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The myth of unconditional love

posted 20 Jul 2013, 21:50 by Suzi Wallis   [ updated 26 Aug 2017, 22:44 ]
We'd like to think (and are in fact sociliased to think) that when we meet Mr or Mrs Right, all will be perfect. We'll love them unconditionally until we are parted by death. The reality is often far from this fantasy.

The idea of unconditional love versus the reality of day-to-day living in a relationship can be two very different things. If we really loved someone unconditionally, we would be saying it's ok if you:
  • Disrespect me with your words
  • Are verbally, physically or emotionally abusive or violent towards me
  • Are unfaithful to me emotionally or physically
  • Disrespect the things I care about
  • Don't consider me in your decision making
  • Drink heavily, do drugs or participate in any other activities that are dangerous
  • Spend as much time as you like with people other than me (friends, hobbies, family, work etc)
  • As are messy as I am tidy or vice versa
If we had one or more of the things above happening in our relationship, chances are we would be feeling resentment, not unconditional love.

Wikipedia defines unconditional love as:
    • Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations. This term is sometimes associated with other terms such as true altruism, complete love, or "mother's/father's love." Each area of expertise has a certain way of describing unconditional love, but most will agree that it is that type of love which has no bounds and is unchanging. It is a concept comparable to true love, a term which is more frequently used to describe love between lovers. By contrast, unconditional love is frequently used to describe love between family members, comrades in arms and between others in highly committed relationships. An example of this is a parent's love for their child; no matter a test score, a life changing decision, an argument, or a strong belief, the amount of love that remains between this bond is seen as unchanging and unconditional.
    • In religion, unconditional love is thought to be part of The Four Loves; affection, friendship, romance, and unconditional. In ethology, or the study of animal behavior, unconditional love would refer to altruism which in turn refers to the behavior by individuals that increases the fitness of another while decreasing the fitness of the individual committing the act. In psychology, unconditional love refers to a state of mind in which one has the goal of increasing the welfare of another, despite any evidence of benefit for oneself. The term is also widely used in family and couples counseling manuals.
If you are a parent (of the human or pet variety), you may have experienced something very close to unconditional love in your lifetime. Have a think about what unconditional love could mean in the reality of everyday living. Maybe it could mean:
  • Listening instead of talking when you have an opinion about what you're hearing
  • Listening to how someone's day was, even if the subject matter doesn't interest you
  • Spending time doing something you'd rather not to support another
  • Accepting someone else's faults and not trying to change them
  • Offering help to someone in need and expecting nothing in return
  • Expecting the best out of others
  • Believing that everyone is doing their best with the knowledge they have
What it doesn't mean is:
  • Accepting any behaviour no matter what
  • Saying yes when you are not resourced to help or participate
  • Staying mute when it is appropriate to speak up
  • Not protecting someone who is weaker than you
  • Staying in a relationship where fundamental values are different (the kind you're not willing to compromise on)
I hope you enjoy exploring what unconditional love could mean for you in your daily life. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Suzi Wallis | Jun 2013