Boundaries, Preferences, and Dating

Before I gave my life back to Christ I dated, a lot; and to be honest I had the completely wrong idea about what dating was. After Christ, I read Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships, (which is mentioned on my resources page) and learned a lot of things that I wish I’d know years prior. I really suggest if you’ve never read the book, do it! It’s so worth it!

After I rededicated my life to Christ I was single for quite a while before I began really dating my now current boyfriend. I was lonely sometimes, but I used the time to deepen my relationship with Christ and grow in my responsibilities at church. When I finally did re-enter the dating scene, I made sure to go back and re-read the book with a friend as a refresher. While I recommend you read the entire book, one of the chapters in particular stood out to me this morning, Chapter 6: What You Can Live With and What You Can Live Without.

When you begin dating another individual there are many important aspects to consider, and some things are much more important than others. The authors of Boundaries in Dating, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend state that many people are too rigid in their dating preferences and tend to close themselves off to some good options; they state that “there are basically four areas we want you to examine in dating:

  1. Some of your preferences might be too limiting, and you need to be more open.
  2. Some preferences are more important than you might realize, and you should value them.
  3. Some imperfections are minor, and you might have to learn to deal with them.
  4. Some imperfections are major, and you should not ever have to live with them. They are totally off limits” (Cloud & Townsend, 2000, p. 93).
My boyfriend and I at a local pumpkin patch, Oct. 2014.

My boyfriend and I at a local pumpkin patch, Oct. 2014.

Everybody has preferences in a dating partner, but we need to recognize the difference between the traits that are necessary to a healthy relationship and those that aren’t, or even more important, those which can actually harm the relationship or individuals involved. We want to be sure to date someone with whom we share common interests, goals and values, for instance, but the fact that he doesn’t look like a supermodel or that she doesn’t enjoy sports, aren’t deal breakers. We can also deal with minor imperfections. As Dr. Cloud and Townsend state,

No one is perfect. Every person that you date will be a person who will sin and let you down. There is no Prince Charming that has it all together. So give up that fantasy. However, as you evaluate the people you date, remember a few things. First, there are sinners that you can live with. Those are people who have the ability to see when they have wronged you, to confess it, to care about how they have hurt you, and to work hard not to continue in that pattern. Anyone who sees where he or she is wrong and tries to change is on the right path and can probably be trusted if that path is not just a momentary turnaround. If it is truly a path and is continued upon for the long term, that is a good sign.

However, there are also major imperfections that we can’t and shouldn’t live with. I’m going to end this post with a list of destructive personal and interpersonal traits that are to be avoided. If these “occur infrequently, you may be able to work through them if your date will take ownership, confess, and work on himself. But if these things are a pattern, and there is no ownership, sorrow, and repentance then watch out” (Cloud & Townsend, 2000, p. 103).

Destructive Personal Traits

  • Acts like he has it all together instead of admitting weakness and imperfection.
  • Is religious instead of spiritual.
  • Is defensive instead of open to feedback.
  • Is self-righteous instead of humble.
  • Apologizes instead of changes.
  • Avoids working on problems.
  • Demands trust instead of proving himself trustworthy.
  • Lies instead of telling the truth.
  • Is stagnant and not growing.
  • Is an addict.
  • Is duplicitous.

Destructive Interpersonal Traits

  • Avoids closeness.
  • Thinks only about himself instead of the relationship and the other person.
  • Is controlling and resists freedom (in dating, this includes not respecting limits in the physical realm).
  • Flatters.
  • Condemns.
  • Plays “one up” or acts parental.
  • Is unstable over time.
  • Is a negative influence.
  • Gossips.
  • Is overly jealous and suspicious.
  • Negates pain.
  • Is overly angry.

*These lists are taken from Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships, 2000.Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.