Romance is great. Sexuality is great. Attraction is great. But here is the key: If all of those are not built upon lasting friendship and respect for the person's character, something is wrong.
A real and lasting relationship must be built upon friendship first. You are going to spend a lot of time with that person. As one friend of mine said about picking her mate: "He was someone I knew I could grow old with. I liked spending time with him. And he made me laugh." She also shared deep spiritual values and other commonalties with him as well, as she would with any other friend. They have been married for nearly thirty years.
The best boundary that you can have in your dating life is to begin every relationship with an eye toward friendship. Do not rush into any kind of romance. Keep your boundaries, physically, emotionally, and otherwise. But, how do you do this?
Spend time getting to know someone in nonromantic ways. For example:
- Spend time with that person in groups of other friends.
- How well does he or she fit in? How well do you fit in with his or her friends?
- Does he or she even have friends? (If they do not have long-term friendships, that is a bad sign.)
If you do not allow yourself to rush into falling for someone that you have not become friends with first, you will be more sure when you let yourself go to the next step. Certainly you might find yourself having all sorts of feelings. Enjoy them. But do not believe them. Only believe your experience of getting to know a person and seeing if you can share at a deep level.
See if you find that he or she is a person of the kind of character you would trust as a friend. And as important as all of that, see if that person is a person that you would like spending time with if there were no romance at all. That is the one true measure of a friend, a person with whom you like to spend time, having no regard to how you are spending it. "Hanging out" is fulfilling in and of itself. And that, long-term, requires character, and in the deepest of friendships, shared values as well. You would want your best friends to be honest, faithful, deep, spiritual, responsible, connecting, growing, loving, and the like. Make sure that those qualities are also present in the person you are falling in love with.
Keep your boundaries. We guarantee that being lovers with someone you would not want to be friends with is no good thing at all.
Get more helpful advice to build the best dating relationship and find the love of your life in Boundaries in Dating by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud.