Is There Such a Thing as Unconditional Love?
We hear a lot about unconditional love because we watch romantic movies and read books and stories about romances whose participants vow to love one another no matter what. We also learn through a variety of media outlets about famous people who have loved without placing conditions on their relationships.
Fiction is, of course, written by authors who specialize in romanticizing the relationships that people have and, in truth, we only know about those famous people mentioned above because of how they have behaved in front of others and what they have told them.
The bottom line is that although unconditional love sounds a dream come true for many, we cannot really know if it exists!
Is there really such a thing as unconditional love? | Source
Before people can determine the existence of unconditional love, they need to possess a clear understanding of what it is.
The problem is that each one of us is raised with certain beliefs that follow us into adulthood. Those, as well as the personal experiences we have through the years are what determine how we view love.
Also, love comes in many forms. The feelings one has for parents, children, other relatives, friends and individuals they meet along life’s path clearly play roles in his emotional development.
The love a child feels towards a sibling is a far cry from how he feels towards another child with whom he shares a deep, caring friendship.
One’s culture also guides the ways in which he feels love because each has different sets of values.
For example, some Mormons still believe in Polygamy. The man in the family is the master. He sese nothing wrong with his having several wives. Each loves him as if she was his only wife and treats him accordingly.
Details how this system works. Clearly it does work, or Polygamy wouldn’t exist!
On the other hand, most Christians would never tolerate Polygamy because they believe that marriage can only exist between one man and one woman. Recently this view has been politically challenged, but only in terms of gender. The issue of two people loving only one another is still the standard value all Christians (as well as many other religious groups) hold.
The United States is comprised of people from multiple cultures, so there are many nuances within them that define love.
However, in most of these cultures, the following values are standard:
- Sexual Compatibility
- Emotional Compatibility
- Emotional Support
- Personal Sacrifice
Not all of these apply to every relationship, but within them are elements that are part of every type of relationship.
For example, parents are expected to be willing to make personal sacrifices for their children, but the same is only true of children when they reach late adolescence.
Siblings are expected to be emotionally supportive for each other as well as affectionate but relatives outside of the immediate family may only be expected to be affectionate and trustworthy.
Of course, each relationship is different, so the items mentioned here are only generalities. Sometimes, for example, cousins become best friends. Once this happens, the concepts of trust and honesty becomes activated.
As previously noted and, as you can see from what is written here, defining love can be extremely complicated simply because there are so many forms of it!
However, there are two types of relationships that test the concept of unconditional love.
Many parents think they love their children unconditionally, but this is not always the case. | Source
Many people believe that the love a parent feels for his child cannot be broken. They think that nothing a child ever does should destroy those feelings of love.
What few children seem to care about is that their parents sacrifice a great deal to raise them in terms of personal and financial hardships, worry and fear.
It is unfortunate that children learn very early in life to use this fact to manipulate and abuse their familial relationships.
Parents who tolerate this type of behavior are those who believe in unconditional love and will proudly state their feelings to anybody who will listen. They believe they are being good parents and, in extreme cases, ruin their lives trying to prove that they love their children. Ironically, many ruin their children’s lives as well as their own.
Parents who participate in these types of relationships actually don’t “love” their children. They are using them to prove to themselves and others that they are willing to do just about anything to keep their kids happy with the hopes that the love they give will be reciprocated. It rarely is.
What happens is that the children become takers who lose the ability to give. Why should they? No matter what they do their parents will stand by them, so why reciprocate?
I have actually seen adult children arguing over insurance money while standing at the grave of their recently deceased father or arguing over a parent’s will while he’s still alive in a hospital bed awaiting death!
The parent-child relationship is extremely complex, but regardless of that, in order for there to be love between people, it must be a two-way street. There can never be one party always giving while the other one always takes If this situation sums up one of these relationships; it proves it is not a healthy one.
Therefore, all of those parents who are killing themselves (literally) to give all they’ve got to their kids might want to come to terms that what they are doing is not giving unconditional love, but rather appeasing some need they have.
