The world tells us a lot of things about love. It tells us that it makes the world go round, is a many splendored thing, means never having to say you’re sorry, conquers all, and is blind. As we all know, most of that is not even close to being true. It doesn’t even matter what kind of love we are talking about. Whether we are talking about love for our parents, love for our children, or love for our partners, or even the many other kinds of love we file under that four letter word, we can surmise it’s a lot more complicated than the trite sayings the media throws at us. I’ve come to the realization that there are two very specific kinds of love. There are people that love you with fences and those that love you without fences.
All of us know that a fence is a divider. It can designate property lines. It can create a barrier between two things. It keeps something separate. Fences can avoid giving direct access to something. We can even tell people they are on the fence. More importantly than whether a fence is pretty or ugly, above or below ground, or made of material that one of the three little pigs would have used is that the fence exists. In order for a fence to exist, someone had to build it. I’ve discovered that when people claim they love people it is too often that their love includes a fence preinstalled.
A fence can be something as simple as expectations given to someone without their knowledge. It can be a test with no rubric that a loved one has no choice but to fail since they didn’t know what was on the test. It might be something they have made up in their mind about you that may or may not be true about you. A fence could be a box they have put you in inside their brain. In my personal life many fences were placed emotionally both for my protection, as well as other people’s protection. What a fence really adds up to in a relationship is conditional love. I will love you when, I will love you if, and I will love you if you don’t – those are all conditional love. Perhaps those exact words aren’t spoken, but implied.
When I first had my daughter I realized quickly that a parent’s love is different from any love I had ever experienced. If someone had told me the moment that she was born that she was going to grow into something disappointing to me I would still love her just as much. In the almost 13 years since then I can still say the same. My child might disappoint me sometimes in her choices, but my love today for her is 13 years larger than when she came into the world and I held her for the first time. That was the first time I think I ever understood love without fences.
Because of this, my view of love changed entirely. I began understanding about this reckless form of love that is all encompassing. It is consuming. It is combustable. It can cause arguments because of the deep level of caring, but those are solved by remembering who that person is to you. Love with wide open spaces to roam is beautiful. That kind of love is the only kind of love that has no boundaries. When you place a fence, you limit love.
Is this kind of scary? Absolutely, it is terrifying. You could lose everything in this kind of relentless, reckless love. You can even lose yourself. This is the kind of love that you want to never stop giving more of it. You wish you could paint a picture of it and use the whole box of crayons. It’s what makes you look at a photo and cry. It’s what changes the way you see a sunset or a sunrise. It makes you fear death. It makes you value life. Love without fences puts beauty in the world that held nothing for you before. It’s honest, wholesome, art, and it can cut you like a knife at a moment’s notice.
It’s a safer world when you love with a fence up. Once I loved my brother with a fence up. He is gay, and we were raised in the South where people tolerate a lot of things with a “bless your heart,” when they really aren’t meaning anything but “glad it’s not me.” My brother is amazing. I never saw him as gay growing up. That was a label and it wouldn’t have occurred to me to label him as anything but awesome. We built forts together out of pilfered landscaping beams,and we tried to swing all the way around the swing set. We listened to New Kids on the Block and Poison in the front yard while took turns on the tire swing. My brother was not just my brother. My brother was my friend. Then we grew up. People placed labels on him and all of a sudden I had a fence between us. I didn’t understand the fence, want the fence, or even like the fence. It took me a decade to tear the fence down. One day I realized sometimes the best gift we can give someone is to let them be who they are and not just the parts we agree with or understand. I don’t have to understand someone to love them.
Something funny happened when I tore the fence down. I got my brother back. I got my funny, amazing sense of humor, kindest person on the planet but WILL kick your butt if you are mean to me brother back. I will never put the fence up again. See, this love with no fences is hard at first, but once you do it, it’s addictive. You want to let everyone be themselves. You start finding things in people you never dreamed were there. If we only loved people for the parts of ourselves we see in them, then that isn’t really love, is it? That’s just you seeing yourself and putting your stamp of approval on it. You put the heart in your relationship with people when you remove your boundaries. You are free to love with all your heart because there is a heart. What people forget is you aren’t going to change a person just because you disagree with them or don’t understand their viewpoint. You will only hurt them, and hurt the relationship. Giving someone permission to be themselves is not just a plain gift, it’s a “tucked behind the Christmas tree, biggest bow you’ve ever seen, beautifully wrapped gift when you think you’ve opened your last one” gift.
I have had friendships and a marriage where boundaries were placed for me. The typical response once a boundary is placed on someone is they place a boundary too. Because if you aren’t willing to be relentless and reckless with love, they won’t either. They won’t assume risks for you, and they won’t ever have the relationship with you that you could have if you’d just let go and love. Boundaries create more boundaries. Wars are fought over boundaries in relationships, just as they are among countries.
My hope for everyone is they can find people to love that love them in the stupid, careless, amazing way that we can love without a fence. I know some of the best times I ever had were the times I erased the line between good and bad, right and wrong, and just was a human with another human. Mistakes will be made, but when you love with no holds barred, rest assured that love will come back around to you and you won’t be sorry you made the choice. Fences might multiply, but so does a love with no boundaries.