Can You Navigate Love With Healthy Boundaries?

Can You Navigate Love With Healthy Boundaries - Main

By  Lissa Rankin MD

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Every relationship in my life lately has been an experiment of the idea of unconditional love and freedom.  But this week, I finally really got a critical piece of the puzzle. Here’s my epiphany…

It’s totally possible to offer unconditional love plus absolute freedom with no conditions, but access  is completely conditional. (LIGHTBULB!)

Brene Brown  says the most compassionate people on the planet are the ones with the highest boundaries. Now I get it! For so long, I made the mistake of thinking that unconditional love and freedom meant expecting nothing in return. Wide open heart. Zero conditions. Forgiving people over and over again when they hurt you or betray you. Giving people permission to break your heart. And that’s part of it. You can’t walk around guarding your heart all the time. When the gates of your heart are closed, you may be less likely to get hurt. But you’ll also be incapable of giving and receiving love.

I’ve spent years learning how to love without conditions. It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do.  But perhaps, even harder, is loving unconditionally while setting appropriate boundaries.

What Is Unconditional Love?

I now realize that unconditional love means you live in a state of acceptance and appreciation and gratitude for this person you love. You expect nothing and are willing to live from the heart. It also means you have zero tolerance for your own victim story if you don’t like how someone behaves. You are the scriptwriter and director of your own movie. You own your part in everything, rather than blaming, shaming, and judging someone else.

Unconditional love means you resist grasping or clinging or projecting onto someone else. You don’t require that they abide by any rules in order to earn your love. The love is a gift, like grace. You give it freely — just because.

Conditional Access

But access to your inner circle is completely conditional. If someone can’t treat you with the love, nurturing and respect you deserve, you put them in your outer circle — or eliminate them from your circle altogether—with a wide open heart and not a lick of judgment.

If access to your heart, your email, your phone, and your physical being lives on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being complete inner circle access, those who are 10’s require what Brene Brown calls “a full jar of marbles.” In other words, they need to have earned your trust. If the jar of marbles gets half full because of betrayals of trust, access needs to go down — not necessarily all the way to 1, but maybe to 5 or 6. Maybe they don’t get to call you every day or sleep in your bed or spend Christmas morning with you.

That way, if someone isn’t treating you with impeccable respect, you simply limit access without making up a story about it. No point becoming the exploding doormat. That’s not enlightened either. Your heart stays wide open. The boundaries close up though. Unconditional love, absolute freedom, conditional access.

Then it’s not someone else’s job to treat you right. It’s your  job to treat you right with appropriate boundaries that limit access based on whether or not someone is deserving of complete inner circle access.

Finally… I understand.

How Vigilant Are You About Protecting Your Access?

Are you good at treating yourself right with appropriate modulation of your inner circle access? Are you good about enforcing the boundaries you do set — with love?


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Previous articles by Lissa Rankin MD:

About the author:

 What Motivates You to Help Others?Lissa Rankin MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the  Whole Health Medicine Institute  training program for physicians and healthcare providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of  Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself. She is on a grass roots mission to heal healthcare, while empowering you to heal yourself.

Lissa blogs at  and also created two online communities –  and  She is also the author of two other books, a speaker, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. She  lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

Connect with Lissa on  Facebook  and  Twitter, or visit


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