What is interesting about adult romantic love is that in order for it to work well, it must be composed of all of the values (and then some) that I listed above.
If any of those qualities are missing, there cannot be love. There may be affection, sexual compatibility and a certain amount of emotional support, but they are only part of the puzzle that is love.
Of course, for many people, emotions block out the problem areas for a period of time. However, once the luster of beginning love starts to wear off and reality sets in, the success of the relationship depends on how willing one or both partners are to accept the flaws of the other.
- If they are totally accepting, yes, they have unconditional love.
- If not, they don’t.
In the second instance the couple will try to justify issues that rear their ugly heads and will even use them as excuses for claiming they have unconditional love for one another.
Take Spencer Tracey and Kathryn Hepburn for example. He was a Catholic, and he was married to another woman. She was single.
They fell in love, but because of the “condition” of his relation, he could not divorce his wife.
Hepburn tolerated the circumstance, but was either unhappy about it or actually enjoyed the titillation of being involved with a married man while still having her freedom!
Yet, theirs is seen as one of the greatest love stories in Hollywood. He was the taker. He had the best of both worlds. She was either the giver, or a person who benefitted in her own ways from the affair.
They no doubt loved one another, but the fact that there was an excuse that kept them from marrying put a condition on their situation.
It is ly that the same can be said for many romantic relationships, but this does not prove that unconditional love in a romantic sense does not exist.
Early love rarely becomes long term unconditional love. | Source
Because love is an emotional feeling and not an action, it is different from real life situations.
It is one thing to feel that you love someone unconditionally, but another to be able to continue loving that person when his actions are abhorrent to you or go against your own value system and beliefs.
- If you are a racist and your child marries someone from a different race, would you still love your child?
- If you married for better or worse and your spouse becomes an abuser, would you still love him?
- If you find out that a good friend has stolen money from you, would your love feelings for him or her remain the same?
For most people the answer is “No”. Human beings can only tolerate so much emotional upset. When there is so much that it overwhelms them, the great majority find it impossible to continue loving.
Unconditional love generally cannot survive under the weight of such circumstances unless one person in the relationship is willing to give so much of himself to maintain it that he depletes himself.
People, for the most part, are romantics. We all want to believe that those who are involved in relationships love one another enough to be willing to do anything to support and protect the other.
Despite what has been said here, I have no doubt that there are children who do reciprocate for the sacrifices of their parent and adults who love one another equally and in healthy ways.
However, I still have to ask myself just how far people would be willing to go.
If it came right down to it, would one lover actually give his life to save that of his partner?
Would these things be done love or the need to assuage feelings of need, guilt or shame?
It is easy to say what you would do in a given situation, but actually doing it may be much too difficult.
Unconditional is a big word. It should not be used loosely. In most cases, there are always conditions because there always are consequences for people’s actions.
If you meet the values stated above, you have a good chance of finding unconditional love…as long as the other person meets them, too!
There Is No Such Thing as Unconditional Love—and That’s a Good Thing
If there is principle that every self-help guru and relationship specialist can agree on, it’s that the only way to lasting relationships is through ‘unconditional love’.
It could be the worst advice possible.
Unconditional love, as we understand it, is either unattainable or undesirable. Either way, it isn’t really love at all, and we would do best to quit fooling ourselves that it is.
The confusion stems from a common misunderstanding.
When considering unconditional love, we typically think of examples such as a mother, who loves her son even when he disobeys, or a wife who loves her husband even when he wrongs her, or, notably, God, who loves his children even though we sin. The thought is that the love of the mother, the wife, and God, is given freely no matter what the other does, and so it is thought to be unconditional.
But is this truly unconditional?
It would be a mistake to think that there are no conditions even in these cases. The mother loves her son because he is her son, and that condition is necessary for her to love him even when he disobeys. Her love is reciprocated by the mere presence of her son, by the mere status of her as a mother.
wise, the wife loves her husband because he is her husband, which is a condition as much as any requirements of fidelity or protection. This is proven by the fact that she flatly disapproves of behavior in another woman’s spouse that she so blithely accepts in hers.
