What Is Unconditional Love?

By Susan J. Elliott, Your Tango, Jun 12th 2012.

Most have a wrong idea about what unconditional love means. This article explains it!

There is no phrase so misinterpreted as “unconditional love.” People use it as an excuse to stay in bad relationships. They use it as some ideal they chase when they are not even sure what it means. They use it when they say, “I believe in marriage.” or “I believe in loving someone until they can love themselves.” or “I’m religious and want to love unconditionally.” or “I can’t say ‘if you do this, I’m out’ because that is not unconditional love.”

None of those things are unconditional love.

It DOESN’T mean: I love you no matter what you DO

It MEANS: I love you no matter WHAT HAPPENS

“Unconditional” means under any condition. It means love, honor and cherish for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

“Unconditional love” does not mean “I love you if you’re a jerk who treats me horribly.” No.  Love walks out when bad treatment walks in. You do not have to love someone who is treating you badly. It doesn’t matter what you promised. You do not have to be a martyr for anyone for any reason.

Unconditional love means: I love you, you come FIRST with me and I show you that whether we have just won the lottery or are living in a van on the street. I love you when everything is going my way and when nothing is going my way. I love you when your times are tough and when my times are tough and if our times are tough together we pull together, not apart! I love you no matter what fabulous looking person comes to work in my office or ex raps on my window wanting to be let in.

Unconditional means No matter who. No matter what. No matter what conditions life throws at us, no matter what other conditions happen in the world.

It means you can be in a bad mood or weakened state so long as you don’t mistreat or abuse me and I will carry your half of the load and then when I am, you do. It doesn’t mean one of us is forever carrying that load alone or making excuses for the other who is not carrying anything at all and acting any way he or she wants to.

It doesn’t mean “You cheat on me and I take you back because I love you unconditionally.” It doesn’t mean, “You treat me terribly because you are having a bad day.” It doesn’t mean, “I accept really bad behavior from you because I am supposed to be loving you unconditionally.” It doesn’t mean “I forgive unforgivable behavior like cheating or lying because I’m a loving person.”  Those are weaselly word cop-outs designed to keep YOU from doing something (break up the relationship) not because you love someone, but because you’re afraid of ending it.

Unconditional love also means I don’t try to change you. It means I accept you for who you are, warts and all. But if those warts are hurtful, I have to leave. This is where people get tripped up. They don’t really get that accepting you, warts and all, is not the same as I accept any treatment from you.

To have unconditional love in your future relationship, you have to do a better job of evaluating the people you’re dating to be sure they don’t do things that are unacceptable to you. To most of us forgetting things at the store or leaving the cap off the toothpaste or putting the toilet paper roll on the opposite way you do are not grounds for divorce. But people do fight over these things. Did you not notice this when you were just dating? It’s not fair to bring up these things later. You can either accept it or not. You don’t suppress your feelings and then blow up about it later on. It’s not fair.

If you become intimate too early on, your perspective is skewed as to who this person really is and can you make a successful relationship?  The early days need to be used for observation, evaluation and decision.  Otherwise love is not possible and relationships won’t work.

I had a client whose partner listed “dusty dashboard” on his list of things he was breaking up over. You have to judge people on what counts and if you must have someone who dusts their dashboard, put that in the Match.com ad or accept it. And if someone lists “doesn’t dust the dashboard” as something they are holding against you, then drop to your knees and thank your lucky stars this controlling, anal-retentive jerk is out of your life.

You must love, honor and cherish yourpartner who loves, honors and cherishes you. That means that neither of you sweat the small stuff. It means treat each other with kindness and dignity and accept the annoyances and the irritations that make up day-to-day living.

Unconditional love means to keep everything in perspective. It means accepting someone’s flaws but allowing healthy debate when possible and compromise on the small things. Not everyone is going to do everything perfectly. But if someone leaves the milk out, you don’t get to rage for 7 hours and bring up everything the person ever did wrong. You do get to say “Hey could you stop doing this thing that drives me crazy?” and sometimes it means having to live with him or her doing it all the time.

In a healthy relationship you don’t turn common human foibles into litmus tests of love. You pick your battles and you’re not mean to each other. You give and you get a certain standard of behavior no matter what. You do not cheat. You do not lie. You do not call someone names. You do not treat someone badly. That is NOT THE STANDARD.

The standard is: love is an action; respect is an action; trust is an action. The sun doesn’t have to be shining for me to shine my love on you. All doesn’t have to be right with the world for me to want to hug you. In fact, when things go wrong, we grow closer, not further.

And that is how healthy relationships work and unconditional love exists.