Setting Limits

Love should not be unconditional!

Perhaps you see this statement as heresy. Let me clarify: we should not condition our love for others on whether they please us or do everything we want them to do. However, there are certain bottom line expectations that have to be met in order for relationships to be healthy for us.

For instance, one condition is that your loved one treats you respectfully and does not hurt you physically or emotionally. Breaking this condition is grounds for seriously evaluating whether the relationship should continue.

We commonly think of unconditional love in relation to children. Yes, I believe our love for children should be based on valuing their inherent worth and dignity. However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t have limits and expectations for them. That is what parenting is all about: teaching them how to live in the world as a healthy adult.

What is the difference between having conditions for those we love and loving unconditionally?

Loving unconditionally means:

  • We don’t withhold our love and care when we are disappointed in something the other one does.
  • We give our support and encouragement even when we would have made a different choice.
  • We accept others for who they are rather than trying to remake them.

Healthy conditions for love relationships are:

  • Receiving respect for our wants and needs.
  • Having a healthy mutuality or give and take (not one sided).
  • Caring about what is important to you.
  • Communicating in assertive ways.

It is very important to feel that you have a right to set limits in any relationship. When setting limits is seen as selfish by someone, it may be time to re-evaluate whether your values are in line with this person. Limits should not ignore the best interests of others we are close to.

The definition of assertive is: Standing up for yourself by expressing your feelings and thoughts while also respecting the needs of others. There is no such thing as being too assertive! What people usually mean by that is that it’s aggressive.

Aggression is expressing what you want but ignoring the rights and needs of others. It’s my way or the highway kind of mentality. Or, in the case of abusive partners, it’s my way or no way.

Next: Taking Things Lightly


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