On Love and Boundaries

My baby mama and I were commiserating about romantic relationships under the blazing noon heat of our son’s baseball game. “You need to get better at protecting your heart,” she said “You fall in love too big and too fast.”

This isn’t always the case, but when I love someone, I don’t hold back. Is this foolish? Maybe. Does it open up the potential for hurt? Sure. But let’s be honest for a moment, shall we? If you have those deep feelings for someone, even if it’s the easy-to-confuse infatuation and chemical response that sometimes feels like love, does hiding that emotion make the hurt any less if things don’t work out? Does hiding the hurt really make it disappear? We all know the answer is a negative. We all know that emotions are powerful, whether or not we think we have them in check.

I will not stop falling in love the way that I do. I’ve even started expressing that love, when I feel it, with zero expectation of reciprocation. My motivation here is the fact that we all seem to need love, now more than ever, and everyone seems terrified of vulnerability. My other motivator, which frankly is the strongest motivator in my life short of my awesome children, is having seen death up close so many damn times. 

I love you. You have a beautiful soul. I’d love to share my life with you, because it’s going to be much shorter than I think. I need you to know that I love you because you deserve that love, and we never really know what might happen.

Giving this love away costs me absolutely nothing. It feels beautiful to put it into the world. Into someone else’s heart. The well of love is bottomless and the pain of trying to love doesn’t come from sharing love without fear. It comes from sticking around when safety isn’t created.

Let’s not confuse safety and danger, friends. I’m not talking about abuse or neglect, though those things are obviously going to make loving space unsafe. I’m talking about those challenges to your personal boundaries that don’t feel okay. Are you familiar with your personal boundaries? If not, it’s time to get real intimate with them. 

Personal boundaries are formed when you have a clear sense of what you need to feel safe in romantic space. I’ll give you my list, so it can inspire you to contemplate one of your own:

Transparency
Emotional awareness
Honesty
A desire for clear communication
Responsibility
Self-care/ a health-conscious mindset
Strong family values
Respect
A deep appreciation for sexuality
Kindess
The ability to express how they feel about me
Affection (in private and in public)
Personal passions/goals and space for the other person’s
Presence
Humour

This list forms the touchstone that I will now use anytime I try to build space with someone. These are the boxes that have to be ticked. It’s pretty basic stuff, but it’s the stuff that makes me feel like my heart will be treasured in the way it deserves. When any one of things is missing, I know to pause and tap into my intuition and my logic to see what’s happening in the space I have created. This is when difficult conversations happen, and when difficult decisions have to be made.

Sometimes boundaries get tested by good people who are in complicated places in their lives. Or good people who have created walls around themselves because it is devastating and often traumatizing to have your heart broken. My mistake in the past was to excuse the breach of those boundaries out of sympathy for the other person. It’s a confusing situation when you can feel someone’s inherent goodness, yet see them behaving in ways that are hurtful. However, a truth in my life is that it does not serve loving space to stay when my boundaries are challenged. I grow brittle and hard, and behave in ways that are not authentic.

This week I did something I have never done before. I asked someone to step away and take some space to listen to their heart and know what they truly need. This was a scary risk to take, but my intuition was as clear as a girlfriend admonishing me over coffee. ‘You are going to get hurt if things continue like this.’

I approached this conversation with all the love I have. Whatever happens next, I regret nothing. The gift of my heart is one I will never apologize for, or feel badly about giving again because now I can give that gift, and take care of myself. 

There is some pain, and some fear in the waiting. I hurt for the amount of complexity this person is dealing with. I’m afraid if they decide to move on, it will bring up some feelings of inadequacy in me. I feel some loss over the potential I felt that hasn’t been realized. But this is nothing like the kind of heartbreak I have endured. I know I have done what is right for both of us. I know I’m honouring myself in this.

Do yourselves a favour dear ones, and make a list of what you need to feel good and safe when you share your heart. Get real clear on which lines cannot be crossed, and pin your loyalty and commitment to those boundaries first and foremost. Your heart deserves to be treasured and cherished, and I think that only happens when you learn how to do that for yourself.

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