If you’ve been abused it takes a lot of courage to think about dating and entering into a close relationship with another person.
However, there are some boundaries you can put in place for yourself to make it a more confident and empowering experience.
When you are first dating its very exciting! However, safety must come first when you are meeting someone face to face for the first few dates. This is especially important if you have met your date on line.
Here are some safe dating tips to enable you to relax on your date – but still keep control of the situation:
Meet in a public place:
For a first meeting, always meet in a public place where other people nearby – also consider meeting with a group of people or double date. Avoid secluded or quiet areas on your first date – just to make sure.
Let a friend know where you’re going:
Be sure someone knows where you are going and who you’ll be with – ask a friend to give you a call on your mobile during the evening to check things are going well. You could also arrange to meet a friend later that evening.
Consider going on a Pre Date Date:
This isn’t a date as such which takes the pressure out of it – this is more of a meet for a coffee which could be 20-30 minutes. A quick pre-date gives you both an idea of what the other person is like; and takes the stress out of the possibility of spending a whole evening with someone you may have little in common with. If it goes well you can then move onto a proper date.
Use your own Transport:
Don’t allow your date to pick you up from home on your first meeting – get there on your own and make sure you know the time of the last train or bus or you have enough petrol in the car. Don’t take any chances and rely on your date to get you back home.
Pay half the bill! Unfortunately some people want something in return if they pay for you. On the first few dates pay half so you don’t feel any obligation to your date in any way possible. When first dating it is important you retain your independence and power.
Don’t Get Drunk:
The biggest threat to a person’s judgment is alcohol – it also lessens your inhibitions and can leave you vulnerable. Stick to one drink on the first date or better still avoid it altogether. Always keep your glass in sight.
Give out your mobile number only:
Don’t give out your home number to a new date as you can easily find someone’s address by their home phone number. Also don’t call your date from your home phone number as they can trace you. Stick to mobiles until you settle into the relationship.
Trust Your Instincts:
If you haven’t met your date before and something does not feel right don’t hang around. This is especially true if you meet someone on line from a dating site and they look and present very differently to how they described themselves.
Don’t Let Down Your Guard:
Even if the evening is going really well – there’s lots of spark and chemistry – remain alert and make sure you always have your phone to hand.
Have fun with your date but safety is crucial to your enjoyment. Creating safety enables you to get to know your date with confidence– creating a better situation for yourself and him or her.
Relationships Take Time
When you meet someone new – it can be really tempting to make this the focus of your life and put the rest of your life on hold so you can spend all your time and energy with your new boyfriend or girlfriend. However, a relationship is like a deck of cards – you give one at a time not the whole deck at once.
It is inappropriate for example in the first few weeks of meeting someone to tell them all your problems or to expect them to be there for you in the middle of the night or to lend you money. It is also rushing the relationship to start talking about marriage or moving in during the first few dates.
You are both building a relationship together and that takes time. Time is one element you cannot cheat in a relationship but often in our insecurity and excitement we may wish to rush ahead to the next stage when we haven’t really built a strong enough foundation in the first stages.
One good test of a relationship is to see how they get on with your friends.
Listen To Your Friends
If you are dating don’t even attempt to start dating when you have no friends around you! For example if you have just moved into a new town or started a course at a new college. Always date when you are in a community and have established some of your own personal life and contacts. Dating without a support system leaves you extremely vulnerable.
Once you have started a relationship it is always wise to introduce your new partner to your friends. Also, you need to meet his or her friends – if he or she has no friends that is not a good sign – they could become very dependent on you.
- Be open to everything your friends have to say even if you don’t like it
- Keep in close touch with all your friends when you are dating
- Don’t be swept out of your own life, hobbies and interests by your new date
- If you don’t introduce your date to your friends – ask yourself why
Going out in a group of friends before you make any commitments is a good plan as there is less pressure and it is good to see if you can fit into each other’s lives. There has to be some differences but if you are close to your friends and your new date doesn’t like them – that is going to be a big area of conflict. You need to think carefully before proceeding further.
Building Trust And Facing Issues
We need to be wise when we are meeting a new partner or a new friend, not everyone is trustworthy. We need to accept that without being suspicious of all people. We can observe certain attributes about people that give us clues as to whether we can trust and take the risk of a deeper relationship with them.
What are some of the attributes/signals that would indicate a person is trustworthy for you?
Ideas to contemplate:
- Turning up on time
- Listening to you
- Sharing parts of themselves
- Taking it in turns to choose how to spend your time together
- Doesn’t break commitments or promises
- When problems and issues arise they are open to your point of view
- Is willing to look at themselves and make some changes
- They take seriously and respects your personal values
Obviously being in close relationships means that we will experience difficulties at times as issues arise. This is not negative in itself – the important point is to be able to talk these through and find an outcome you are both happy with.
