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We Need To Get Over Our Obsession With Unconditional Love


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There’s a false assumption about love that is destroying relationships. You’ve seen it, probably thrown it up on a timeline, post-breakup passive-aggressive-style. It goes something like this:

“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”

And what that’s really saying is, “I deserve unconditional love.”

Boom. Period. Really? Okay. So, where did the idea of unconditional love, from your partner specifically, come from? How is this a good thing? Let’s examine:

Terrible people are … terrible.

Reactive behavior, the inability to behave like an adult: storming out, becoming violent, justifying awful behavior? All those things should have severe consequences. Like losing friends and developing a bad reputation. I know this is a hard pill to swallow, but, you are acting like a child. Your “worst” sounds abusive. You might have some really understanding friends who’ll stick around and help you develop into a better human (and good for them), but the only other people who stand by you are most likely your parents. Or, potentially, enablers. If you’ve lost friends, can’t keep a relationship going, and keep getting hurt? Then learn from it. Don’t go to that place anymore.

Okay, it starts with loving our children. But … you are not a child.

Parents love their kids. They have to, otherwise, our species would have never made it this far. But, that sense of unconditional love takes over during a period of extremely limited decision-making ability on the part of your toddlers. The prefrontal cortex is the last part of the brain to develop, and this is the key area responsible for emotional, rational cognition. Once you become an adult, you no longer have that excuse, and not everyone you meet will be as understanding as mom and dad. So, yes, we learn unconditional love from our families, but when you grow up? Well…love should be conditional. Example: your partner lies and cheats over and over. You shouldn’t continue to love that person over and over.

Zero consequences = zero growth.

The idea that someone could do anything, act like a horse’s ass, and get away with murder because they expect absolute, unconditional love — and all the things that go with it — is disturbing. Go ahead. See how much you can hide from your spouse, your friends, and your family. Do you think you’re being cute? Would you honestly respect someone who stood by and accepted you no matter how badly they were treated?

You can’t take some things back.

Love is a risk. People, real people, have to decide to open their hearts to you. It’s a big deal for some people. Violate that trust and you’re crossing a line that can never be un-checked.

People. Not robots.

Wounds leave scar tissue and people have limits. Real people come with baggage, memories last longer than you think, and the concept of “forgive and forget” is a joke. The effects of verbal abuse are far-reaching and not always visible from the outside. No one deserves you at your worst.

Partnerships should be about celebrating victories, lifting each other up, supporting the lows, and building a life together. But this one human can’t be the antidote to your awfulness. It’s a limited deal and it’s not a one-time sale. It has to be nurtured, fed, and maintained. If you’re looking for love with unconditional boundaries you may want to ask yourself why.

Lindsay Lauck

Lindsay Lauck is a writer, blogger, musician, and marketing professional in the Mountain West. When she’s not dishing out life advice, she can be found sampling the local whiskey, playing her guitar, and hiking with her dog.