How do I express my boundaries around substance use without sounding judgemental?

We are all allowed to set our personal boundaries around substance use. In every relationship, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation about each other's feelings around the topic. To avoid sounding judgemental, you should first evaluate your feelings around substance use and why these feelings exist. Take time to understand what associations you draw with substance use and where these associations come from. Substance use is often stigmatized, as many draw an unfounded association to low moral standards.

You have to remember that everyone’s story is different and the reasons behind substance use are often multifaceted and nuanced.

When having the discussion with a prospective partner, you should be sure to practice active listening and continuously remind yourself that you have not lived in this person’s shoes and be fully open to understanding their story.

It’s perfectly acceptable to want to choose a partner that shares your boundaries around substance use. You should be able to articulate that your boundaries don’t come from a place of judgment—but from a place of wanting to share a life and a lifestyle together. It’s good to be honest without having to resort to being hurtful.

If faith is important to you, I think it’s crucial to have perspective on a couple things. First and foremost, we all know that religion has been wielded in societies to hurt people (and, oftentimes, queer people bear the worst of that hurt). If you start a conversation about religion with a relative stranger, you should be prepared to be open—and not defensive—about their personal experiences with their faith, and why they may have set boundaries around it. I know that most faith traditions teach us to lead with compassion when people have been wrongfully marginalized. So do your best to let your faith guide you appropriately in that scenario.

Second, even in moments like these, you have the power to allow your faith to act as a bridge and not a barrier.

When we distill our religious customs, beliefs, traditions, and stories down to their purest essence, we’re mostly left with a profound sense of how to live and accomplish justice in this world. Someone does not necessarily need to be a person of your exact faith to share those same values with you. If you talk about your faith from this vantage point, you might actually excite a potential partner who’s thrilled you’re being open and vulnerable with them. Who knows? That kind of conversation might ignite an unexpected bond. My faith tells me that leading with vulnerability instead of fear will reap a reward of love. Try it, and maybe you’ll find the same is true for you.

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