Boundaries are meant to protect your relationship, not hinder or harm it. No matter how spiritually ‘tough’ we think we are, we all need them. We are all capable of hurting others and even falling into sin, especially sexual sin, even after receiving Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “So beware if you think it could never happen to you, lest your pride becomes your downfall.”
It’s with this same spiritual pride that I almost fell into sexual sin myself several times before marriage. So I know what kind of excuses we are capable of telling ourselves. As a single, I thought the relationship would not move forward if I was too strict or if I didn’t “lighten” up a bit with the boundaries. This was one of the tricks of the enemy in the garden from the very beginning.
With that being said, I want to give you seven questions to ask yourself before you set your relationship boundaries. Now, don’t get it twisted, there are boundaries in marriage and pretty much every relationship we have. However, these questions will help you avoid the pain that individuals experience before the altar so you don’t cross the line and bring extra baggage into your relationship. So, if you have a desire to be in a relationship or are in a serious relationship now, this article is for you.
What has not worked for me in the past?
This is where we have to be both honest with ourselves and transparent with our significant other. I would even say, “it’s time to get real.” Now, we generally know that some individuals have experimented with drugs, alcohol, and even sexual promiscuity in the past. We also know that continuing this behavior will lead to grave consequences. Being mature enough to see what has not worked for us in the past and putting the proper boundaries in place will bring meaningful relationships into our lives. Additionally, this might even mean putting people in our lives to hold us accountable in order to avoid going back down those paths that led us into the pit to begin with.
As a child, I remember being mischievous and disobeying my parents more times than not. I almost always got caught because I was not inconspicuous or even a good liar. Maybe my parents had eyes in the back of their heads or hired a professional spy to ‘catch’ me? Who knows.
Either way, as I grew older I realized that there were just certain things that triggered bad behavior and I needed to stay away from them. One being Instagram. I have put a lifetime ban on certain social media platforms. My wife handles most of the accounts and I don’t even know the passwords. You might think that’s extreme, but I am trying to protect the relationship with those I love. God first and then my wife.
So what are your triggers? What has gotten you in trouble in your romantic relationships in the past that has caused you to sin? Who are your triggers? Which people hinder your relationship with God every time you are around them? It’s time to get real because you can never build anything, especially a romantic relationship, on lies and pretense! John 8:32 says “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus is the Truth we should all seek to intimately know. Ask Jesus what are your triggers? I am confident He will gracefully reveal them to you.
What are my non-negotiables?
Going into my relationship with my wife, I had some non-negotiables. This is where your community can come in huge when it comes to things we just should not put up with. As we have discipled multiple couples, we have found that some people just don’t know this information. They were never taught about relationships and that they don’t have to ‘take’ certain messy situations and events. Messy is not normal and dysfunction is not either. So to help you with this question, I am going to give you three of my non-negotiables that you can take and make your own.
The first was not getting into a relationship with an abusive person. That was a big one for me because I had just left a “situationship” that was verbally toxic. You also do not want to be in a relationship that is physically or spiritually abusive either. You have a right to leave that dating relationship. You are worth more. Secondly, I said I didn’t want to be with someone who had a history of unfaithfulness. How can you find this out? You don’t rush into a relationship and you ask your romantic interest’s friends about them. If you get in a relationship with someone who is currently cheating to be with you, your relationship is just a mirror of what it will be like in the future. Save yourself heartache and just let that person go and allow both of you to heal.
Lastly, I did not want to be with an unbeliever. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” It’s unwise to join together with someone who doesn’t believe in the same things as you, especially something as important as faith. However, time and time again we see people disregard this principle and go down this path due to loneliness. God will never tell us to marry someone who is not a believer. What I say is that they can be an acquaintance, but this is not someone you should try to get in a serious relationship with at this present time. It’s just not wise. This will save you time and energy that you can spend serving the Lord instead of missionary dating. Been there and done that.
What are my physical boundaries?
I am just going to say it. God has called us to be sexually pure. And what I found out is that some people have never heard this before. So I will not assume you have heard it before either. In saying this, it is imperative to go back to question number two and really ask yourself what has not worked in the past? For me, I put myself in crazy situations and I told my then-girlfriend, now wife, that I would not step inside her place if no other human being was there to watch us. I didn’t trust myself because I failed at this in the past. So that was one of our first boundaries. You can check out one of these crazy situations in Chapter 4 of my book #CompletelySingle.
Also, we intentionally avoided physical hugs for long periods of time. You have to do what you have to do, not only to protect your purity and their purity but also your relationship with God.
