My friend messaged me, “If I don’t want a wife and kids, am I fucked?”
When I probed him for more information, the deeper issue turned out to be that, whenever he had sexual relations with a woman, they would never turn into long-lasting relationships.
He thought, why bother having a wife and kids if women kept screwing him over?
Does this sound familiar for you smart, successful, and fiercely independent millennial STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) ladies?
You meet someone, go on a few dates, decide you like the person enough to sleep with them, sleep with them, and then they disappear.
You might feel used; you regret ever being vulnerable and sharing your body with this person, as it was all for nothing.
You might start distrusting men and forming gremlins, assumptions, interpretations, and limiting beliefs (GAILs) that keep you from finding love.
Yes, it goes both ways (for men and women), and I’d argue there’s a silver-bullet solution to keeping people from using you.
What are boundaries?
In the dating context, I like to look at boundaries as metaphorical shields that protect you from harm, or “imaginary lines” that have danger or discomfort on one side and safety on the other.
Or you can look at them as rules for governing behavior, at least within your control.
I really learned about boundaries one time when I went on a first date and, when we called it a night, the guy started making out with me in the car and grabbed my boob.
Of course, I felt violated. What he did was totally inappropriate, and oddly enough, I let it happen.
I was afraid that if I rejected his advancement, then he would ignite with rage and do something he would regret.
Such is the mind of some of us women.
With 20/20 hindsight, I realized that encounter was a borderline “#MeToo” moment coming from a nerdy guy with poor social skills.
It was also an awakening telling me that I shouldn’t have allowed it to happen if I didn’t want it to happen.
It was within my control to stop him.
Henceforth, I was more assertive about my needs with every date after that, weeding out the bad apples who didn’t want to comply.
Boundaries = Managing Expectations
Returning to my friend’s dilemma: Every potential relationship that failed to launch because those women would fuck and dump him was a missed opportunity to set boundaries and manage expectations.
I would argue that setting boundaries and managing expectations are nearly inseparable.
Basically, if you set boundaries, you can expect the “good” (wo)men to stick around and the “bad” ones to disappear.
If you don’t set boundaries, you can expect to be used and abused or be okay with one-night-stands and other hookups.
Plain and simple.
If you’re not ready to sleep with someone because you want to feel out the relationship, then it’s your job to communicate that.
You can expect a couple of possible outcomes, like a numbers game:
- He’s not interested in waiting (and therefore, maybe not worth keeping around)
- He thinks you’re worth the wait (and therefore, probably worth keeping around)
If he waits and then pressures you, assess how you feel about that, communicate it to him with “I” statements (for example, “I feel uncomfortable and pressured when you…”), and go from there.
As the CEO of your love life, you’re welcome to hire or fire the intern ;-).
And when you set boundaries, you’re setting the stage for a rock-solid relationship.
That’s how you can date smarter in a world of bad advice and sexism, STEM ladies.
More on setting boundaries:
Pro Dating Tip: Manage Expectations and Have Boundaries (written by yours truly)
Are you having trouble setting boundaries in your dating life? Have you had any success? Do you agree or disagree with this article? Comment below or reach out to me in a safe space.