By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
Do you remember your first crush, the heady experience of really enjoying the attention of another person? A special person seemed to really like you and you liked them.
Some studies note that one of the primary reasons we connect to another person is because they like us. They like us! Of all the people on the planet, they like us.
Perhaps you are dating and considering when to connect with another and when to turn down a request for your time. Perhaps you are looking for a friend and must answer the same question. What do I do if someone really likes me and wants more of my time and attention?
But, go slowly here. There are obvious problems with this equation. Just because someone likes us does not mean they are a good fit for us. Just because they have chosen us out of the 8 billion people on the planet does not mean this is a match made in heaven.
So, how should we respond when someone likes us? What are some precautions we can take when entering the dating field? What are some of the pitfalls and how can we avoid them?
Recently a writer sent a question addressing concerns surrounding this issue.
Dear Dr. David,
I have been talking with a man for four weeks through texts and phone conversations. He has not even met me yet and he is telling me that he loves me. Although he seems to be a nice man, I feel very rushed. How do I handle this?
Denise’s story is all of our stories, in a manner of speaking. While we may not be dating, we have requests for our time and attention. We have someone who shows an interest in us. What are some considerations?
First, having healthy boundaries are each of our responsibilities.
It is critical to understand that we are responsible for setting boundaries that protect us. It is not up to others to know what we want and need and ensure that we get it. Don’t expect that. They are likely focusing on themselves and while they may care for us, they are seeking to meet their own needs. We must take ownership of how our life is going and make decisions accordingly.
Boundaries are a natural part of God’s laws. He set boundaries for us, defining what he expects from us and yet allowing us freedom to act in any way we choose---with certain consequences being the result.
Second, boundaries are not something we have or don’t have. They are cultivated.
I have decided that boundary work is an ongoing process. Even after reading many books on the topic (and even writing one), I still have work to do. Boundary work is played out in the messiness of life and relationships. Learn to embrace the work, noticing where your boundaries are strong and function effectively and where they are weak and leave you vulnerable. Your feelings will be strong signals as to how your boundaries are working.
Notice in Denise’s story that she feels rushed, a strong signal that something is amiss. However, she subtly puts the onus on him as if he should do something different. We teach people how to treat us, and so it is up to her to practice boundary-setting, teaching this man that his actions are not okay. She must inform him how she wants to be treated and take note of his response.
Third, healthy boundaries require healthy thinking and judgment.
To make healthy choices regarding boundaries, we must have a healthy self-concept, one that says, “I am a child of God’s and have a responsibility to take good care of this life that has been given to me.” Subsequently, when others are impatient, pushy or demanding with their agenda, we must set firm boundaries and inform others that this behavior will not be tolerated. This action arises out of healthy thinking and healthy thinking brings clarity, conviction and control of our life.
Fourth, healthy boundaries are sharp, well-defined and can hurt.
Few people like the word “no.” When others want something from us, they have an energy and determination to get it. When those desires are at cross-purposes with what we determine is best for us, there will be tension. We must push back, leading to temporary uneasiness. We must say, “This is not okay for me.” We cannot control others, but we certainly can determine what we allow into our lives. Telling another person what we will tolerate and what we will not tolerate defines who we are and offers others invaluable information. They get to decide what they will do with it.
Denise can inform this man that he is moving far too fast for her comfort. She need not outwardly judge his actions, but can inform him what she will tolerate and what she will not. His response to her choices will offer her a lot of information about whether she wants to progress forward with him.
Finally, healthy boundaries offer protection.
Healthy boundaries allow us to feel relatively safe in this world. We have the power to choose who we allow into our lives and how close to let them. We can erect boundaries of sufficient strength so that others get a clear message about who we are, what we prefer and what we want different. We can then assess whether others will respect those boundaries. If they do not, they are unsafe to us and we need to make decisions accordingly. Those who respect and even admire our decisions and choices may be people we allow closer. These people have the possibility of becoming friends, or more and step by step we can define how we will allow this relationship to unfold.
Do you struggle with boundaries? Do you speak up when others infringe on what you’ve declared is important to you? We are also available to help and would like to hear from you. We at The Marriage Recovery Center are prepared to walk with you through any challenges. Please feel free to contact me at MarriageRecoveryCenter.com or email us at [email protected].
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Jonathan J Castellon