All articles in NSAC’s social anxiety blog are written by actual human beings, not artificial intelligence. Our authors are all mental health clinicians who have expertise in evidence-based treatment for social anxiety disorder, and who are affiliated with NSAC Regional Clinics and Associates.


Boundaries are important for us all. They help us to advocate for ourselves, prioritize our well-being and protect our peace. This can be particularly useful when you are dating someone new and getting to know each other. Dating is not just about what your date likes or what they think of you. It is about what you like, if it is a good fit, how you feel when you are with them and so much more.

Because those with social anxiety are often preoccupied with concerns about what others are thinking about them, it can be easy to become disconnected from your needs, limitations and authentic self. Learning to identify and communicate your boundaries and expectations is a useful way to keep you grounded and present while dating.

Get to Know Who You Are Dating

People with social anxiety are often focused on their internal experience. It can be so compelling and overwhelming that we sometimes forget to get to know who we are dating. Before the first date, consider ahead of time what dating behaviors are unacceptable to you. While on your first dates, pay attention to how they treat others and notice if they seem truly interested in you. Getting to know someone can prevent you from falling into the same old dating pitfalls.

Setting boundaries can help you to identify unhelpful patterns and modify them. If you are used to losing yourself in unhealthy relationships, for example, setting boundaries can help you to be more aware of who you are dating before things progress. Instead of defaulting to considering what your date wants, consider instead what information you are getting about your date.

Consider Your Own Needs

Do you leave dates with a fuzzy sense of whether you are a good fit? Boundaries can help you identify if this person is a good match for you instead of only considering whether you are good enough for them. If being with someone who respects your time is an important boundary you have established and your date shows up a half an hour late with no explanation or apology, they have crossed a boundary and you are getting some valuable information.

Dating is complex but this part of it is NOT. You are dating to see if you both are a match for each other, if you work well together, if there is mutual respect for each other, if you have things in common and if you are attracted to each other. This can only happen if you get to know each other. It will NOT happen if you are trying to be the version of yourself that you think they will like and accepting behaviors that are a clear violation of your boundaries.

Boundaries help to reinforce that your needs are important. By shifting the focus to your own needs instead of your date’s, you are not only getting a better understanding of what your needs are, but also you are taking a step towards prioritizing them.

Express Your Expectations

Boundaries help your date know how you would like to be treated. When we accept treatment from others that we are not ok with we are essentially telling them that their behavior IS ok. Being very clear about your boundaries from the beginning is a great way to show your date how you like to be treated and what is acceptable to you. Expressing your boundaries may also open up the discussion and help your date to share the boundaries. It is a great way to create a healthy foundation for a relationship based on mutual respect, understanding and caring about each other’s needs.

Of course, this is a first date, and you do not need to school your date on how to behave. But you can establish certain boundaries from the start and see if they will be respected. Some important boundaries to consider include time boundaries, emotional boundaries, physical boundaries, sexual boundaries and financial boundaries.

The Next Steps

As you practice setting boundaries you will feel a boost in your self-esteem. That boost will help you to recognize your worth and that awareness will help you to continue to make healthy choices when it comes to dating. As we become more aware of what we need to feel cared for, safe and healthy in romantic relationships and we learn to advocate for those needs, we are able to show up for ourselves in the most genuine and authentic way. When we show up as our authentic selves we open up more possibilities to make meaningful connections. This is the stuff great relationships are made of.

If you find yourself struggling with any of the concepts discussed in this article, you may want to consider finding a cognitive-behavioral therapist (CBT) to get some help.

Relationships present some of the greatest stressors—as well as the greatest joys—that we are likely to experience in our lifetimes.