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I have a feeling this post might upset some people.  But I have thought that before and it hasn’t stopped me yet.  As Valentine’s Day approaches I think of the cliché line that is often uttered in Victorian novels, romantic comedies and tales of epic romances.

I will always love you, unconditionally

I find this statement not just unrealistic but downright dangerous.  The only vessels on this earth that should receive unconditional love are children and pets.  For one adult to pledge to unconditionally love another adult is a little fantastical.  As we all have conditions on lovers and their behavior.  Many a lifetime has been destroyed trying to live up to this myth that true love will conquer all, or that somehow no matter what the obstacles love will live forever.  I would agree that if the obstacles and stresses are external that this type of love should be striven for in every intimate relationship.  For instance, if one is stricken with a horrible disease it is noble and inspirational if their partner stays by their side through thick and thin.  That kind of unconditional love is a beautiful thing that we should all hope and strive for in this life.

But what if one partner begins to abuse, damage or hurt the other partner?    What if they have sexual relationships outside the relationship without the other partners consent?  What if one repeatedly puts their own needs before their partners?  What if one weaves a tapestry of lies and deception living a secret life without their partner’s knowledge?  Is it right to love them unconditionally despite this extremely destructive and hurtful behavior?  Abusive behavior should not be brushed aside due to some vow of “unconditional” love.  We should never become a doormat to an idea or notion that is unattainable.  I stayed in my marriage years longer than I should have because I thought that if I loved my husband enough, that it would save the marriage.  But my marriag,e constructed of lies more than anything else, was not salvageable.  I had no hope in keeping it together no matter what I did.

I know of some relationships that take great pride in the length that they have survived as a couple, yet some of these relationships are no more than two co-dependent toxic people who cannot live without each other.  I think of the example of the play Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolf  in which Martha and George, have been together for over two decades in a relationship of constant bickering, fighting and mutual destruction.   The main forces keeping them together being fear, co-dependence and alcoholism.  Is that “unconditional” love?  We all know couples in our real lives that exist this way and they are nothing to envy.

I also used to find it romantic when a spouse would lose another due to death and then never remarry.  After my divorce I find that notion horribly depressing and sad.  Sad that the surviving spouse was never able to make that same kind of connection with another human being.   They should still love and honor their deceased partner, but with enough time to grieve should try to find someone new to let into their life.  As most partner’s would not want their surviving spouse to remain lonely forever.

Unconditional love  is ultimately self-destructive unless it is unconditional love for ourselves.  I am not saying that we should love ourselves in such a way that we don’t see our short-comings, poor choices or mistakes.  We should never see ourselves as anything but the flawed human beings that we are, but if anything we should have so much love for ourselves that we don’t allow another to treat us in such destructive ways.   And to hell to the silly novels, lame romantic comedies and articles in Cosmopolitan that tell us otherwise.  A healthy adult relationship should have boundaries and conditions.  To love someone who is abusive to you is not love, and it is nothing noble it is a form of self-loathing if nothing else.

8 comments on “Unconditional Love – Why it is such a bad idea

  1. Joe

    Your comments, as always, bring the spectre of realism where others fear to tread. Nice job here to show why we should not get sucked into stances that sound warm, but on closer look are way off.

  2. Cadence Harper

    I don’t think it’s possible -for me- to love an abuser unconditionally… The abuse will eventually kill the love, if my instinct for self preservation doesn’t first.

    I do believe you can love someone, but -not- love the behaivor. BUT, if that behavior is hurting you or ones you love.. I think the only way for eve a shred of that love to survive is to get out of the path of destruction–& that means LEAVE.

  3. Captn Scorp'yo

    I’ll agree with this up to a point, but I think that the dysfunction lies in the popular idea that love means that you’re a doormat.

    There are three main points on which I base love. What I tell my children, and anyone else to whom it matters (and it’s been some time since there’s been anyone else I’ve had to tell this to):

    1) “Love is an aspect of identity. I will love you for as long as you are you and I am me.” If the other person should prove, in fact, to not be who you thought they were, then you never loved that person, you loved who they thought they were. And if they (or you) change so completely that as to no longer be able to be considered the same person, then the love was between two other people.

    2) Loving someone does not mean you must — or even should — be in that person’s influence. If you’re dysfunctional with another person, then it does not express love to be near them. it does not help or honor them. Even if you want to. Love is greater than the desire for its own gratification.

    3) Loving someone does not make them right. You can want the best for someone, but that does not mean you have to want it above all things. Your safety. Theirs. That of others. Love doesn’t mean letting your child go around, for example, raping or killing people. It does not trump right and wrong.

    And, of course, a lot of people think they loved someone when they never did. They wanted to love someone, or they were infatuated (which is pretty much point 1, only the person they really loved was their fantasy construct of the person), or whatever. So it’s important to make sure you really do love the person before you say it. (It helps if you can define love sensibly, which I think most people can’t beyond “This thing i’m feeling”, which is never a good sign.)

    I think that unconditional love is beautiful, as long as one remembers these things.

  4. Anders

    Thank you this post is therapeutic, that includes the comments too. I agree with the idea of when someone is miss representing themselves that in itself erodes the basis for a healthy relationship.

    Then again how well do we know each other really? The idea that if the person changes significantly OR our knowledge of OR our perspective on, the person, changes. Then that person is not the same anymore and there is no basis for our love. Then it’s a question of, how much ?

    Since we all are flawed human beings we have to figure out how much we are able to forgive in another person. When two people can find a balance between giving and receiving in a relationship, it can appear as if the love is unconditional. In reality the relationship is a continual balance act.

    Maybe and just maybe the unconditional part of our love for another human being is that we have no rational explanation for it. After the initial infatuation phase is long over and we have had numerous disagreements and the haggard reality of another human being starts to dawn on both participants in the relationship. When we are in that place, and even willing to let go of each other and we still have that feeling of warmth towards each other. I don’t know, it could be dysfunctional but I hold my hope out that it actually is love.

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  6. caliwebman

    You have been misguided in your understanding of the true powers and empowerment Unconditional Love offers. When one gives unconditional love they give it wholly and completely by surrendering 110% of that love. By doing so you surrender any attached power and control to that love powerless. In other words, when you give unconditional love correctly and purely it is impossible to become negatively effected as a result of your love. In surrendering your love you also surrender any potential negative reaction that might come as a result of your giving such love. 🙂

    1. julietjeske

      I would completely disagree with you. People are extremely flawed. No one should ever give over their happiness or well-being completely to another human being…that’s insanity. Anyone who has ever fallen in love with a sociopath, a narcissist or even just an addict could tell you the folly of that naive childlike way of looking at the world. Just your sentence…when you give love correctly and purely it is impossible to become negatively effected as a result of your love – sounds like something out of a cult. People can do horrible things to each other, not everyone is so nice.

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