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How a Lot of People Misunderstand Unconditional Love

How a Lot of People Misunderstand Unconditional Love

Unconditional love doesn’t happen right away. At the beginning of a romantic relationship, a ton of superficial factors come into play that draw you to another person and make you feel like you’ve fallen in love.

New love is always conditional

The first thing that grabs your attention is probably something like: their beautiful eyes or cute laugh. As the two of you get to know each other you learn that you have the same taste in music or that you both love the same type of food. You can’t get enough of this person and find all of their little quirks endearing.

This excitement makes you feel like you’re in love. But this isn’t unconditional love; it’s infatuation. In fact, it’s conditional love and relies entirely upon these superficial characteristics. As the relationship grows older, it loses its spark. That once adorable snort they make every time they laugh? Now it’s ordinary, maybe even annoying.

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Questioning what kind of love you have is normal

Your personal values come into play at this stage of the relationship. How your partner feels about personal, political or social issues suddenly becomes important. Because if you don’t share intrinsic values, you realize all you have left to keep you together is that laugh.

At this stage in your relationship, you start to really examine what sort of love you share. You might even have some worry or doubts, asking yourself, “is it conditional love or unconditional love?” What most people want at this point is to be absolutely sure they have unconditional love in their relationship. It’s the security of having this unconditional love that will keep the two of you together and help you make big life decisions, like deciding to live together, to get married, or to have kids.

It’s totally normal to start reassessing your relationship and even worrying about the love you share. This is the point in the relationship when you wonder if the two of you should stay together or not. When you reach this stage, it’s important to know exactly what unconditional love is. Unfortunately, most people believe some common misconceptions about unconditional love, which tends to complicate the decision making process.

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Unconditional love is not “no matter what you do.”

Far too many people think that unconditional love means staying with a person no matter what they do. They think that true love means overlooking everything their partner does and never giving up on them. This misconception can actually be dangerous and has led to a number of people staying in abusive relationships. The things your partner does every day affect your life, your feelings, and your well-being. You should never overlook their actions.

Unconditional love means you should love somebody no matter what happens to them. If your partner contracts a serious disease or illness, unconditional love means you’ll stay by their side while they undergo treatment. If they are in a terrible accident and have to go through physical therapy to recover, or if they lose their job due to downsizing, you’ll be there for them. This dedication in the face of adversity is unconditional love. You want to be their support system no matter what happens to them. Not no matter what they do to you.

Unconditional love is not codependency

Now, just because unconditional love means supporting your partner no matter what happens to them, it does not mean that they should take advantage of your love. Your partner shouldn’t rely on you to meet all of their emotional needs. Ultimately, each person is responsible for their own happiness. An unhealthy emotional reliance like this is actually codependency, not unconditional love.

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How can you tell the difference? It’s codependency if either person in the relationship: relies on the other person to feel happy, loses your personal identity, or is no longer an independent party in the relationship. If you have no boundaries with your significant other and you have a hard time telling them “no”, you’re experiencing codependency, not unconditional love.

Unconditional love is not loving everything about your partner

Your significant other is a human and humans are flawed. You are not required to love every single one of those flaws. In fact, unconditional love means you will dislike a few things about your partner and that’s completely normal.

Loving every single thing means you are only focusing on the good characteristics. You refuse to believe your partner could have anything negative about them. That’s not rational, however, because nobody is perfect! Everybody has bad traits! If you choose to ignore them, you’re probably still in the infatuation stage of your relationship and haven’t yet reached unconditional love.

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Unconditional love is not over-protecting your partner

Let’s get something straight: nobody wants to see something bad happen to the people they love. The desire to protect your loved ones is a natural response to your personal relationships. Sometimes, though, being overprotective stands in the way of their progress.

When you have unconditional love for your partner, you want to see them take steps to improve their lives and reach their goals. These steps, however, are often difficult to take and filled with the risk of failure. And with this failure comes disappointment and pain. If you truly love your partner, you’ll understand that some pain can’t be avoided and is even necessary to get them to where they want to be in life. Being overprotective can actually hurt them in the long run.

Real unconditional love allows the two of you to change and grow as individuals over time

When you have unconditional love, it allows the two of you to change and grow as individuals over time. Your love for each other is in your shared personal values and that won’t change over time. As you each develop and work toward becoming a better person for yourself and your future, unconditional love is what keeps you together. In fact, you are together because you want to support the person through these critical changes. You want to see them change and improve themselves. A couple with unconditional love will never “grow apart”. If you find emotional distance creeping its way between the two of you, it’s because your personal values don’t align. As you grow on a personal level, you’ll begin to notice these difference where unconditional love doesn’t exist.

Unconditional love also allows you to be happy without your partner. It means that you can be independent, each of you pursuing your own interests. Unconditional love gives you a certain freedom in your relationship. It’s the freedom to be your own person, to have solo time, to achieve your personal goals, and to live happily. When you are able to achieve your personal goals, you have a better understanding of yourself. Knowing yourself and loving yourself allow you to love another person unconditionally.

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Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2019

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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