There are many articles out there that celebrate unconditional love and paint it as the holy grail of relationships. But there’s another side to the story. What if we told you that unconditional love isn’t everything it’s made out to be and that it won’t solve all your relationship problems? Well, here’s the truth: unconditional love isn’t only unhelpful, but it can also be downright toxic and dangerous. Instead, conditional love is a much healthier approach in relationships.
First, let’s define what conditional love is. Love is the most powerful emotion in the world. It’s a strong sense of affection and attachment towards someone or something. The word “conditional” means that the love depends on conditions or requirements being met. And contrary to most articles published about conditional love, this is not a bad thing. Let’s repeat that: conditional love is not a bad thing.
When it comes to relationships, we should direct our time and energy toward people who make us happy and show us respect. For example, do you think anyone should stay in an abusive relationship because they love their partner unconditionally? No. That’s why conditional love is a much healthier approach.
Unconditional love isn’t heroic, selfless, or romantic. Loving without concern for how someone treats you comes from a place of low self-esteem and a lack of self-respect. It stems from wanting to please others or being afraid of rejection. But you deserve to be with someone who loves you, respects you, and treats you with kindness.
It’s worth noting that conditional love can be just as toxic if the conditions are superficial or unrealistic. We’ll explore this later in the post. So, like any complex emotion, it needs to be approached mindfully and from a place of understanding.
The exceptions to the rule
There are two exceptions to this rule, though. It’s important for us to unconditionally love ourselves, as well as unconditionally love babies and children.
Unconditional self-love gives us the motivation to grow, develop, and evolve. It also gives us a sense of inner peace, which enables us to feel happier and bring joy to other people’s lives.
Unconditional love is also essential for children, as it serves as the foundation for their self-esteem and emotional well-being. It enables children to learn to feel secure in relationships, safe to express themselves, and confident in exploring new experiences.
It also allows children to develop an understanding of their own worth, knowing that they are deeply loved regardless of their successes or failures. Unconditional love gives children the freedom to make mistakes and grow while also feeling supported and truly accepted.
Uncovering 6 myths about conditional love
Now that we know the truth about conditional love, let’s debunk some of the myths about conditional love and relationships.
Myth 1: Conditional love is selfish.
Conditional love is not selfish. It’s a legitimate way to ensure mutual respect in relationships and protect yourself from emotional harm. It enables us to draw boundaries and defines what we will and won’t accept in our relationships. This doesn’t mean that conditional love doesn’t involve sacrifice — it just means that you won’t be sacrificing your well-being or core values to stay in a relationship. Conditional love means we spend time with people who value us rather than sacrificing our well-being to remain in a harmful relationship. We have a duty to ourselves and others to take care of our physical and mental health. This enables us to show up as our best selves and bring positivity to the world. So if unconditional love is draining your energy or negatively impacting you, it can actually be far more selfish than conditional love.
Myth 2: Conditional love is toxic.
If anything, unconditional love is toxic. On the other hand, conditional love is conducive to healthy relationships. It’s a way of setting healthy boundaries and expectations in relationships that allow you to maintain respect for yourself, your partner, and the relationship. Essentially, conditional love is a way of saying that you need your partner to treat you in a certain way for you to continue investing in your relationship. It’s the opposite of blind, unconditional love and enables us to form healthier relationships with those who show us respect and kindness. There is a link between martyr complexes and unconditional love — they both involve people sacrificing their own needs to please others.
Myth 3: Conditional love is superficial.
Conditional love isn’t superficial if you choose the right standards. For example, if you expect your partner to show you respect and kindness, then it’s far from superficial. It’s true that you can’t just choose any standards and assume conditional love will bring you complete relationship bliss. The conditions should be the “right” ones, and to some extent, these are subjective. But first and foremost, they should be based on mutual respect. A relationship can’t sustain itself if either partner feels disrespected. Other common healthy conditions in a relationship include honoring boundaries, being honest, and showing appreciation for each other. Conditional love based on superficial aspects, such as looks or money, won’t lead to a lasting, fulfilling relationship. So, if you want to make conditional love work for you, choose standards that align with your values and support a positive, healthy relationship.
Myth 4: Conditional love means you don’t value someone.
