It’s considered the epitome of how you should love and be loved by a partner: them continuing to want you unconditionally through your ups, downs, and changes. I guess it’s a nice idea to have someone love you despite seeing the worst parts of you and enduring your bad moments.
However, while unconditional love makes sense in certain situations—for example, unconditionally loving your children as a parent—I’d argue that it shouldn’t be considered in a romantic relationship.
So What Exactly Is Unconditional Love?
It is, quite simply, loving someone without any conditions. It does not matter what they do or say, you still maintain your love for them throughout all their changes and moments—good or bad—and any frustrations you feel toward them.
I guess, in a sense, the idea of staying loyal to someone in their worst times seems like what all love should be—the ability to see past their faults and missteps—but it can lead to some really toxic relationships.
The Older I’ve Grown, The Less I’ve Liked The Idea Of Unconditional Love
While a teenage version of me might have been more into the idea of unconditional love, I feel like experience in romantic relationships—my own as well as watching those of friends and family—has swayed my opinion.
I’ve watched people I love endure horrible treatment from a partner in the name of “unconditional love,” and, frankly, I think that it’s time to put the ideal to rest.
It’s Really Ingrained Into Our Society
I’ve heard the idea of a “ride or die” relationship romanticized more times than I can count, suggesting that you should do just about everything for a partner and “ride” with them through anything.
However, it gets really messy when it’s people “riding” with the love of their life even though their partner is cheating, being manipulative, or is not upholding their part of the relationship.
I Believe All Romantic Relationships Should Have Conditions
Call them conditions or boundaries or whatever: I think that, in a romantic relationship, you and your partner should have parameters that, when crossed, could make one party end it.
I personally think of entering a relationship kind of like signing a contract to promise that you’ll love and support your partner, and, if one party mistreats the other or breaks that promise, the contract is broken.
Emphasizing The Notion Of Unconditional Love Only Empowers Manipulative/Toxic People
Many times, the idea of unconditional love is wielded by a person in a relationship in response to a request or complaint that their partner has. For example, one person might be upset that their partner has been very temperamental, but the other person might argue that they should love them even at their worst.
Toxic and manipulative people love to use unconditional love as a means to guilt their partner into staying or remaining silent, and that’s unhealthy.
Unfortunately, There Tends To Be A Gendered Difference
Particularly in the media, many women are expected to show unconditional love in the face of the transgressions or problems their significant other brings into their life.
While the concept of unconditional love negatively affects both men and women, more women are unfairly judged for leaving partners who are negatively impacting their lives rather than trying to “help their partner fight their demons” or “show forgiveness for his mistakes.”
I Will Admit, Conditions Can Also Be Toxic
Of course, you cannot and should not expect perfection from a significant other, and it is unfair to hold them to certain expectations.
For example, only showing signs of love and affection to a partner when they perform in a way you like (e.g., dress how you want them to or perform a certain behavior) is a toxic and manipulative way to enforce conditional love.
The Conditions Are Up To You
I think it’s important at the beginning of a relationship to establish boundaries about what kinds of communication and actions you are comfortable with from a partner.
In a healthy relationship, you set out kind of a “terms of agreement” for how you’re supposed to treat each other (of course, you can amend it later) so that you both understand what would potentially upset each other and lead one party to want to end the relationship.
Your Conditions Might Drive People Away And Vice Versa
With any boundaries and non-negotiables you might have, you’re going to meet people who aren’t happy to comply with them.
You have to be ready to accept that people might not want a relationship according to your conditions, and perhaps you’ll have to evaluate if you’re being too demanding or decide to be firm in the boundaries you’ve set up and let them go.
Ultimately, It’s About Partners Holding Each Other Accountable
Imagine if, no matter how you performed on any test or assignment in school, you were bound to get an A+ grade: why would anyone ever try to study or work hard?
The whole point of having some level of conditionality in your relationship means that you are holding your partner accountable for their actions and vice versa—and I think that’s the only way to really do it.