The ultimate example of unconditional love is that of God’s love for his children. This is underscored by the premise that God did not need to create us and that he certainly did not need to save us. His giving his only son in Jesus was the ultimate form of unconditional love, and the greatest height to which we can aspire.
But are there no conditions on God’s love? Did he not get anything in return for the death and resurrection of Jesus? The condition, of course, is that we are human beings—his children. He wouldn’t have shown the same love for the animals of the earth or the plants for that matter.
Similarly, he got in return our salvation, which he may not have needed, but certainly he wanted.
In reality, unconditional love is impossible, because whenever there is love, there is a subject, a person to which that love is directed, and as long as that subject is a person, there are conditions. As in John 10:3, “He calls his own sheep by name.” When you love, you love a person, and that in itself is a condition.
The greater problem with the concept of unconditional love is not a misunderstanding of ‘unconditional’ but a misunderstanding of ‘love’.
In his book Real Love, Dr. Greg Baer says that most failed relationships are what might be called a ‘transactional mentality’, where affection and support are earned only by meeting demands set by the lover. The husband takes out the trash only if the wife will fix dinner; he gives her a massage not because it pleases her but because he knows that she will return the favor.
This transactional mentality leads to a kind of commoditization of one’s mate—he or she becomes simply a means to an end, as opposed to a full human person, and is treated a possession.
From that stems all the problems that couples might experience. The feeling of always having to prove oneself and a lack of support lead to trust issues and a closing off that alienates both.
The solution, naturally, is unconditional love, which Baer defines as seeking the happiness of another without expecting anything that we might get in return. The husband takes out the trash whether or not the wife cooks up a scrumptious steak sandwich; he gives her a massage because it pleases her and not because she will give him one later.
But is this truly love?
We are reminded of the parable of the caterpillar and butterfly. A little boy found a caterpillar on a limb and asked his mother if he could keep it. She said he could if he take care of it. So he dutifully fed it leaves and protected it in a jar.
He watched excitedly as the caterpillar wrapped itself into a cocoon in preparation to morph into a butterfly. But when he watched the butterfly poke through, he noticed that it was struggling so much that it looked to be hurting itself.
He hurriedly grabbed a pair of scissors and cut open the cocoon to let the butterfly out, expecting the butterfly to instantly take flight. But its body was too swollen and its wings were shriveled and weak.
The boy thought he was helping the butterfly, but in reality he was depriving it of an essential struggle to build strength and reform itself into its final state.
Aquinas defined love as willing the good of the other. Does that mean giving affection to or serving someone no matter what? Not at all. It means holding them up to objective standards of goodness and encouraging them to achieve those standards. It might include giving affection and serving them, but not necessarily.
The call for unconditional love is too easily seen as an excuse to not meet expectations, whether someone else’s or one’s own or those of God. One psychologist has suggested that adult relationships are specifically for healing the wounds of childhood neglect and rejection.
The refrain is familiar: A heartbroken lover wishes that his mate would just love him unconditionally, that is, accept him with faults and all. But he is not really asking for love.
In reality he is asking for affection, appreciation, and acceptance, which are the trappings of love and often accompany it, but they are not the same thing.
In effect, he is asking for someone to cut open his cocoon.
We long for the three ‘A’s as a part of being human—they give us the sense of being loved, and so we seek them out whether or not they are accompanied by love. But one can receive affection, appreciation, and acceptance without love, and that is where the problem comes in. For the lover it is inauthentic; for the beloved it lowers expectations. For both it is detrimental.
Unconditional Love: Is It Real Or Just A Romantic Illusion?
Unconditional Love may not save your relationship but managing realistic expectations will!
When your love is unconditional, nothing can tear it asunder. What exists is the-two-of-you-as-one — infallible, ageless, timeless, and forever. New lovers are intoxicated by the overwhelming emotion, each other and by the potent chemical cocktail that results.
But here's what you have to know: unconditional love is a romantic illusion, and one that reflects love that is immature. This is love that is ignorant of the stages of life, of marriage, and individual development.
