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There’s No Such Thing as Unconditional Love. You Either Love Someone or You Don’t

There’s No Such Thing as Unconditional Love. You Either Love Someone or You Don’t

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 [1]. 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.

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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.

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Putting reasonable conditions and expectations on love makes a stronger relationship

Putting conditions on love [2] 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.

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Love is a verb. It’s something you do

If you except that fact that love is conditional [3], 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.

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Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Is Unconditional Love Possible?
[2] Psych Central: When Unconditional Love Has Conditions
[3] Garden Plants Nursery: Unconditional Love

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Tammy Sons

Master Gardener, Horticulurist, Arborist

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Last Updated on September 11, 2020

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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