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Debbie Martinez, M.A. Headshot

Dating Boundaries: The Line in the Sand

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Ah, that proverbial line in the sand. You know the one? The one we all draw in relationships. The problem here is that the line keeps getting erased and redrawn closer and closer to the water's edge and then we wonder why at some point we find ourselves drowning.

I hear all the time from clients how dating after divorce is difficult, and my response is always the same, "You make it difficult." While they sit in utter shock and motionless, unable to grab their purse and head for the door, I continue to explain, rather quickly, my frankness. Don't misunderstand me, I am my client's cheerleader and not lacking in compassion, but the facts are the facts. As women post divorce, we tend to view every date as "the one" and so starts the process of trying to make every guy fit. We start out with a clear set of rules, boundaries and criteria but along the way, we begin to second guess ourselves and the line in the sand recedes while our frustration and disappointment level rises like the tide during a summer storm.

After recounting multiple scenarios, women invariably ask me if I think they are too needy, want too much too soon, being unreasonable or unrealistic. Except for a few cases my answer is a resounding, "No." What they want is a relationship that the man they are with or was with cannot provide them. I point out that because that person can't provide what they need or want doesn't make them the needy, unrealistic woman. So, the lesson here is don't allow someone to make you feel that there is something wrong with you. I bring home the point that they fight unabashedly for causes in the community, their children's needs, and health care so why not fight for what they require emotionally with no apologizes necessary.

Women have heard from fathers, boyfriends and husbands that they are needy, over emotional, unrealistic in their expectations and a sundry of other words that describe behavior that men don't want to deal with. By laying the blame on the female sect, men can get out of stepping up to the plate and putting in the effort to provide a mutually loving and satisfying relationship. This is when self doubt walks into a woman's life and a new line in the sand is drawn.
Ladies, stop making excuses for when their actions don't match their words and start looking at the reality of what is before you and not labeling what you want it to look like as "reality". Listen to your intuition when it tells you there is something not on the up and up, when you only receive phone calls or texts during business hours, and at night his phone goes straight to voicemail. If he tells you the relationship is a priority but then returns your call or text five hours later, hello? Do you need a brick?

Here's the cold hard truth: A man might want a relationship with you but he has to also be willing and able to engage in the type you need and want. If for whatever reason he can't, it doesn't make him or you a bad person, just not right for each other. Without all three of those components, no amount of wishing, praying to God or cajoling the "man of your dreams" is going to make it happen. Don't get "hooked" trying to understand why he does or doesn't do something. If you have had a conversation about your needs, no change has taken place and you are not feeling good about things, it doesn't matter why, the outcome is still the same. Stop knocking on a door that has closed and stop chasing a ship that has sailed- just say, "Next."

Are you really going to take hours out of your day being upset over someone who isn't fighting for a place in your life or at the bare minimum, showing you that you are in the top three priorities of his? Being concerned about your needs and wants is not being selfish, it's being healthy. Listen to your intuition, stop second-guessing yourself and keep that line in the sand where you first drew it and you will find dating isn't that difficult. You will be centered, feel empowered, and in control of your emotions (instead of them controlling you) when you come to the realization that that line symbolizes your own self worth.