The concept of unconditional love is a tricky one. People have various views on the topic, ranging from unabashedly accepting it to wholeheartedly rejecting it. The truth about unconditional love is somewhere in the middle.

People who downright reject the concept of unconditional love may be taking on too severe of a definition. They might think, “I love her without boundaries or limits. I’ll ignore myself. I’ll change for her. I love him no matter what he does to me. He can treat me horribly and I’ll still be there for him,” is what it means to love unconditionally. Therefore unconditional love is unhealthy.

“I’ll forgive everything because I love him.” This is unconditional love, right?

WRONG.

Unconditional love means that you and your partner focus on what keeps you together. It does not mean you ignore the reality of a relationship and disregard abuse or neglect. It does not mean you can’t separate if both partners are unhappy.

If you’re looking to love your partner unconditionally, here’s how to do it in a healthy way.

1. Work through the hard times.

Endure during unfavorable conditions. Don’t let the dark and disappointing times fool you into thinking that you can’t be in the relationship. Believe your love is worth fighting for and work through obstacles. Together. As a team.

2. Embrace every moment together.

Understand the fact that love is filled with ups and downs. Welcome into your heart every single part of it—the happiness, the romance, the adventures, the home-in-pajamas-time, the jokes, the laughter, the disagreements, the sadness, the tears, and all of the unknowns in between. No love is perfect, but the bad is just as much a part of the love as the good.

3. Don’t give up at the first site of imperfection.

Accept your partner as a human being who makes mistakes. You and your partner both have flaws, obsessions, particularities, and opinions. Even those with the most easy-going attitudes have quirks. Just because your partner isn’t perfect doesn’t mean he or she is not a good fit for you. It also doesn’t mean they are not a good person. Understand that no one is perfect, not you nor your partner. But that’s okay!

4. Strike a balance and have mutual respect.

Do whatever you need to do to divvy up tasks, chores, and responsibilities in the relationship. If that means making a spreadsheet, great—do it. Maybe that means having one simple conversation. Either way, after you’ve figured out the balance in your relationship, don’t keep score. Relationships involve both give and take, and you don’t want to encourage resentment in either one of you. Make compromises for your partner. Allow your partner to make compromises for you. Respect each other.

5. Believe you and your partner both deserve happiness.

Above all, you and your partner deserve to be happy. One would never suggest staying in a relationship in which you are unhappy. However, if you truly love your partner, you can choose to try to make it work. Believing you both are worthy of happiness will put you in the right direction.

Unconditional love is not ignoring the trials and tribulations that come with combining two lives into one, but rather accepting them as part of the relationship as a whole. Unconditional love is what makes you want to stay and work on the relationship.

BUT, should you let your husband abuse you? NO. Should you let your wife degrade you? NO. Should you tolerate cheating or neglect? NO.

Maybe there is no way to get absolutely, unabashed, no-holds-barred U-N-C-O-N-D-I-T-I-O-N-A-L love. But you and your partner can get pretty close, if that’s what you want. And if you don’t, that’s okay, too. Just be honest about it, with yourself and with your partner. Most people agree that honesty is the key to a healthy relationship.

You and your love truly can be that happy old couple who still hold hands each day.

old couple

Leave your definition of “unconditional love” below.

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Featured photo credit: Couple in Love/Clement Burelle via flickr.com

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