The other day, a meme found its way into my Facebook feed. It said something about love and boundaries being able to co-exist. It’s a lofty notion – and I don’t disagree with it. But for many on this planet, on this journey, at this time, boundary-setting is risky business. It’s scary, fear-inducing stuff. Which is why we all need to be doing it. STAT.

So sure, in an ideal family situation, love co-existing with healthy boundaries would be the norm. Unfortunately, for many, setting healthy boundaries within a family system results in the withdrawal for love. I see it on my couch – and in my own life – every day. You see, the withdrawal of love is one of the biggest power plays of all. It goes to your core, straight to your personal, unconscious sense of safety. When you’re born and you’re a helpless infant, what do you need? Love. A loving adult is your best shot at getting your needs met. We’re wired to seek and take in love; it’s oxygen.

In many family systems, when someone sets a healthy boundary (like, no longer engaging in co-dependent behavior or asking for privacy when dealing with a personal matter or saying NO when asked to do something that doesn’t feel quite right), boundary-setting is met with judgment, blame, anger and even scorn. And, I see it time and again: as “punishment” for the healthy boundary-setting, love is withdrawn. Why? The withdrawal of love is an attempt – done consciously or unconsciously – to invoke feelings of abandonment in order to emotionally bully the boundary-creator back into submission.

Knowing that doesn’t make it easy, I know. But it gives you a good indication that if you’re setting healthy boundaries and being punished for it, you’re on the right track. It’s not easy to experience the push-back (which at times is downright abusive), but if you stay grounded and firm, you will shift YOU. You will free yourself. You will validate yourself. Healthy boundaries are one of the most positive, empowered actions we as individuals can take.

To all you healthy-boundary-creators: stay grounded, firm and clear. Honor yourself and your emotional, spiritual and psychological health. Have courage in the face of judgment or abandonment or the withdrawal of love. Have faith that when you dare to take care of yourself – in the face of abuse – you are doing monumental soul work.