much more likely) if he asked to use her bathroom again. I suppose we’ll never know. 

Conclusion 

Establishing emotional boundaries is so important for relationships. It helps ensure safety and can help with mental health, and encourages trust, respect and honest conversation. I would recommend that anyone who’s looking to start dating consider what they feel comfortable with and what they would certainly avoid. Also, be aware of other people’s boundaries and remember that how you react to them is telling (at best) and downright alarming at worst. 

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