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.
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.
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.
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.
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.