Feminist Friday: Boundaries

Friday, September 12, 2014

Photo Credit: http://renez.deviantart.com/art/Common-Boundary-112153118
Or the 5 dating dealbreakers I’m holding myself publicly accountable for.

I’ve been dating since I was fifteen. And by that I mean I’ve been involved in super serious relationships that pretty much took over my entire life instantaneously before I was old enough to drive. I spent all of high school and the few years since graduation, losing myself in one serious relationship after another. To say I’m thoroughly exhausted by the idea of relationships would be a massive understatement, but I’d be lying if I said I was completely uninterested.

The past couple of months have been an intense sort of soul-searching for me, mostly because I went through an intensely emotional betrayal with someone I gave all my heart, soul, and trust to, and realized it wasn’t the first time I’d been through this experience. I’ve tended to regard my relationships without a sense of self. I morph into whoever I happen to spend the most time with, whether a boyfriend or best friend or both. I didn’t ever take the time to figure out who I was, so I consistently became someone else. 

In other words, I never set boundaries. And when I finally sat down to come up with some, I realized I didn’t even know where to begin. I didn’t even know who I was. How could I say with any certainty what I would find unacceptable in a relationship?

Obviously, I had a lot of work to do.

And over the past couple of months, I’ve slowly been able to build a sense of self, and with it a list of boundaries:

  1. Sexism
Of course this is number one. If you don’t respect women or see/treat me as an equal, I don’t want anything to do with you. In fact, I’m going to think you’re an idiot and I’m going to proceed to make you feel incredibly stupid for asking me to go make you a sandwich. Make your own damn sandwich! Are you three? Do you not have a brain?? Don’t even joke about it. It’s not funny.

2. Addiction
This doesn’t just apply to substance abuse. I don’t care what the addiction is, whether it’s drugs, or video games, or sex, or social media…whatever. Addiction to anything is a dealbreaker for me because it signifies a psychological cry for help and a refusal to seek the help that’s so desperately needed.

3. Dishonesty
Lying is unacceptable, obviously, but I won’t tolerate dishonesty in it’s other forms either: keeping secrets, hiding/downplaying feelings, and even white lies. Love can’t exist without the truth, the whole truth. There’s a lot of fear and vulnerability in being honest, but if you’re too afraid to be vulnerable then you’re too afraid to have an honest life and an honest relationship, and I won’t settle for anything less. 

4. Irresponsibility
Take responsibility for your actions. Seriously. Stop making excuses or putting the blame on anyone other than yourself. I’m not saying everything is always your fault, but recognize and own up to your part. If you say you’re going to be somewhere or do something, be there and do it. Don’t be a flake. And if you don’t like the way something is going in your life, change it. You’re not helpless. If you mess up, apologize without making excuses for why you messed up. Honestly, there is nothing more unattractive than someone who refuses to take responsibility for his actions, decisions, and life in general.

5. Insensitivity or lack of empathy.
Out of all my dating dealbreakers, this one is probably the most important and also the most often disregarded in my dating life. I’m oversensitive. I feel deeply, not only my own emotions, but the emotions of everyone around me. Violent scenes in movies are physically painful for me. Therefore, in the past, I’ve typically been drawn toward guys who approach emotion from a logical and rational perspective or (in extreme cases) a cruel indifference. I’m ashamed of my oversensitivity, so I try to fix this part of myself by dating guys who are completely insensitive and either refuse or don’t know how to express empathy. But, of course, I only wind up miserable and shattered in a million pieces. I’ve gotten a lot better at accepting myself as the deeply sensitive, extremely empathetic person I am, and have little tolerance for people who refuse to hold respect for other’s emotions and have grown wary of people who try to “fix” or rationalize an emotional situation rather than letting me feel it out for myself. You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have a right to think your opinion is the rule. If I want your advice, I don’t have a problem asking for it, but otherwise, have some respect and let me be me.

This list isn’t set in stone. It’s bound to change or grow or shrink over time as experience makes me either more or less accepting of certain behaviors, but for now these 5 things are the first set of dating dealbreakers I’ve ever had. And I’m sharing them here to keep myself accountable when I decide I’m ready to start dating again.

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