Some time ago, a male friend told me this story that his father had once shared with him– it was about a father and son bull looking down at a field full of cows and the young bull wanted to run down the hill to mate with them, but the father stopped his and said, “why run when you can walk?” Well, my response to him was that women are not cows– we are not all built the same, and some of us are surrounded by a field of bulls, so one of these days it may behoove him to run.

I am a planner, as are most women I know, but I understand that life doesn’t work out according to all our plans. Case in point: I was planning to enjoy single life in my 20’s and marry in my 30’s, which is what most of my friends have done. Instead, I was with my husband throughout all of my 20’s, and have spent most of my 30’s navigating single life. Having now experienced both worlds I can honestly say I prefer being in a committed relationship, and for the decade ahead, I would like to give up the dating game. So now of course, the planner in me kicks back into gear- because if you are going to exit the game, you need to know what you can live with and what you can live without. You need to clearly define your non-negotiables and realize those qualities in a mate that matter most. And you also need to consider how much time you are willing to invest in a relationship that may be fun, but as an unclear future.

I used to think that boundaries were bad– that they might make me too rigid and inflexible. Throughout the years (and lots of research) I have learned that boundaries can actually be good– if the purpose is to protect us from getting hurt, and we don’t use them as insurmountable barriers to wall off others. It is also helpful I think to explain our goals and concerns with our partners, because honestly wouldn’t you want to know sooner rather than later whether you are both heading in the same direction? Understanding each other’s vision is never a bad thing, and if you are not on the same path, who knows whether an open discussion may lead you to find common ground? It is worth a conversation at least, and then only you can decide if you need to reset your boundaries and/or expectations for how long you can accept the status quo.

Change is not easy for anyone, and in fact it is particularly scary for some, but it is a necessary part of life. For relationships to prosper, they need two individuals willing to evolve, respect each other’s boundaries and make plans together. Living happily ever after and growing old together does not just happen.