Unconditional love is a type of caring affection that endures no matter what type of behavior one exhibits. It is a common among family members, but can occur in romantic partnerships, explains Jeremy Nicholson, M.S.W., Ph.D. in “Psychology Today.” While unconditional love can be healthy, such strong feelings may require individuals to set boundaries -- or guidelines for appropriate actions and interpersonal connections -- in order to preserve their own emotional well-being.
Although everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to personal boundaries, a good boundary allows both you and your loved one to function as autonomous individuals. Likewise, even if you love someone unconditionally, having a healthy boundary means that one individual does not abuse another, take advantage of their kindness or take them for granted.
Enmeshment is a boundary problem that may come with loving someone unconditionally. In enmeshed relationships, individuals struggle to distinguish their own identities from the identity of a loved one or even an entire family, states clinical social worker Marla K. Ruhana in "Coping with the Enmeshed Family". The Family Center. While close, loving relationships are valuable and can be positive, when unconditional love turns into enmeshment, this can lead to numerous social and psychological difficulties. “Enmeshment leads to shame and shame often leads to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, sexual addiction, and other addictive behaviors as well as family violence,” explains licensed clinical social worker Beth Watson in her article "What is Enmeshment?"
Defining Comfortable Boundaries
If your unconditional love for a partner or family member makes you feel used, ashamed, angry or hurt, figuring out what type of boundaries you need can be a good step toward preserving your loving relationship without compromising your basic needs. “Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect,” explains Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. of Psych Central. Thus, it is important for you to define what you need to meet your own needs: for example, recognition of your efforts, respect or space to pursue your own hobbies and interests.
If you have few boundaries in your relationship, starting the process of establishing limits -- while still expressing unconditional love -- may be difficult. Because of this difficulty, start with small steps, first explaining to your loved one what you need. For example, if you feel like your loved one is intruding on your life, start simple, for instance, by asking this individual to call before he comes over to your house. As you begin to feel more comfortable setting boundaries, you can set more limits. This is not always an easy process, however. Feeling guilty is normal at first, reassures Tartakovsky.
Excessive Jealousy & Possessiveness
Positive and Negative Aspects of ...
List of Human Characteristics of ...
Signs of a Weak Character
Definition of Personal Boundaries
Where to Look Up Someone by Email ...
How to Impress Your Boyfriend's Brothers
Do Great Grandparents Count as ...
Responsibilities of a Friend
What Is Healthy Jealousy?
Tips for Forgiving Your Best Friend
What Does Interdependence Look Like in ...
INFJ & ISFJ Relationships
Etiquette for Signing Names on Cards
Definition of a Healthy Relationship
What Is Transitional Housing?
How to Disassociate Yourself from Bad ...
Bok Choy Nutrition
What Is Fraternal Love?
The Difference Between First and Second ...
Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.
Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images