Repost: Love as the Boundary

I’m currently sitting in a hotel room in Chicago, getting ready for two days filled with stories about love and friendship. Part of that will be Rich and me sharing our own story about how we discovered deep, intimate friendship through music, and also through the direct sharing of said music. I am honored to have the opportunity to talk about how my friendship with Rich has changed my life. In honor of the Sacred Friendship Gathering, I want to repost this piece I wrote a year ago about friendship and how, rather than pointing to specific rules about how we’re to interact, Rich and I choose love as the boundary.


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At the Good Women Project, Anne Wilson wrote a piece entitled Boundaries: No One Is Above An Affair. To close the piece, she wrote the following:

Love sets us free. Free to laugh, cry, dream, give, and receive. In a paranoid, nervous relationship, you are placed in a hopeless cage of anxiety and guilt. Boundaries set you free to love your spouse in a way you can never love anyone else. Trust, loyalty, and promise win out over the flesh. . . and that is something to be celebrated. (emphasis hers)

I see what she’s saying here, and to some degree, I agree with her. Boundaries keep us safe and give us a framework that allows us to know where we stand. It’s unlikely that there are very many successful relationships that don’t have some kind of boundaries or rules.

Boundaries are good for keeping negative things out and keeping good things in. However, even when they are necessary, they are built on fear. Fear that something will be taken or lost. No question about it, there are things out there that seek to harm relationships. I don’t want to dismiss that.

But something that I’ve noticed in my interactions with people over the years is that the more I love someone, deeply and truly love them, the fewer boundaries I need. In those relationships, love acts as the ultimate boundary. I don’t want to do anything to violate the love that I have for them or that they have for me and that helps me to make better choices about my interactions with them.

Because I love Jason, I will always try to consider how he feels when I spend time with Rich. Because I love Rich, I will always try to consider how our friendship affects his marriage. Our boundaries are more fluid because they are based on our love for one another.

We could have rules in place that keep everything safe. Rules where we can absolutely make sure that we never do anything that no one ever gets hurt. And these would be good, loving, safe relationships. That’s not an all bad thing.

But I can’t help but think of my favorite scene in Finding Nemo. On their way to Sydney, trying to find Nemo, Marlin and Dory are swallowed by a whale. Marlin is trying desperately to escape their prison because he wants so much to find his son, to keep him safe. He has seen the dangers of the ocean that killed his wife, and he wants nothing more than to protect his son from those same dangers. There is never any question in the movie that Marlin deeply loves his son.

In this scene, he tells Dory that he has to protect his son because of a promise that he made.

Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him!

Dory: Hmmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.

Marlin: What?

Dory: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

And there it is. There is room for love to grow within boundaries, no question about it. It will also have limits because fear will always have limits. When we choose love as our boundary, yes, the potential for hurt does increase. But the potential for love to expand also increases.

In those relationships, where love is the boundary, I find true freedom.


Richard Dorrell [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    The more we develop our empathy and conscience, the less we need external rules. We end up wanting to do good on our own. Quite like the friendship series of posts. I’m fortunate to never have been taught a male/female friendship taboo, so don’t need to overcome that, but we can all relate to the writing about how friendships enrich and improve our lives.

    • Bj Hickman

      Monika, I relate to what you have written which is why my best friend is male. Our spaces are 100% supportive of our friendship, and its intimacy rivals that of Alise & Rich’s friendship. But we receive so much condemnation from people in and outside of our faith circle. It’s truly remarkable. We don’t let it sway us or hinder our behavior in any way because we know our truth. But it does get old. Reading Alise’s blog has been so encouraging.

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