Everyone looks for unconditional love, but are we setting ourselves up for failure? Most likely.
Yes, unconditional love does exists. In a dog to its human parent, or from a parent to their child, unfortunately, the reciprocal, not so much. However, in modern romantic love, with today's disposable world, it barely exists.
Let’s take a step back. Where did the concept of unconditional love come from? If you trust wikipedia, it dates back to as far as there was religion, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. So the notion has been around for a damn long time; it wasn’t just because of Hallmark and Disney. Humankind has been conditioned to seek unconditional love. Unconditional love was seen as a proof of true love.
A few generations ago, honour and commitment were taken far more seriously, and unconditional love may have been more prevalent. My sis, a surgeon in Vancouver, told me a story of an Alzheimer’s/dementia patient who no longer recognized his wife. The wife cared for him until he had to move to a nursing home. She visited her husband daily and had accepted the fact that he no longer recognized her as his wife, but rather, as a friend, due to her daily visits. She also embraced the fact that her husband had found new love, a “girlfriend” who was also a patient in the nursing home. To this day, she still loves him dearly and lets him have his new life, because she wants him to be as happy as possible. This is the heart-warming side of unconditional love.
The heart-cooling side goes a little more like this. Couple meets, they put their best foot forward, they date, they fall in love and they get married. Now that there’s a ring on it, the best foot that was forward, takes steps back. You stop working out and eating well. You stop prioritizing your partner. You criticize, complain and nag at the drop of a hat. So? What’s wrong with that? We love each other unconditionally. We’re married, so ‘til death do us part, right? Yikes! We see this time and again. Inevitably, a whole tangle of emotions ensues - resentment, frustration, anger, self-doubt ... Most people treat strangers with more kindness and attention than their partners. And unless something changes, it’s curtains on the relationship.
There are also those who will love someone blindly, even though their partner treats them badly and doesn’t care about their well-being, all in the name of “unconditional love.” This isn’t love. It is low self-esteem, and maybe a little organized religion thrown into the mix. Whatever it is, it just isn’t healthy. Know your value. Ask for help.
If you want to have the best possible relationship, you need to change your mindset about unconditional love being the greatest, truest love. What’s wrong with conditional love? Loving someone based on conditions may seem unromantic, but it actually makes sense for the relationship and for your well-being.
What are these conditions? Respect and kindness, being prioritized most of the time, affection, attention, benefit of the doubt, support, the list goes on. You should continually strive to be your best self, for yourself, your partner and your family. It isn’t always easy given the day-to-day stresses of life, but if you want this person to be the best partner for you, you need to be the best partner for them.
Somehow we’ve been sold the foolish notion that “Love is Easy” if it is true love. No, love is not easy. However, love is simple. Set your conditions, reciprocate. If one day it becomes a little too difficult to be your very best, then do better the next day. Here are a few simple Do’s and Don’ts:
· Don’t give up on making an effort to look and act your best
· Don’t hen-peck and criticize, have discussions
· Don’t disparage them, especially in front of others
· Don’t be a negative nellie. Be positive and make positive statements
· Do let them know you’re on their side. Give verbal affirmation and show affection in front of others and when you’re alone
· Do make quality alone time for each other
· Do be kind, not hurtful
· Do be polite, please and thank you still matter
· Do be respectful. Contempt is a downward spiral
· Do give your partner sincere compliments
· Do greet our partner with a smile and deep long hug, instead of a diatribe of your terrible day
· Do keep the sexy alive
It is a choice to love someone and for them to love you; is it not worth the time and energy? There is no free ride.
PS. Treat someone as you would like to be treated. Simple.