Do you ever struggle to hear your inner voice or figure out what you really want? Or are you the type of person who tends to always second-guess yourself and can never just trust your gut?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a boundary challenge, and yes, this can interrupt your instincts while dating. Whether you have fuzzy boundaries in relationships, always break your boundaries with work, or seem to leave the door wide-open in your psyche for your inner critic, consistently I find that boundaries are the No. 1 obstacle to hearing one's intuition.
Before we talk about boundaries further, let's first talk about intuition.
What is intuition?
The famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung described intuition as "perception via the unconscious." And Merriam-Webster defines intuition as "the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference." In other words, intuition is a sense of clear knowing without knowing why, a felt or cognitive understanding without rational conversation, evidence, or linear process.
Often spontaneously emerging in a moment like your morning shower or in a taxi riding across town, this clear inner knowing can serve as an internal GPS navigation system guiding us through choices, decisions, and along our path. You may know this as your "gut instinct."
How boundaries can affect your intuition.
Healthy boundaries empower us to create space for this spontaneous knowing to emerge. We may struggle to hear our intuition when we have unsupportive boundaries because they flood our minds and experience with too much data.
This flooding is especially true for sensitive people. For example, highly sensitive people can be easily overstimulated by the environment around them due to a low sensory threshold. The low threshold means that poor boundaries with work, for example, can cause a highly sensitive person to become overwhelmed, anxious, and have little mental space left over for tuning in to their intuition.
Empaths may find themselves not just overstimulated by people, places, and environments, like highly sensitive people, but actually absorbing or merging with the people and environments around them. This near-evaporation of boundaries can create a confusing internal experience where an empath is unable to separate their own instincts from the other felt information they are also experiencing around them.
Lastly, unhealthy boundaries with our own inner critic can create harmful cycles of self-doubt where we confuse our inner critic with our intuition.
How to trust your instincts in dating.
The stakes feel higher when it comes to love. When we are dating, emotions can get charged, and choices can feel important. Consistently I find that our greatest ally in dating others is leaning on our intuition and fostering a clear connection. This inner voice will guide us to know when someone is a match, what red flags to be mindful of, and what next steps feel most aligned.
When our boundaries with the different areas and people in our life are blurred, easily broken, or even nonexistent, inevitably we will find trusting our own gut instincts to be overwhelming, fraught with uncertainty and confusion. The good news is, fostering better boundaries can start to clear up your inner chatter so that your instincts can guide you with more ease.
Here's exactly how to begin by creating healthier boundaries and bolstering a deeper connection with one's self:
1. Pause before you make decisions.
Whether you are deciding whether to go on another date or whether you want to break up with someone, practice pausing before you make decisions in your life. This pause may be for a few deep breaths, a night to "sleep on it," or a few days of noticing how the decision feels in your body.
Regardless of what type of pause feels best, use the space as an opportunity to connect more deeply with yourself to see how your internal experience feels about the decision and use the lasting feeling as your guide. If you are unsure, lengthen the pause slightly to see if the felt sense of knowing changes or clarifies.
2. Pay attention to your body's messages.
Trusting your gut is a real thing. Do you notice some clenching in your stomach as you are asked on another date? This might be your intuition telling you that the choice you are considering is not quite a match. Do your shoulders start to round forward and in toward each other? Your heart may be trying to protect itself. You can pause to notice whether the person you are dating is someone you feel safe to keep opening to.
Our bodies are extremely wise instruments that reflect what our internal GPS is telling us each step of the way. Spending time to tune in and notice actual body sensations can give us important subtle clues that we otherwise may miss.
3. Learn how to say no.
If you find that you have poor or nonexistent boundaries, learning how to say no can be revolutionary. If this is new to you, allow this practice to be messy. Learning what is too much and what is just right for you with boundaries takes time and practice. Is your boss planning to dump another project at the end of your day when you planned to be on a date? Acknowledge what you are already juggling, ask them what they can prioritize, and share that you have a commitment for the evening. Feeling a pull to people please on your first date and go to a movie you really don't want to see? Practice saying "no, thank you" and sharing instead what you would like to go see.
I find that many clients who gather the courage to say no, whether it's with their work or with a potential date, are often pleasantly surprised by the responses. Learning how to honor our "no" gives us courage to hear and trust our "yes."
4. Get quiet before and after social engagements.
Before you go out on a date—or to a work outing or to a meeting with friends—spend some time centering yourself. You can use this time to transition into the social engagement, deepen your connection with yourself to have a pulse on how you are feeling, or to set some intentions around boundaries for while you are out and about. Do you need to be home by a certain time to get enough sleep for an important presentation you care about tomorrow? Get clear on what time you need to end your date. Do you want to make sure you take things slow and not get swept up in the feelings on your next date? Decide how much you feel comfortable opening up before your dinner.
After you come home, you can use this time to get clear on how you feel and what you need. These moments of space allow for intuition to guide you pre- and post-social time.
5. Spend time doing nothing daily.
Modern culture continues to glorify busyness. Resist filling up every space of time you have between work, dating, and other social engagements with more activities and choose to do nothing. Let yourself sit on your couch for a few moments or go out and watch the clouds go by. Sip a cup of tea before answering a text as you hear your phone buzz.
There is no accident that many people receive intuitive hits of clarity taking a shower in the morning, while riding into work, or daydreaming on a bench waiting for the bus. In these moments of time, we finally give our minds space to be free from thinking and processing. In the open space, intuition can come in. Create intentional time on a consistent basis to pause and simply allow more space. This can be in small one- to five-minute increments throughout your day or in a larger chunk like for 30 minutes as a post-work routine.
Over time with practice creating healthy boundaries and deepening your connection with yourself, you can start to more easily hear and trust your instincts. This empowers you to maintain your own sovereignty over your feelings, needs, and truths as you navigate dating. And as you understand more deeply where you stand, you can build the authentic relationship you desire.
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