How The 'Guardrailing' Dating Trend Can Help You Set Boundaries

Modern dating seems like a complex game. Dating "trends" often pop up, sometimes to set rules on how to navigate a relationship, and other times due to a pattern most people in the dating game have been practicing their respective affairs.

In 2022, "power PDA" entered mainstream consciousness, thanks in part to Hollywood couples Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker and Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly. Apparently, people try to make up for time lost during the pandemic by being unapologetically touchy to their partners in public spaces. 

"People are really making up for two years of having nobody touch them — and touch is a basic human need ... We need cuddles, and not just more 'adult time,'" Bumble dating expert Dr. Caroline West shared on the "Dermont & Dave" podcast (via PureWow). 

There was also the so-called "zombieing" trend, which is when someone who ghosted you comes back out of nowhere. "They want to see if they can still get a reaction. They're using it as a way to get validation if they're feeling low about themselves," Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., explained to Refinery29.

Of course, there are also trends that are all about protecting yourself in a new relationship. One of the ones gaining steam in the dating scene is guardrailing.

What is guardrailing, anyway?

With life now returning to normal post-pandemic, most people are getting back into their usual grind. That means they have more things on their plate compared to the past two years, leading to feelings of overwhelm. The last thing they want is to be burdened by issues related to dating, so they put emotional protections in place to guard their hearts.

This is where guardrailing comes into play. It's all about approaching new romance prospects with caution so as not to waste time, energy, and emotional bandwidth. "Guardrailing is all about setting boundaries and protecting our energy, while another new trend we've dubbed 'love-life balance' shows us that people don't just want work-life balance for themselves but for their partner too," Bumble's communications director Lucille McCart shared with Nationwide News. "This includes being clearer about our emotional needs and boundaries, being more thoughtful and intentional about how we put ourselves out there, and not overcommitting socially."

In a nutshell, guardrailing is choosing what is worth your energy, and if a potential partner seems more trouble than it's worth, then putting your guard up is crucial. Instead of diving headfirst and exhausting all your resources on what may not pan out, practicing guardrailing allows you to protect yourself so as not to feel emotionally, socially, romantically, physically, and perhaps even financially parched.

How guardrailing can help you have a healthy love life

Boundaries exist in every type of relationship, but when it comes to romantic affairs, people tend to be confused as to where to draw the line. If you're thinking of practicing guardrailing, you should first and foremost be honest with yourself about what you want, what you can give, and what you expect from your future romantic pursuits.

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Sheva Assar told Cosmopolitan that boundaries "allow each person within a relationship to feel safe, respected, fulfilled, and maintain their individuality even while maintaining a connection." When you have a clear set of boundaries, you're also able to conserve mental and emotional energy, which in turn would help you be a better partner. 

What's more, you're simultaneously protecting yourself with boundaries in place, and that has a positive effect on your well-being. "Boundaries set the basic guidelines for how a person wants to be treated," Neil Wilkie, founder of the couples therapy platform The Relationship Paradigm, explained to Mashable. "Clear boundaries are essential for our own mental health and self-esteem."

If you want your future relationships to succeed all while protecting your feelings, guardrailing is key. It may seem strange for two virtual strangers to be upfront about what they expect from each other from the get-go, but it's one of the most foolproof ways of setting yourselves up for success. With boundaries and safeguards, there won't be any resentment in case a relationship doesn't work out.