In the online dating culture of swiping right, sexting, and ghosting, emotional safety doesn’t often feel like a glamorous dating topic to consider. But your emotional safety is important, and setting up boundaries to protect yourself while online dating is worthwhile. So, here are some of my top tips for setting yourself up for success and prioritizing your happiness while you look for the ideal partner.
Don’t Have Sex Before You’re Ready
If you’re ready very early on, that’s great for you! But if you’re not, that’s also equally fine. Having sex before you’re ready is not good for you. And part of being ready for a long-term partner includes showing up for yourself and admitting things that you might not want to admit, including that it takes you a while before you know if you want to sleep with someone.
If you already had sex, and you regret doing it so early on, take some time to let your partner know. But whatever you do, don’t continue to do it with them simply because you feel backed into a corner. Wait until you can talk to them in person and be as fully present with them as you can. And don’t hesitate to mention if you enjoyed sleeping with them, as this can soften the blow. If they aren’t willing to wait—even after you’ve already slept together—they probably aren’t cut out to be your lifelong partner.
This tip goes along with the last one. Even if it feels silly, say how you feel. If you are looking for a marriage partner, mention that in the beginning. If you’re dying to try out BDSM, mention this in the initial phase of the relationship, as well. The more comfortable you feel advocating for your needs in the early stages of the relationship, the more likely you are to find a partner who is interested in meeting those needs.
Keep an Eye on Your Date’s Readiness for a Relationship
If your date has a lot of ideas for you two that they never follow through on, keep in mind that the relationship is still casual for them. Or, if the relationship isn’t naturally moving forward in terms of spending more time together and making more plans together, don’t get too involved. Their lack of relationship readiness doesn’t mean anything other than you two won’t be getting serious right now. As long as you stay on the same page, this can be a feasible situation.
Don’t plan on changing anyone. It seems like common sense, but a lot of people get into serious relationships hoping to change one key trait about their partner. If you need something to change in order to have your relationship proceed, chances are, it’s not going to happen. Accept it early on so that you avoid disappointment later down the road when your lives are more enmeshed.
Build Trust Slowly
Don’t trust someone right off the bat because you have a good feeling about them. Further, don’t reveal things about yourself that will cause you pain down the line if this doesn’t work. Let them get to know you slowly, and let your trust be based on something realistic. If they kept a secret or were emotionally supportive when you went through something tough, these are good signs for placing future trust in someone. When your partners must earn your trust, you are empowered to protect your emotional boundaries whether or not this relationship is meant to last forever.
If you’d like to be sure you’re in a great place mental health-wise while online dating, see a trusted therapist who can help you work through your issues before you find your long-term partner.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform. Click here to download the 101 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Hot checklist. Download her new ebook, How to Increase Your Libido – For Women, here.