Cher once said: ‘My experience with men is great because I pick them because I like them. I don’t need them.’
It’s solid advice: when we get romantically or sexually involved with someone, if we feel we need them, we’re likely going to let our boundaries get trampled on.
That’s especially true if it’s a situationship in which asking to be treated well might feel at odds with the casual nature of it.
But reader, it isn’t at odds at all.
Caroline Plumer, psychotherapist as CPPC London, says: ‘Boundaries are vital in all relationships, whether that be romantic, platonic, familial, with colleagues or even with ourselves.
‘They ensure we feel emotionally (and physically) safe and are not put in a position where we feel disrespected or mistreated.’
And yet, often people approach the respect they give to be in parallel with the seriousness of the connection. In reality, respect and tolerating boundaries should simply be a basic in human interaction – be it a one night stand or a fully fledged relationship.
Boundaries and asks in casual dating might include things like: mutual effort and planning around meet ups, being open about sexual health statuses, and being replied to in a reasonable amount of time.
But it can seem challenging to implement these fundamental things we all know we deserve when the relationship in question isn’t solid.
Caroline says: ‘For many of us, when we try to set a boundary, our people pleasing urge kicks in.
‘We become more concerned about upsetting or offending someone else, than about protecting ourselves.
‘Particularly when it comes to romantic relationships (however casual), we may worry about “scaring them off” or being “too much”.
‘If someone doesn’t want to respect your boundaries, or give you what you reasonably need, then this probably isn’t the person or situation for you.’
A friend recently shared that in a new dating situation, she wasn’t happy with the length of time he would take to reply – but rather than set a parameter here, she’s continued to tolerate something that doesn’t suit her. We’ve all fallen victim to failing to advocate for ourselves sometime or other.
The answer here to having more fulfilling casual encounters, lies in self-esteem.
‘Boundaries show others how we want and expect to be treated, and as such are closely tied to how much we value ourselves,’ Caroline says.
‘The best boundaries often have some degree of flexibility but if you are constantly letting others violate them, or are slipping into people pleasing mode, you are probably valuing other’s needs above your own.
‘This reinforces the idea – for you and for others – that you are not worth valuing and respecting in the way you would like to be.’
An early study into Tinder found that users had lower levels of self-worth and were more ashamed of their bodies than those not dating on the app.
Caroline says when we feel like this, boundaries become harder to set.
‘Setting boundaries is often scary, but it often becomes easier – and empowering – the more we practice it,’ she explains.
‘Remind yourself that you deserve to be treated with respect, think about what that looks like for you and then work backwards from there – what do you need to put in place to ensure you are valued as you should be?
‘If someone doesn’t like it, it’s probably time to move on.
‘Boundaries will look different for everyone, but a relatively good rule of thumb is, it shouldn’t be one rule for you, and a completely different rule for the other person.
‘If one of you is putting in all the legwork, or expects exclusivity from the other whilst dating around themselves, then that probably isn’t acceptable and even within the parameters of a casual relationship, likely needs a rethink.’
And what to do if you set a boundary and it’s ignored?
‘If you are confident your boundaries and requests are reasonable, and more importantly, are what you need to feel safe and respected, it’s time to end the situation,’ Caroline urges.
‘You may sometimes have to explain the “why” of your requests, and I do think it helps to be willing to do so to help others understand your needs, and you may even at times negotiate to find an acceptable middle ground.’
But ultimately, you shouldn’t feel your self-respect has gone out the window for a date or hook-up.
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