Unconditional Love... Really?!
Unconditional love. What does that even mean? Is it really a thing humans are capable of? I feel like the answer could be yes, if we don’t warp its’ meaning. But, mostly, we do.
Would you agree that we can’t truly love someone without also being vulnerable, without being at risk of getting hurt? Would you further agree that there are conditions under which it is safe and healthy to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with others and there are conditions under which it is neither safe nor healthy? Finally, can you envision that it could be safe to be vulnerable with someone during a certain period and that something could shift or change and it could become unsafe to maintain the same level of vulnerability?
If I declare that I will love you unconditionally for as long as we both shall live, do I believe I am promising to remain vulnerable regardless of the circumstances? That I will love you even if you treat me cruelly, stop loving me, or leave? Do I KNOW that for the rest of my life I will be as I am now, that my feelings about me, you, life will NEVER CHANGE? Do I even want to sign up for a life like that, where I can’t imagine and will actively resist any change that might draw me away from you?
This makes no sense.
If I drop back a level, I can find a place in me that has compassion, even love, for humans as a whole. I believe we’re all worthy of caring and what might look like intolerable behavior to me is just you doing what you do in this moment, given the circumstances in which you currently find yourself, as defined by you. Regardless of how you are showing up in the world, I can have compassion for you as a human.
But we’re not going to breakfast!
I guess I could say I can approach believing that unconditional love is a possibility at a species level. But at an interpersonal level I think it is a concept used to mask co-dependence. For practical purposes I think we would be better off ditching the idea of unconditional love.
Suppose I say I love you unconditionally and you want to leave the relationship. If I continue to “love you any way” year after year, long after you’ve asked to be released then a) I have closed myself to amazing possibilities for future relationships and b) you asked me to stop and I haven’t stopped. If I’m clinging to an old relationship, long since gone, there is fear of some type at the root, not love.
Please stop asking me to love you unconditionally. I will love you enough to take responsibility for my own well being. I will love you enough to give you the space to do the same for yourself. I will love you enough to tell you the truth. I will love you enough to risk losing our relationship to do this. I will love you enough to be willing to recognize and accept if or when this relationship doesn’t serve either of us.
For me, I’m going to keep the goal of unconditional love as a goal I try to reach for myself. My goal is to try and learn how to love myself unconditionally. I don’t believe I can do something in the world that I can’t do for myself.
And, if I can’t love myself unconditionally, I certainly can’t ask you to either!