Unconditional love is naïve and unaware that strong relationships result when two strong individuals combine.
Unconditional love is easy; no decision-making or responsibility is required. Love has no boundaries when it's unconditional. But the real world is conditional — there are reactions to actions and consequences, too. Each of us has at least one marital condition in mind; fidelity, honesty, loyalty, and truth.
If partners agree on the concepts, do they agree on how they look in practice? Be aware of how you came to believe what you do about unconditional love. Talk with each other thoroughly and often, carving nothing in stone. Read on to learn how relationships change and 5 ways you and your partner can evolve together.
Who you were then isn't who you are now
Moving through time, changing with circumstances, most of which are unpredictable, chances are good that each of you has awakened to thoughts, feelings, expectations, and assumptions about your relationship that makes your role different, unworkable, misunderstood, confusing, or unheard.
Build a solid foundation for your relationship
It's just not true that all you need is love. Success demands we know what we're doing; proficiency comes with practice. You didn't become proficient at your job without learning and continuing to upgrade your skills. Having and using skills means the toolbox is there when something breaks.
Prepare yourself and your relationship for uncertainty, change and growth
How we adjust to change isn't always smooth or easy. Love-blind couples are unprepared, surprised even, when life happens in the form of illness, joblessness, or family of origin demands. Realignment takes communication and work.
Manage your expectations
There is no such thing as “the one”. But when relationship ups and downs happen, a lot of us get nervous and believe we've made the wrong choice. What did you expect? Partners manage change by looking inward before blaming outward. Love by itself doesn't conquer all.
Personal boundaries create healthy togetherness
You're you. That's what was attractive in the first place. We think the way to true love is to lose ourselves in the other. All that earns is eventual resentment and lots of identity problems. In truth, intact partners provide the pillars that make a relationship strong.
Unconditional love reflects new love; when the rubber meets the road, love is never enough. Being a success at marriage, or anything, requires that skill is supported by commitment and practice.
The idea of “uncondtional love” is beautiful but as we know, real relationships and love require work. It is only after you've gone through the work with your partner that you can have an honest look into your love for each other.
More love advice on YourTango:
Is There Such a Thing as
Basically, the answer is “no.” Here's how I came to that conclusion:
I recently read a “tweet” on stating “Unconditional love is given by dogs & sought by children. Adults get what they get.” I was immediately prompted to “tweet” back, “Love is never unconditional. It should always be conditioned on respect, caring, loyalty, & making sure you get it back in return.”
When I talk with singles who are frustrated in their search for a committed relationship, the demand for “unconditional love” frequently comes up. “All I want is for her to love me as I am,” a 40-year-old single man recently told me.
So while I believe everyone certainly deserves to be loved, I believe it unreasonable to expect that another adult will love you without any conditions.
That’s because the creation of an intimate adult relationship requires both parties to understand and adapt to each other’s differences.
As I responded to the question “Isn't there someone out there who'll love and accept me unconditionally?” in my article on the Law of Attraction, I say “Yes, and that would be your mother.” Or, as the “tweeter” above observed, unconditional love is given by dogs and sought by children.
I don’t believe that any healthy, mature person really wants to marry their mother (or a dog) in order to feel loved. Singles want to be accepted for both their strengths and their limitations. They want partners who will appreciate their virtues and share their interests and life goals. Most of all, they want partners who will complement and enhance their lives.
In order to attain this type of complementary, reciprocal relationship, singles need to have the essential personal qualities that are necessary to enhance a relationship’s development and longevity. Some of these necessary qualities are: respect, caring, loyalty and generosity. Coupled with the commitment to create a working partnership, love then has the potential to grow exponentially.
For many, this is a tall order. It means being less selfish and narcissistic. Yes, I throw out that big psychological word here in order to make a point—the less self-involved and needy you are, the greater your capacity to give and to receive love.
Most importantly, people need to focus less on what they’ll get in a relationship and more on what they have to give.
As your relationship progresses, you’ll find the places where your strengths make up for each other’s weaknesses, and where your giving can build the greatest and most rewarding connection.
