Unconditional love is something we all crave and strive for in our lives. But what is unconditional love? Different people have different meanings for what unconditional love is to them, but here we’ll talk about what unconditional love is definitely NOT. It’s incredibly important to know what unconditional love is not, because many toxic and manipulative relationships parade around as unconditional love, when they’re actually the complete opposite.
Unconditional love can easily become an excuse to be treated poorly and to tolerate unacceptable behavior. There’s more to unconditional love than we think, for starters it’s not just loving someone no matter what they do to you or don’t do for you. It isn’t giving someone carte blanche, or an invitation to treat you like a doormat. That’s for sure.
Many people fall victim to a toxic or abusive, blood sucking relationship and explain it away as unconditional love, but that’s not how it should be used. And that definitely isn’t healthy. To know whether you’re really being loved unconditionally, or being strung along in a one-sided relationship, let’s discuss what unconditional love is NOT.
What Unconditional Love is NOT:
Unconditional Love is Loving Despite Character Flaws, Not Behavior.
Unconditional love is loving someone for who they are, flaws, quirks and all. It’s loving someone even though they aren’t perfect. Now, if one of those flaws is a proclivity to hit you, for example, that’s not what we’re talking about here.
Behavior and character flaws are different, and separate from each other. You can have a character flaw like a short temper, but it doesn’t mean you can’t control your behavior despite that character flaw. You can love someone despite their short temper, especially when they’ve learned how to navigate it and deal with it in a healthy way.
You can’t continue to stay with someone who hits you and make the excuse that you love them unconditionally to explain it away. Unconditional love is not completely throwing your own self-love and self-respect to the wind for someone else. Unconditional love allows you to love yourself first so that you can be well enough physically, mentally and emotionally, to be able to give the proper love to others.
On the other hand, unconditional love doesn’t completely ignore every flaw and shortcoming. Unconditional love is not crucifying someone for their mistakes or flaws, but it’s also helping them grow and better themselves. It’s providing constructive feedback about imperfections and mistakes that can be improved, it’s elevating those you love and enabling them to be their best selves without being critical.
The best people who truly love you unconditionally will prop you up, motivate you, and inspire you to be the best you can be without cutting you down and being negative.
Unconditional Love Is Not Being A Doormat.
It’s not unconditional love when you are loved because you always do what someone wants you to do, or give in to their demands. That’s being a doormat, and subjecting yourself to a leech.
What unconditional love is NOT is throwing away all your self-respect for the sake of someone else like we just mentioned. It’s not being a people pleaser. It’s not having to do criminal, damaging, malicious, or integrity-compromising things for someone else. To reiterate, unconditional love allows for you to love yourself first, it shouldn’t hurt you as a person or damage your life to love someone else unconditionally.
It’s especially not unconditional love when that love is held over your head unless or until you give into demands, that’s an incredibly manipulative relationship. Not only that, but it’s the opposite of unconditional love by being overtly conditional. If you have to do certain things and are threatened if you don’t, in order to keep someone’s love, it is by definition conditional love and you’re being taken advantage of in a major way.
Unconditional love is not having anxiety about whether someone will still love you because you mess up once in and a while, or because you can’t do them one in ten favors. Unconditional love is when you mean well, and even though you make mistakes and may drop the ball now and then, the other person continues to love you and doesn’t hold those minor things against you.
Unconditional love is patient and forgiving, but it’s not blind or being a pushover. And although unconditional love is forgiving, to be forgiven, one has to apologize. When you’re repeatedly wronged and never apologized to, it’s not unconditional love. Unconditional love is mutual respect.
Unconditional Love Is Not Always Convenient.
We’ve all been there and had that “friend of convenience” or “fair-weather friend” who only loves you when it’s convenient for them or when it’s beneficial to be your friend. Especially in Los Angeles, we all know that person who only wants to be around you when it makes them look good, or because you have connections that are useful to them, because you have money, or get invited to the good parties, or because they need hot friends to get in the club.
It’s easy to weed these people out when you hit a rough patch in your life, or a full blown rock bottom. When you’re at a low point and you look around to see who is still there for you, those are your unconditional love relationships. Unconditional love is being loved even when it can be inconvenient or less than beneficial to be your friend in bad times.
It’s not judging and abandoning ship when someone’s made a mistake in their life or a choice that led them down a hole they need help getting back out of. Now, when that life choice is molesting children or murdering someone, it’s understandable to expect to lose a lot of friends. But the normal low points in life, like losing a job, going through a divorce, death, depression, addiction, illness, these are the kinds of things that aren’t a result of a malignant or criminal character flaw.
These are things that happen to everyone, and they’re times in your life when you need your real support system, the people in your life that truly love you unconditionally. Unconditional love is being able to hear a friend vent and cry on your shoulder night after night even when it isn’t fun, comfortable, or convenient for you. It’s giving someone the advice and truths (gently) that they need to hear in order to grow, even when it isn’t easy to tell them.
It’s helping a friend out when they can’t help themselves. It’s not judging and turning your nose up, or punishing, or lacking compassion in your friend’s time of need. It’s putting someone else’s needs in front of yours when they need that lifeline, and in spite of it interfering with your wants.
However, it’s always important to maintain boundaries, regardless of a loved one being at a low point. Unconditional love should not put you in a situation where you feel you’re going down with the ship. If it begins to significantly and negatively affect your own life and priorities, it’s also ok to reel it back a little. Having reasonable boundaries is not conditional love, or being a convenient friend either.
Unconditional Love Does Not Have Strings Attached.
Unconditional love isn’t our default setting in the relationships in our lives, except for maybe between parent and child. We are built to love conditionally, and to expect love from those we give love to. Love is generally reciprocal and when it’s not, we tend to drop the relationship, and usually it’s rightfully so.
This is a smart and healthy way to manage relationships, but this isn’t unconditional love. Unconditional love isn’t like a loan, or an investment we expect a future return or payment for. Unconditional love is a gift without strings attached, that expects nothing in return. Unconditional love is pure and genuine generosity.
This is why unconditional love is rare, when you have it it’s important to cherish and value those relationships. And realistically, you should only be able to count the people you love or who love you unconditionally on one hand. Otherwise, you’re either really lucky, or you need to carefully re-read this blog post. :)
It’s hard to definitively define and put parameters on what unconditional love is; it’s much easier to recognize what unconditional love is NOT. This can be more important than recognizing what unconditional love is because what it’s not tends to be toxic and unhealthy. Be vigilant of the red flags we’ve identified in this blog and we’re confident you won’t be fooled into being taken advantage of by someone claiming an illusory unconditional love.
And on the flip side, you hopefully won’t be manipulated into using unconditional love as an excuse for tolerating someone else’s poor treatment. A very important foundation of unconditional love is that both parties respect and love themselves, as well as each other. If this balance doesn’t exist, you can be sure that it’s not truly unconditional love.
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