Setting Boundaries in Dating



As I’m writing this, I’m sitting with my laptop curled up in my boyfriend’s comfy chair. He’s at his drafting table working on a painting commission.

There’s no music on, no TV, and there’s a white noise machine to block out any background noise. 

Neither one of us are talking, and in fact I’ve lost track of the time that’s passed since we conversed.

But this isn’t a hostile or awkward silence at all. This is the kind of silence that indicates intense concentration. There’s a creative buzz in the air that is both inspiring and restorative; it allows each of us to stay focused and in our respective “zones.” And it’s awesome.

Working from home is dangerous because you could either have hours of intense concentration or hours of wasted time on Facebook.

So we dedicated time, what we’ve dubbed CUWT: “Continuous Uninterrupted Work Time” and although it rhymes with “cute,” it’s something we both take seriously.

The reality is that we each need our own times of silence and solitude to work anyway, as a textbook introvert needs. But this time happens to be beneficial to us both. In other words, we keep each other “on-task.” 

I know this appears to contradict the topic of my recent post Myth of My Everything — where one expects their significant other to meet their every want and need. 

But, the Myth of My Everything doesn’t apply here either because neither one of us sacrifices our friendships or other social ties. It is technically time at work, like any other job wherein one is self-employed, freelancing, or working remotely. 

Also, we still have plenty of areas in our lives that we maintain our independence: he has many pastimes and interests that don’t appeal to me, and vice versa.

But the fact is that even if there were mutual interests, there are just some things—as we’ve discovered, or agreed on—that are best kept separate.

I should point out that these things we discovered and agreed upon did not come naturally. They resulted from trial and error, from the occasional conflict or from miscommunication.

And this is an important point to consider.

If a couple doesn’t establish limits, not only does the Myth of My Everything become a possibility, but tension and resentment could arise when one sacrifices time alone just to maintain the peace or avoid conflict.

In any developing relationship, these are issues that should be dealt with. Finding the line between mutual time and “CUWT” is vitally important for a healthy relationship to develop.

One idea that comes to mind, although it isn’t “work”, is the role prayer could take. Many people have asked me if I pray with my boyfriend, or if prayer outside of church is “the norm.”

I see nothing wrong with saying Grace on a date, or praying the Rosary together, or reciting an “Our Father” together. I would find that charming if my date suggested it.

But otherwise, I need a lot of lead time to build intimacy in a relationship before I start praying privately with someone.

And of course, those of us who aren’t dating at the moment would do well to cultivate their own “CUWT,” but not in that wistful, “I wish I was doing this with someone” way.

It is a great exercise in preparing the way to maintaining your independence when the time comes for the next relationship to start.

You might just end up being a few steps ahead: because of all this “practice” time, you will be able to establish those limits and avoid conflict or miscommunication.

Now that I think about it, I wish I’d figured out all of this when I wasn’t in a relationship. I think it would really ease the loneliness and sense of longing.

It could fill the void that we expect the Myth of My Everything to provide.

Do you have any “CUWT” (Continuous Uninterrupted Work Time) requirements outside of your job?

If not, what are some of the ways you allow for time away from your significant other? How do you make time for God? What parts of your life would you keep private until your relationship is on firm ground? 



  1. Claudia-977635 June 17, 2013 Reply

    Your blog was not at all what I expected from the title… What was your point?!

    • Matthew-965185 June 18, 2013 Reply

      I agree Claudia. The title prepares you for a “wall building / breaking ” exercise. How to deal with natural barriers couples have to break through. The blog wasn’t about that at all. There were many good points made, but I wouldn’t call it “setting limits” or “boundaries”. The term boundary indicates a “do not cross this line” way of thinking. This was more geared toward “respecting each other’s space and need for private, alone time”.

  2. Rich-180042 June 17, 2013 Reply

    ‘…but not in that wistful, “I wish I was doing this with someone” way.’ amen, sister. preach that good word.

  3. Carol-737878 June 16, 2013 Reply

    Good ideas, Cate. I especially appreciated your perspective on praying together. Several people have discussed this in the forums–wondering if they should go to the adoration chapel on the first date, for example. I was both surprised and pleased that my date wanted to say grace before eating out! And I wouldn’t mind attending Mass with him. But perhaps we have to be sensitive to just when more prayer opportunities should be suggested.

  4. Doug-974859 June 15, 2013 Reply

    Wow. Do you always talk like that? Sounds like a dissertation. Enjoy your time together. Don’t have sex. Sincerely, Doug.

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