When I was younger, my dating life was geared toward finding unconditional love. I was convinced that the more love I unconditionally gave, the better my chances were of finally having it in a romantic relationship and getting the Happily Ever After I deserved.
It didn’t work out that way.
I ended up becoming a doormat. Loving this way had come at the cost of my self-respect.
Today, unconditional love is something that I fully believe in. It’s also something that I don’t believe in at all.
As a kid, I struggled with love in general. The people who genuinely and unconditionally loved me, I took for granted. And those that put conditions around their love for me at an age where conditions were more damaging than emotionally educational… I did everything I could to please and appease. This pedestaled them and left my five-year-old self alone at the bottom, without a ladder.
In my little mind, unconditionally loving them, obeying the rules, and staying in line seemed to be the only ladder available. While their intentions were good and they did love me, these adults subconsciously engaged in a codependent relationship with me, the child. I was dependent on extracting a drop of their love, validation, and approval from the empty well that their conditions had run dry. I believe that they were dependent on the image that my obedience painted of them to others, as well as on my unconditional love, to invalidate their own perceived unlovable inadequacies from when they were young.
As I got older, this “unconditional love ladder” that never seemed to be tall enough, found it’s way into my romantic relationships and friendships.
That was the beginning of the end.
Instead of all the unconditional love I gave boomeranging back to me, it created life-robbing shame and loneliness that paralyzed me in the quicksand of toxic relationships and friendships – one after the other.
Unconditional love also made me stay in familial relationships and other relationships just because there was a blood relation, history, or some other kind of connection that’s only sacred if it is held up by mutuality – not unconditional love as a testament to loyalty.
I am writing this post as I write all of my posts – Not as an end-all-be-all, but to shed my own personal light on things that may have otherwise, not been illuminated. There is an exception to everything and a different way than anything can be interpreted. I went back and forth for a long time on whether to write about unconditional love. It’s one of those topics that can be very sensitive to discuss because everyone’s beliefs regarding it are tied to their own past experiences and pain. After thinking about it more, I knew I had to write about it.
Unconditional love is something that nearly robbed me of a life. It’s also something that saved my life.
Here’s what you need to know…
Unconditional love is known as “affection without any limitations, or love without conditions.” It’s described as a love that is unchanging and knows no bounds. Unconditional love is often used to describe “love between family members, comrades in arms, and between others in very committed, connected and soulmate-status relationships.”
Movies, fairytales, and mainstream media like to depict those that love unconditionally as heroes in this world. No matter how poorly these people are treated, how much they are taken for granted, or how terribly they have been wronged… These people love so deeply that the light of their unconditional love seems to out-mature and out-shine the need for healthy boundaries that only unconditional self-love can initiate.
I used to want to find my soulmate who would love me unconditionally. The thought of this no longer turns me on. In fact, it turns me off – WAY off. It’s red-flag alarming to me now.
I now define unconditional love as acceptance. Acceptance of how everyone and everything is – right now, at this moment. Whether it’s positive or negative, hurtful or healing, joyous or depressing, I accept what is without tying my value to it. It just is and people just are.
On the surface, unconditional love seems incredible – and it IS. I believe that unconditional love is necessary in relationships with those who lack a voice and are fully dependent on us. You should unconditionally love your child, your pet/animals and the one little voiceless girl/boy who wouldn’t be reading these words right now if conditions were not put around love that should have been given unconditionally to her/him: Your younger self.
It is extremely difficult to try to unconditionally love the adults we have become. I still struggle with how I feel about my adult self. But then I look at a childhood photo and I see this helpless, defenseless, and voiceless little girl who just wants to be enough… How could I not unconditionally love her?
The moment I stopped outsourcing unconditional love to others and started giving it to myself… This was the moment I learned that unconditionally loving in romantic relationships would only be accepted/exploited by those who had the same inability as I had to unconditionally love themselves.
When it comes to romantic relationships, we are in many ways wired to want unconditional love. We look to be emotionally re-parented in a way that will invalidate the worthlessness that the absence of it in our childhood has consciously and subconsciously made us feel.
In my relationships today, whether it’s my romantic relationship or with my close friends…
Although there isn’t unconditional love, we love and accept each other as a whole. It’s nonjudgemental love. It’s love that can be felt and shared on such a deeper and more meaningful, intimate, and empathetic level because it’s protected on both ends by healthy boundaries that are honored by the other person. I’m not talking about going through hard times – that’s called thick and thin – There’s a difference. This is two people who agree to accept, love, value, be honest with, and honor each other – while holding up their ends of the relational bargain – In sickness and health, broke and riches, and through the good times and the bad.
Loving without conditions and boundaries in romantic relationships made me feel terrible. It translated as: “I am not enough. I don’t deserve more. Please validate me while invalidating the pain of a past you don’t care about getting to know. Please see in me what I cannot see in myself. Please allow me to emotionally jerk off by diluting myself with the belief that my unconditional love will shed you of your toxicity.”
I eventually decided to let go of unconditional love. I set healthy boundaries that protected and empowered my younger self.
Because of that, I started attracting relationships that made me feel safe to be me, supported, and open to accepting love instead of always giving it without boundaries and ending up the doormat once again. The more you honor your boundaries, the more true love you’ll attract.
True love will never be found without unconditionally loving yourself enough to accept what is, having the courage to act on that acceptance, and the ability to judge people only by their patterns (not their isolated actions, words or anything superficial).
Although I don’t believe in unconditional love when it comes to romantic relationships, I am always aware that without fully giving it to my younger self, I’ll never be able to experience the true, nonjudgemental, thick-and-thin love that I deserve – to both emanate and receive.
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