One of the most dangerous sentiments out there is the concept of unconditional love. We’ve been sold it for as long as any of us can remember. Everything in fiction depends on it. The wedding industry thrives upon it. It’s a concept that is so ingrained into the world that those who don’t believe in it are considered sad or somehow malformed. True, unconditional love is the thing to which all people are supposed to aspire. If you can’t find it, you’re missing something terribly important – at least, as far as the story goes. The truth is, there’s no such thing as unconditional love.
Love does exist, but it’s conditional
Sounds cynical, right? The very idea of dismissing unconditional love probably makes your skin crawl. To be fair, most of the people who would dismiss this kind of idea are pretty cynical. What they’re trying to sell is the idea that love doesn’t exist at all . That’s not what’s being said here, though. There’s absolutely such a thing as love. Whether you think it’s something spiritual, something romantic, or just a bunch of chemicals, love is a real thing. Love is wonderful and it’s definitely worth seeking out. The thing that is problematic, though, is the idea that love should somehow be without conditions.
First and foremost, it’s impossible for something to exist without attached conditions. You either do something, or you don’t. You can love someone truly, or you can not love someone . There are things that would make even the most romantic person fall out of love with another person. Imagine the most horrifying thing you can imagine, and then imagine your loved one did that. Could you still look them in the face? Could you still love them? If you did, what kind of monster would you be? That’s not love – that’s slavish devotion, and that’s never good.
Unconditional love can be a leash
We see the problems with so-called unconditional love whenever we see relationships with a power differential. How many relationships have you seen in which one person mistreats the other, yet the weaker partner will forgive anything? You don’t admire that sentiment, do you? You think of that person as weak, as deluded, as ultimately unable to do the right thing. Yet somehow, in theory, you might still believe that unconditional love is a good thing. If you apply the same standards to other people that you would to a complete stranger, you’d stop obsessing over the concept.
Putting reasonable conditions and expectations on love makes a stronger relationship
Putting conditions on love  doesn’t make it weaker. It makes it far more honest. When you say you love someone, you are saying that you love who they represent themselves as. You love all the things that come together to make them a person. If one of those things was removed, it’s entirely possible that the reasons for your feelings would go away. It’s like a Jenga tower – there’s only so much that you can add or take away without making the entire thing fall over. Love can’t be built on that kind of foundation.
There’s a lot of freedom in abandoning a concept like unconditional love. If you move away from it, you realize that you can begin to reasonably put expectations on how another person treats you and acts. You aren’t committing some kind of horrible act if you walk away from someone who treats you poorly – you are being honest about the fact that you want a strong foundation for your love. You aren’t married to some kind of outdated, outmoded myth. You want real love, the kind that is able to last. You want to be able to experience love as a positive force rather than one that is limiting.
Love is a verb. It’s something you do
If you except that fact that love is conditional , you can also begin to accept the fact that love is a verb. Love is something you do, not something that just happens. When you start to believe this, you start to believe that you will actually have to work for the love of someone else. You can’t be lazy and complacent, because you remember you are loved for what you do, not just who you are. You will suddenly become a better partner because you realize that the other person in your relationship actually deserves some effort.
Should love be thrown away at the drop of a hat? No. It’s something that’s worth preserving. You should not, however, trap yourself just because you think love has to be eternal. This gives you the freedom to love people but to still expect effort from them. It helps you from being trapped by tradition and allows you the chance to be a better person. The more you realize that love is conditional, the more you will be able to see how conditional love is the best thing that could happen to you. Conditional love can last – but it’s built on a foundation or realism, not fantasy.