You can’t confront every single little issue but when it concerns respect, equality or your values you need to address these.
You can do this by:
- Stating what you are finding difficult/hurtful
- How it makes you feel and act
- What you would like changed
- What will happen if there is no change
For example, your partner you have been dating for six months can be extremely critical of you and sometimes calls you names.
- You need to state that it is hurtful and disrespectful to be treated in this way.
- It makes you feel angry and hurt and it distances you from him or her
- You would like her or him to stop doing this and to talk respectfully about differences.
Once you have done this you need to:
- Take note of how the other person responds to this
- See if they are they willing to look at this and own their part
- Critically find out if they are they open to change
If there is no change or if they dismiss, deny or become very defensive to you then you may need to re-assess whether you want to continue dating. If you are in a permanent relationship you should consider getting some support to deal with these issues.
Healthy relationships are constructed in stages. These stages may develop as follows:
A new friendship or relationship:
When someone new comes into your life – its very exciting! At the beginning of a relationship however, you need to spend time getting to know that person.
At this stage it is good to:
Be interested in them:
Ask them questions about themselves listen carefully to their answers and respond to them.
Be positive and upbeat about what they share!
Learn about their hopes and dreams:
Find out where they want to go in life and what plans they might have for their future.
Be honest about yourself:
Try not to pretend to be something you are not. If they like Heavy Metal music and you don’t – don’t try and bluff it that you love Slipknot or Metallica – they will soon find out you’ve faked it!
Do what you say and stick to arrangements – even if something better (e.g. a ticket to a concert) comes along.
Keep good boundaries:
Meeting a new friend or possible partner can be thrilling but don’t be temped to give away too much of yourself in the early phase.
A closer friendship:
Once a solid relationship has been established, you can get to know the other person at a deeper level. This could mean you are able to:
Be there for encouragement and support (when they need it):
Learn what is going on in their life and support them when they need it – for example with a new job interview or a difficult meeting with their boss.
Look for support yourself:
Be vulnerable – let your date know if you are feeling anxious or stressed. Sometimes we don’t get support because we don’t ask for it.
Notice if you are doing all the giving or all the taking:
This is important, if you are doing all the listening or all the paying then you need to get the balance back – and the same the other way round. It is easy to loose some healthy boundaries when you feel passionately attracted to someone.
Get to know what they want out of life:
If you are planning a long term relationship with your date you need to find out what they want out of life. For example if they plan to move abroad in the next year you need to consider if this fits in with your life.
An intimate relationship:
Relationships with partners can grow to be much more intimate. In these relationships it is important and appropriate that both people are:
There to give comfort in trials:
They can rely on you and you on them to stand closely by and give special support through difficulties and heartaches – for example redundancy or a sick parent.
Sensitive to the traits the other person may need to work through:
We become aware of weaknesses, issues and problems in the other person that have arisen in the relationship so far. We also need to think through whether these are weaknesses we can live with or not. Some weaknesses are more serious than others. For example an addictive problem is different to being messy. Serious issues need to be faced and addressed before the relationship becomes permanent.
Aware of the areas which that we ourselves need to work on:
As with our partners we ourselves may have issues that need help. For serious problems such as addiction to drugs or alcohol we need to seek support and accountability. No matter how much we are drawn to another person it is important that we face ourselves first. Any problems outside a relationship will only be magnified inside it.
However, if our partner is putting a lot of pressure on us to change – for example changing our religion, dress sense or general purpose in life – we need to check if that is right for us. Not only within ourselves but draw on other friendships to seek their advice and support. Being in a relationship does not mean we give up our own views, thoughts and values.
Committed to being loyal (whilst setting boundaries):
If the relationship begins to have a sense of permanence then you may wish to openly state that the relationship is now exclusive and that you consider each other in plans for the future.
Dating then can be a kind of dress rehearsal for something more permanent in the future. Each stage of the dating game is very important!
(Source: Some of these ideas (and many more!) around dating and relationships are incorporated in “New Shoes” by Rebecca Mitchell published by Lion Hudson click for more info)
Things To Think About:
- When you go on a first date do you consider your safety?
- Do introduce to your new partner to your friends? If not do you know why?
- What attributes to you indicate your date is trustworthy?
- Do you find it easy to confront issues when they arise?
- Do you over look serious issues that your date may be struggling with?
- If you are dating right now do you know where your relationship is in terms of the stages?