This post originally appeared here on Medium.

Are We Truly Capable Of Unconditional Love?

I grew up with the romantic notion that unconditional love is the be-all-end-all in a love affair. I fantasized for many moons about having someone who would sweep me off my feet and love me unconditionally, forever.

There’s so much talk about unconditional love, it made me wonder if people truly understand what the concept means, or perhaps like many others, we’re romanticizing something that doesn’t exist.

Love as we know it today is conditional. It’s based on the idea of mutual give and take. It’s a form of exchange — you scratch my back and I scratch yours, we’re both happy.

The term unconditional love means exactly that. It has no conditions attached. It’s not dependent upon anything for its survival. It stands strong on its own.

However, like many others, in the name of self-love, I learned to erect walls around spaces where I concluded that love must not venture. I accepted that a healthy relationship should comprise certain conditions that both partners must not violate. I believed that love should work both ways.

Most of us forget that the power to love comes from us, and it’s not reliant on what others do or don’t do. It’s completely one-sided.



Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash


The concept of give and take

When I offer love to someone whom I think deserves, hoping in return that he’ll reciprocate, that becomes an expectation. It’s clear that I’m on the giving side. Regardless of whether I get love in return, is the other person’s prerogative and my supreme happiness should not depend on it. I’m treading on thin ice because if I get this wrong, I’ll end up miserable.

The concept of giving and taking reminds me of a refund policy. Like the time I brought home a dress that didn’t flatter me like it did when I saw it at the store. The dress does not make me look as good as I’d expected, and so I simply return the item.

Do I get to return expressions of love that I’m not happy about and walk out? Is this what relationships have come down to?

Do I get to return expressions of love that I’m not happy about and walk out? Is this what relationships have come down to?



Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash


Absolute acceptance

Very few things in life echo louder than absolute acceptance. Acceptance does not mean tolerating every flaw the other person display or playing dumb when they’re wrong. Instead, it means receiving them for who they are as a person.

I’m not condoning victimhood. Unconditional love does not demand that we endure or remain in toxic or abusive relationships. No one should leave themselves vulnerable to emotional or physical harm in the name of unconditional love.

Obviously, we can’t change people, so what do we do when they act crazy? Can we continue to love them? Most of us forget that the power to love comes from us, and it’s not reliant on what others do or don’t do. It’s completely one-sided. Let that sink in.

If that’s difficult to comprehend, it shows that we are incapable of unconditional love because we have set the conditions for how love should be. Most of the time, we’d expect that there should be a certain amount of reciprocity.

That doesn’t mean we should stay and allow the conflict to push us close to the edge of insanity. Regardless of what actions we took, if it’s unconditional, the love doesn’t stop. There’s no denying that there is an element of sacrifice involved. The person I love may not love me back the same, but my love is not dependent on his response.

Original Photo by Mateus Souza from Pexels

One-sided love

Those who are parents would understand. Our child’s horrible behavior doesn’t stop us from loving him, but to put things right, it requires that we take corrective measures to deal with the issue at hand. We love them unconditionally because we love them for who they are, not for what they did or what we expect of them.

Unconditional love taught me how it feels to love one way. It isn’t until I’m put in a tough spot that I realize I’m capable of loving unconditionally.

The surrounding people are far from perfect because my definition of perfection only exists within my own mental construct. I can’t guarantee that they’ll remain the same forever or that I’ll never change, but that’s not the point. The point is, can I continue to love them, regardless?

Many factors can contribute to a healthy relationship such as boundaries, respect, and reciprocity, but these are conditions we expect from others. The question remains: if they cannot live up to our expectations, can we still continue to love them?

No obligation but complete free will

In our culture, it seems everyone is hoping to find the perfect someone to ‘complete’ their lives. We want a love that is strong enough to withstand all calamities and remain unshakeable no matter what. We forget the power to love another completely resides in us, that it’s in our ability to exercise this power. It’s not in another person.

I’m not obligated to love anyone. It’s a choice and a decision. Either I can go ahead with love anyway, or I’m too hurt to walk down that path again, so something has to change.

This isn’t about right or wrong. Love just is, and I don’t need to break my heart trying. Either I’m capable or I’m not. Whatever argument that comes after that is all conditional based. I still can choose to love, over and over again.

In all probability, unconditional love may not be what you want, or what you can tolerate. Don’t fret. Be okay with that. Most relationships don’t last forever, anyway. That’s because most want to identify what they would expect out of it. Certainly, it’s not unfair to expect that you receive in return for what you give out. Just remember to stop calling it unconditional when it’s not.

And most importantly, the one person you must love unconditionally in order to be happy is yourself. Realize that leaving someone whom you loved unconditionally does not mean you stop loving them. It just mean you'd rather detach with love and that is the most difficult and often necessary step one must take in life.

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