Conditional love doesn’t mean that you don’t value someone — it means that you need to be treated in a certain way for you to continue investing your precious time and energy in the relationship. It’s a way of saying that you respect yourself too much to settle for less than what you deserve. It’s not about disregarding someone’s worth — it’s about protecting your own emotional health and setting boundaries for a mutually fulfilling relationship. When you love conditionally, you take responsibility for your own happiness by setting healthy expectations of how your partner should treat you. Anyone who cares about you will understand and respect your boundaries. With conditional love, you can love someone just as deeply as you would with unconditional love, but in a way that takes your needs into account.
Myth 5: Conditional love is draining.
On the contrary, conditional love is actually very energizing. It’s a way of investing in relationships that make you feel valued, respected, and appreciated. It’s also a way of saying no to relationships that don’t bring you joy. When you love conditionally, it means not investing in relationships that drain you or energy by negatively impacting you mentally, emotionally, or physically. If you are with the right partner, conditional love won’t be draining for them, either. Even though it involves setting standards, your partner will want to meet your expectations because they value you and the relationship. And if your partner does find it draining to meet your expectations, then it’s a sign that you are incompatible on a fundamental level. In short, conditional love is not only empowering, but it can also bring up the energy in a relationship.
Myth 6: Conditional love requires perfection.
Conditional love does not require perfection from either partner; it only asks each partner to respect and honor the other’s conditional standards. When people love conditionally, they understand that no one is perfect, but that doesn’t stop them from having certain standards that they feel they need in order to be happy. It’s important to remember that conditional love is not about passing judgment on your partner or making them feel bad for not meeting your needs. It’s about setting reasonable expectations that you can both work towards and communicating them in a respectful way. Conditional love isn’t about making someone jump through hoops to meet unattainable standards. It’s about protecting yourselves and strengthening your relationship.
Introducing unconditional goodwill
By definition, “love” means that strong feelings are present, which implies an investment of time, emotions, and energy. We have limited time here on earth, so we should be mindful of investing in relationships that bring us joy and peace.
However, kindness and compassion towards our fellow human beings should be unconditional, no matter what our history with them. But we don’t all have the time and energy to invest in every relationship. That’s why unconditional goodwill from a distance is so important. It’s about treating others with respect, understanding, and empathy regardless of the situation.
We can’t always love unconditionally, but we can show unconditional goodwill to everyone and make a positive difference. An example of this is, let’s say your partner cheats on you. Although conditional love won’t work in this situation, you can still practice unconditional goodwill by wishing them well, sending them positive vibes, and hoping that they find happiness. It can bring more peace into your own life as well as theirs.
Another less personal example is showing kindness to strangers and acquaintances in ways that don’t require us to invest any energy. A simple smile, a friendly hello, or a kind gesture can go a long way in brightening someone’s day and bringing warmth into the world.
Wishing something bad upon someone doesn’t actually help anyone. We can all strive to practice unconditional goodwill and create a kinder environment, even if we don’t have the capacity to invest our time and energy in every relationship.
We don’t have to accept bad behaviors and love unconditionally. But conditional love doesn’t mean you can’t be truly kind. By using conditional love and unconditional goodwill in our relationships where appropriate, we can build deep connections, but not at the expense of our own well-being.
Final thoughts on conditional love
So, as we’ve explored, conditional love is not about passing judgment, seeking perfection, or being selfish. It’s a form of self-care that aims to maximize happiness in the world.
If this is the case, why is unconditional love held in such high esteem in relationships? The answer lies in the fact that it’s a comforting story to tell ourselves — that we will be loved by our partner, whatever happens. While it’s not wrong to want to be loved conditionally, the reality is we all have to take responsibility for our actions and how they impact other people.
As we discussed, we can still practice unconditional goodwill when necessary. Conditional love and unconditional goodwill can co-exist in our lives. Both are essential for making the most out of life and fulfilling connections.
At the end of the day, conditional love is about setting boundaries and respecting yourself. It’s an empowering way of expressing love that protects both you and your partner in the long run. When done with respect. If we can all strive to find a balance of conditional love and unconditional goodwill, we can create a better world for ourselves and those around us.