Love must always be expressed with Limits. Without limits, there is no true love. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have done a tremendous job explaining the necessity of Limits in their book, Boundaries. In any relationship (i.e., marriage, friends, children), even positively relating to self, appropriate limits are necessary to communicate love.
There are, however, inappropriate limits that are seen in selfish expressions of love.
- CONTROLLING LIMITS: These are sometimes called rigid boundaries. These type of limits are not for the benefit of the other person, but are set by the "limit maker" to either make them feel powerful, and to provide a false sense of security. Controlling Limits can be seen in an overbearing husband that doesn't want his wife to have relationships outside the home. This type of controlling behavior can be expressed in guilt-producing statement such as "Aren't I enough?" or in more extreme/abrasive comments such as "Call and cancel... You're place is in the home taking care of the children."
- LACK OF LIMITS: This is just the opposite of the Controlling Limits. This is the disengaged spouse, or emotional absent/unavailable parent. Bottom line, there isn't the care or energy necessary to provide the needed limits. I think this below illustration will help:
A study was once performed of school age children antics on the playground. When the recess bell sounded they flooded the playground. They lined the fences and laughed and played. Then the fences that lined the playground were removed. The change was remarkable. The next morning the children huddled to the middle of the playground. They were anxious and insecure. They did not roam and play as normal. Then, the fences were put back in place. Do you want to guess what happened? The next day they were all over the playground again, happy and secure.
So, what are the benefits of limits and how do they translate into LOVE? Here are the two main benefits to loving with limits:
- SAFETY: As illustrated above, limits (boundaries) provide each of us with safety. Not only for children, but adult relationships with appropriate limits also provide safety. One of the most popular limits are written as Marriage Vows. The vows are bow declarations of Love, as well as Limits.
- Limits provide the environment for LEARNING. When there are limit, we know what we can explore and then discover.
- Limits also provide the environment for failing. Being free to Fail, also makes us free to try and then succeed. Limits provide trust with a fence.
- GUIDANCE: Limits also provide the guidance or instructions concerning how love is needed. Jesus said, "If you love me, you'll obey my commandments." Through the limits in relationships, we instruct others how we need to be loved, we learn how they need to be loved, and we also learn what will undermine that love in the relationship. From a child keeping their room clean, to fidelity in a marriage... limits guide us in giving and receiving love. The only danger here is conditional or performance driven love.