People, and most importantly, singles looking to create a life partner relationship, have to keep in mind that they have evolved the animal kingdom. Thankfully, we reside in a place where the potential to create meaningful bonds, and to find love, is conditioned merely on being human.
Practicing as a psychologist for over 24 years, Janice has treated many singles looking to get married, but who had become depressed and demoralized by the dating process.
Living in New York City with her husband and three children, Janice now uses her skills and experience to help healthy singles overcome the obstacles preventing them from attaining the relationships and lives they really want.
Janice has been quoted as a dating and relationship expert in Us Weekly, Seventeen, Women's Health and Cosmopolitan Magazines, and gives teleclasses, lectures and workshops. Visit her on and follow her on .
Check out her “Get Your Love Right!” blog, read other dating-related Q's&A's and articles, and sign up for a complimentary 45 minute telephone coaching session by visiting her website DoctorLoveCoach.com.
There’s No Such Thing as Unconditional Love!
Some religions and some spiritual groups/thinkers to use the idea of “Unconditional Love” in ways that are bunk. Most EVERY love we have for every other human being is absolutely conditional and should be.
Marriage is often referenced as an institution that includes UL as I’ll refer to “Unconditional Love” hereafter. Yes, we take vows of fidelity and other “obligations” but if we are completely honest, marriage is a contract, a deal. In traditional Judaism there is a legal document called a Ketubah, which is literally a marriage contract.
Most Jewish couples, whether overtly religious or not, get a beautifully caligraphed Ketubah, that is usually signed and sealed by the rabbi that performed their marriage. The fact that most of these couples can’t understand the Hebrew in which its composed is besides the fact.
Let’s be honest about marriage. It is Let’s Make a Deal in how we court one another and what we expect from each other in the marriage. Traditionally, a man was the breadwinner and the woman the homemaker. Since that’s changed with the times, our roles may be different but the contractual nature of the relationship is still present nonetheless.
Many marriages begin with a pre-nuptial contract, which is explicit in financial expectations and sometimes other things as well. Speaking from personal experience and years of therapy, there’s NO DOUBT that my marriage is a deal.
Our family therapist has stated that fact in unequivocal terms. My wife and I may not always agree on what is expected in “our deal” but we absolutely acknowledge that it is a deal.
Yes, love is a big part of (our) marriage and yes, we can have romantic ideals but it is still an arrangement with defined expectations.
Many parents will exclaim that they have UL for their children and on that there can be more layers, subtlety, and disagreement. I expect and want my boys to be good people. I won’t unconditionally forgive them if they hurt other people except in self-defense. I will still love them but I may have less respect for them.
There are many examples of where and when a parent’s love is tested. The most egregious examples are of children who commit heinous crimes. Some parents stand by their kids and make excuses for their behavior.
Some parents simply stand by them and declare their love. Other parents will disown an errant child whether due to drug behavior or serious crimes.
I will not judge anyone in those circumstances but I understand both decisions.
I will state here and now that if either of my boys were to wantonly and violently hurt another human being for profit or gain, my love would be diminished if not erased.
There are some religious faiths that will forgive mass murderers. Sorry, that doesn’t fly by me. The ONLY person that can forgive a murderer is, perhaps, the victim’s family.
When Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds in Oklahoma in his domestic terrorist attack, I remember seeing signs from some religious groups saying they forgave him. That sickened me. Who gives them the right to do that? Maybe God can forgive.
Maybe the victim or the victim’s family can forgive. But, NO ONE else has that right.
There is one place, ironically, where UL exists for the most part. And that is with our pets. They do seem to love us unconditionally.
However, when my beloved dog Simon nearly killed another dog in an unprovoked attack, I took responsibility and the question of “putting him down” was vigorously debated.
Thankfully, the other dog’s family cut us some slack and we didn’t have to put him down.
But animals are animals. I don’t believe animals operate on any moral compass. Only human beings do. And that is why I do not believe in UL. The bigger picture of life and its meaning rests with God. I don’t claim to understand his ways nor do I believe any human being can.
Do you believe in an unconditional love?