Another thing you should consider is boundaries regarding your physical safety. About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner and reported an IPV-related impact during their lifetime. These statistics were taken in 2015 by CDC and were the latest I found. This is why we must slow down before we get in relationships just to see the character of the person. You don’t want to get harmed by someone who does not have self-control over their emotions and their physical body.
What are my spiritual boundaries?
Besides getting in a relationship with a believer, there are several other boundaries you must establish before entering a romantic relationship spiritually. One being not entertaining other belief systems. For some reason, this is popular in today’s culture to mix different belief systems and dogmas. We must understand that there is no other gospel.
Paul clearly shares this so eloquently in Galatians 1:6-10 which says,
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel —which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
This means you must set a boundary that guides you to worship God alone, not people, entertainers, or celebrity religious leaders and gurus.
Another spiritual practice to consider adopting is limiting how much time you spend praying alone with your significant other you are dating. Yes, this might sound silly but it is very wise. God created us as spiritual beings, and when we are intimately connecting and communicating with God, our hearts are also connecting intimately. I suggest you pray with your significant other, but spend more time praying with your accountability partner of the same gender more. This will protect you from creating spiritual ties that might affect your spiritual walk and adoration away from the Father. Oftentimes, couples become codependent with each other when it comes to their relationship with God. If they end up breaking up, their relationship with God is sometimes left broken as well.
What are my emotional boundaries?
Let’s face it, relationships are tough, especially when our emotions are involved. This is why creating boundaries surrounding your emotions is crucial in avoiding irrelevant arguments that are not beneficial for your relationship.
So, how can you ensure that your relationship is emotionally healthy and not emotionally draining? The first suggestion is to create a boundary of Christian couples or same-gendered friends who can speak the truth in love to you regarding your relational availability. You want to make sure you are healed and/or starting on the healing process before jumping into a serious relationship. This is a very mature and wise thing to do as you don’t want to bring any extra baggage into the relationship.
As we talked earlier, we don’t want to be in an abusive situation, but we also don’t want to abuse the other party. We have to always set boundaries on our emotions, actions, and habits. We don’t want to control or manipulate someone out of fear.
This boundary is all about the heart. Proverbs 15:13 says, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” In your relationships, you should always seek the joy of the Lord. He wants our relationships to be delightful and full of joy. Now, this does not mean you will never be sad again. But we can put ourselves in situations where we are always sad because we did not take time to put the proper boundaries in place to protect our joy.
A huge red flag in dating relationships that unhealthy emotional individuals usually say is, “They will eventually change. So I guess I’ll stay in this abusive/unhealthy relationship.” At this point, it is time to seek help or gracefully break off the relationship before someone gets hurt.
What are my verbal (communication) boundaries?
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)
I really want you to meditate on that scripture before we move on to this last question. I am a big advocate of taking responsibility for your own actions before expecting others to be accountable for theirs. In saying this, we must check and put boundaries on our tongue before expecting our significant other to. My wife and I went out on a date when we were courting, and covered some of these boundaries. A huge one was speaking on the phone late at night whether on Facetime or over the phone.
I had learned from the past that after a certain time at night I would say things to flirt, but God convicted me that these words were actually to entice her to sin with me. This is not wise and doesn’t bring God glory. Therefore, we agreed to get off the phone if we were tired, or by 12 midnight.
Some other things we should be on guard for is lying, gossiping, slander, or even using an angry tone. These are all things that can be discussed and defined on a date with your significant other about your boundaries.
Lastly, one major thing you should look out for is if a person is flatterer. Proverbs 26:28 says, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” That word flattery in the original language means a “smooth talker.” Let me warn you, there are tons of smooth talkers out there, and I encourage you to set boundaries to stay away from people like this. Why? Because these people will puff up your ego, which might cause pride and make you look past your non-negotiables.
I hope these seven questions helped you on your journey as you engage in romantic relationships. If you ever want to learn more about boundaries in dating, please check Dr. Henry Clouds and John Townsends’ book series on ‘Boundaries.’ It is an excellent resource. One thing I know is that boundaries can save your relationship before it starts!
Written by: Damien K. H. Nash is an Award-Winning Certified Growth Coach and the author of #CompletelySingle and the co-author of #CompletelyMarried. In 2019, he married his wife Kenady Nash. Kenady is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian in the state of Georgia. Damien and Kenady believe their purpose is to help people become healthy individuals and cultivate healthy relationships. Their YouTube Channel: “Damien and Kenady” is used to deliver content that supports this passion. Together, they enjoy traveling, speaking and dining at new restaurants. (Head over to claim a free book titled: How To Load Your Truck @ www.damienandkenady.com.)