There are lots of ways that dating suffers when freedom and responsibility are not appropriately present. Here are a few of them.
Loss of Freedom to Be Oneself
Sometimes, one person will give up her identity and lifestyle to keep a relationship together. Then, when her true feelings emerge, the other person doesn’t like who she is, having never been exposed to her real self. Heather, in the introductory illustration, had lost some of her freedom in this way.
Being with the Wrong Person
When we have well-developed boundaries, we are more drawn to healthy, growing people. We are clear about what we will tolerate and what we love. Good boundaries run off the wackos and attract people who are into responsibility and relationships. But when our boundaries are unclear or undeveloped, we run the risk of allowing people inside who shouldn’t be there.
Dating from Inner Hurt Rather Than Our Values
Boundaries have so much to do with our values, and what we believe and live out in life. When our boundaries are clear, our values can dictate what kinds of people fit the best. But often, people with poor boundaries have some soul-work to do, and they unknowingly attempt to work it out in dating. Instead of picking people because of their values, they react to their inner struggles and choose in some devastating ways. For example, a woman with controlling parents may be drawn to controlling men. Conversely, another woman with the same sort of background may react the opposite way, picking passive and compliant men to never be controlled. Either way, the hurt part inside is picking, not the values.
Sadly, some people who want to be dating are on the sidelines, wondering if they will ever find anyone, or if anyone will find them. This is often caused by boundary conflicts when people withdraw to avoid hurt and risk and end up empty-handed.
Doing Too Much in the Relationship
Many people with boundary problems overstep their bounds and don’t know when to stop giving of themselves. They will put their lives and hearts on hold for someone, only to find out that the other person was willing to take all that, but never really wanted to deeply commit. Good boundaries help you know how much to give, and when to stop giving.
Freedom without Responsibility
Freedom must always be accompanied by responsibility. When one person enjoys the freedom of dating and takes no responsibility for himself, problems occur. Someone who is “having his cake and eating it too” in his dating relationship is in this category. This is Todd’s situation. He enjoyed Heather but didn’t want to take any responsibility to develop the relationship, though a great deal of time had passed.
More often than not, one person wants to get serious sooner than another. Sometimes in this situation, the more serious person attempts to rein in the other person by manipulation, guilt, domination, and intimidation. Love has become secondary, and control has become primary.
Not Taking Responsibility to Say No
This describes the “nice guy” who allows disrespect and poor treatment by his date, and either minimizes the reality that he is being mistreated or simply hopes that one day she will stop. He disowns his responsibility to set a limit on bad things happening to him.
Couples often have difficulty keeping appropriate physical limits. They either avoid taking responsibility for the issue, or one person is the only one with the “brakes,” or they ignore the deeper issues that are driving the activity. There are many more ways that dating can become a misery because of freedom and responsibility problems. We will go over many of them in the book. And, as you will see, understanding and applying boundaries in the right ways can make a world of difference in how you approach the dating arena.