Read an Excerpt
Boundaries in Dating WorkbookMaking Dating Work
By Henry Cloud and John Townse
ZondervanCopyright © 2000 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Heather had made Todd a high emotional priority in her life. She had given up activities she enjoyed; she had given up relationships she valued. She had tried to become the kind of person she thought Todd would be attracted to. And now it looked like this investment was going nowhere.
No Kids Allowed (page 26)
Though dating has its difficulties, we believe in dating. We think it offers lots of good things, such as, for starters, opportunities to grow personally and learn how to relate to people.
• So why do we say, "No kids allowed"?
We don't believe that teens should not date. Rather, teens who can take appropriate ownership of their lives can enjoy and benefit from dating.
• Dating works best between two responsible people. What can happen when one
party is irresponsible?
Dating does have its risks. That's why the maturity of the two people involved is very important.
- What problems can arise in a dating relationship if you're not taking responsibility to speak the truth in love, to protect love by confronting problems (Ephesians 4:15)? Give a real-life example or two.
• Freedom and responsibility create a safe and secure environment for a couple to love, trust, explore, and deepen their experience of each other. What relationship that you've been involved in-or that you're aware of-would freedom and responsibility have improved or cured? Explain.
Before we take a look at the ways that dating problems arise from freedom and responsibility conflicts, let's take a brief look at what boundaries are and how they function in dating relationships.
What Are Boundaries? (page 28)
Let's take a look at what a boundary is, its functions and purpose, and some examples.
• A Property Line-Just as a physical fence marks out where your yard ends and your
neighbor's begins, a personal boundary distinguishes what is your emotional or
personal property and what belongs to someone else. When, if ever, have you
recognized that your boundary has been crossed? Give an example or two.
• The Functions of Boundaries-Boundaries define us by showing what we are and
are not; what we agree and disagree with; what we love and hate. Boundaries also
protect us by keeping good things in and bad things out and by letting others know
what we will and will not tolerate.
- What values, preferences, and morals do you want to be clear about right from the
start in your dating relationships? List three or four points.
Problems in Freedom and Responsibility (page 26)
We are writing about the problems people have in how they conduct their dating lives. Simply put, many of the struggles people experience in dating relationships are, at heart, caused by some problem in the areas of freedom and responsibility.
• By freedom we mean your ability to make choices based on your values, rather
than choosing out of fear, guilt, or need.
- Think about some of the choices you've recently made, ideally in a dating relationship
but perhaps in a friendship or family relationship. To what degree did fear, guilt,
or need motivate your choice? What did you fear, what were you feeling guilty about,
what guilt were you trying to avoid, and/or what need were you trying to meet?
- What problems can arise in a dating relationship if you're making choices out of
fear or guilt rather than based on your values? Give a real-life example or two.
• By responsibility, we mean your ability to execute your tasks in keeping the
relationship healthy and loving, as well as being able to say no to things you
shouldn't be responsible for.
- Again, think about a recent dating experience, a friendship, or a relationship with
a family member. What have you done to keep the relationship healthy and loving?
Be specific about one or two tasks. Also describe an opportunity you had to say no
to something you shouldn't be responsible for. Be specific first about that "something."
Then explain why you were or weren't able to say no and describe the consequences
of your action or inaction.
- What are two or three behaviors or attitudes that you will not tolerate in a dating
• Examples of Boundaries-Words, the truth, distance, and other people are four
kinds of limits we can set and use in dating. Review the discussion on pages 29-
30. When has one of these boundaries been helpful in a dating relationship-or when
could it be? Give an example.
There are several kinds of limits we can set and use in dating, all depending on the circumstances. Whatever the situation, boundaries give you freedom and choices.
What's Inside Your Boundaries (page 30)
Remember that boundaries are a fence protecting your property. In dating, your property is your own soul: Your boundaries define and protect your love, your emotions, your values, your behaviors, and your attitudes.
• When, if ever, have you let someone else control your love, emotions, values,
behaviors, or attitudes? Why did you feel unable to set limits on their control?
• When, if ever, have you been aware of controlling or trying to control another person's
love, emotions, values, behaviors, or attitudes? Why did you choose to not respect
his or her boundaries?
Boundaries are the key to keeping your very soul safe, protected, and growing.
How Boundary Problems Show Themselves (page 30)
There are lots of ways that dating suffers when freedom and responsibility are not appropriately present. We've listed a few of them. (They're defined on pages 31-33.)
Loss of freedom to be oneself
Being with the wrong person
Dating from inner hurt rather than our values
Doing too much in the relationship
Freedom without responsibility
Not taking responsibility to say no
• Where, if at all, do you see yourself in this list? Be honest with yourself so that you
can learn and grow.
• Into which one of these nine categories has someone you've dated fit? Think about
people you've dated. How did that behavior impact the relationship?
Which of these boundary problems has any of them displayed?
There are many more ways that dating can become misery because of freedom and responsibility problems. As you will see, understanding and applying boundaries in the right way can make a world of difference in how you approach the dating arena.
Before You Close the Book ...
• Which take-away tip on page 33 do you most need to take away?
Lord God, thank you for what you're showing me about myself and
where I can grow. Please give me both the wisdom to set good and godly
boundaries in dating as well as the courage to keep them. And help me
stay on this path of learning and growing. In Jesus' name. Amen.
The wise psychiatrist taught, "As soon as there is any kind of deception, stop everything. Where there is deception there is no relationship." Truthfulness is everything. Honesty is the bedrock of dating and marriage.
Standing on Quicksand (page 36)
Remember the woman whose marriage was not ripped apart by the affair, as devastating as that was, but by the lying?
• Why is lying more destructive than the behavior that is being covered up?
• When have you been deceptive or been deceived in a relationship, dating or
otherwise? What impact did that dishonesty have on the relationship?
When you are with someone who is deceptive, you never know what reality is. As one woman said, "It makes you question everything."
Deception in Dating (page 37)
There are many different ways to deceive someone in the world of dating. We've listed six of the more common ones.
• Deception About Your Relationship-Losing a love that one desires is almost inevitable in the dating life at some time or another, but losing one's trust in the opposite sex does not have to happen if people are honest with one another (Ephesians 4:25).
- When, if ever, have you found yourself in Matt's position and been deceived about the relationship's significance to the other person? What did you learn from your experience or perhaps from Matt's?
- When, if ever, have you found yourself in Karen's position and deceived a person you were dating about the relationship's significance to you? What did you learn from that experience or from this discussion of such an experience?
As soon as someone is sure that dating is not going where another person thinks or hopes it is, that person has a responsibility to tell the other one clearly and honestly. Anything less is deceitful and harmful.
• Deception About Being Friends-While Karen was acting like a girlfriend when in reality she was just a friend, there are those who are deceptive about their true intentions while they are acting like a friend.
- When, if ever, has someone pretended to be a friend to you but had ulterior motives?
What impact did that deception have on the "friendship"?
- When, if ever, have you pretended to be a friend but had ulterior motives? What
would have been a healthier (i.e., honest) approach?
Excerpted from Boundaries in Dating Workbook by Henry Cloud and John Townse Copyright © 2000 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.