Unconditional love, what exactly is that?
A word about love that sounds so beautiful, but is filled in very differently by everyone. I have not heard how many people who approached me as a coachee say “If only my husband understood me as well as you did Michelle, our relationship would be so much better”
Many people see “empathetic understanding” and “unconditional acceptance” as essential ingredients for the ideal relationship and the ultimate proof of true love, both the love we cherish as parents for our children and the love for our partner. But is this correct?
In this article, I am going to explain to you why this ideal is a myth that can damage not only your relationship with your partner but also your relationship with others in general. I will even show you that when you strive for unconditional love, despite the good intentions you have, you actually end up with false love or false relationships.
The myth of unconditional love
Unconditional love is similar to the concept of ‘great love’, but unconditional love is actually an addition to the concept of ‘great love’. The two have a correspondingly unrealistic and absolute character. The difference is only in the expectation that people have to what extent the needs will be met.
With the concept of ‘great love’ you expect that the other person will make you completely happy. You actually have no expectations at all with the concept of ‘unconditional love’. You even tend to ignore yourself completely.
The difference between unconditional love and conditional love
Conditional love involves loving someone for its positive aspects. You find the person attractive, sexy, nice, intelligent, ambitious, well-educated, polite, etc. You stay with that person because the positive aspects largely outweigh the negative aspects, which you think are less present. .
Unconditional love involves loving someone regardless of their flaws or shortcomings. In other words, you are able to love that person even if he or she cheats. After all, you don’t love that person because your intention is to change or dominate that other person. In that case you give love away without expecting anything in return.
This last form of love also means that you can love several people at the same time. You may be able to love your partner’s ex partners if you get along with them. But it can also be done differently. Read the story about Vincent and Paula below.
Why unconditional love is unhealthy: the story about Vincent and Paula
Vincent is the father of 3 children and married to Paula. His kids love him, and Paula feels loved and supported. But Vincent is not only loved by his family, he is also known in his environment as the man you can always turn to. Whether it’s fixing a job or finding a comforting shoulder. Vincent is always there for you. He is understanding, tolerant and easy to forgive.
As soon as Paula gets tired of the children, they know where to find their father. The family seems happy: the children experience almost no problems (Vincent always solves them) and Paula has a job where she can enjoy herself.
Still, Vincent is not happy. He doesn’t know exactly why, but he feels that the energy in his body is fading so slowly. In fact, he feels like he’s on the verge of depression. He loves his family very much, but he still feels empty and he doesn’t really know why. He thinks it might be some strange physical ailment.
It is important to Paula that she feels understood. She chose Vincent because he is always understanding. Therefore, Paula readily accepts her husband’s shortcomings because she gets so much in return.
But deep down in her heart she thinks Vincent is actually passive and unambitious. Every now and then she makes a comment about this. Paula thinks she is lucky with such a man, but she is sometimes surprised that she can react so impatient and irritated, especially towards the children. She focuses more and more on her work in which she thrives completely.
Paula is also active on a social level. She believes it is part of her success. The times when she is at home with her family have become increasingly rare of late. She keeps coming home later and doesn’t take long vacations anymore. She says it’s because her employer demands it.
The reason Vincent feels unhappy is that he does not realize that he is ignoring himself. He has only one desire: the well-being and happiness of others. But there is more than that: he doesn’t care much about his own happiness. He would find it selfish if he thought only of himself. For Vincent, true love is a matter of loyalty.
The fact that he is always understanding, forgiving and attentive is the best proof of his unconditional love for Paula and the children. He thinks it all has to do with respect.
Of course he doesn’t always agree with Paula. Sometimes she gets irritated, worried, hurt or exhausted by her. But he doesn’t want to confront Paula with these problems that he thinks are all his own. At the most, he tells Paula that his statements are not intended as criticism but “just to indicate what strikes him”
The result of his behavior is obvious: Paula seldom takes his comments into account because she thinks Vincent doesn’t care. She ignores his criticism when she finds it unpleasant. When Vincent makes too many comments, she gets angry or changes the subject.
Paula blames Vincent for being passive and not ambitious and does not see that Vincent’s understanding and patient behavior has to do with this. She doesn’t want to hurt Vincent so she doesn’t want to make it too much of a problem. She refuses to admit that she is actually dissatisfied, and she does not dare to complain. After all, Vincent is also a wonderfully devoted husband and father, right?
So this is the result of unconditional love: a couple who are depressed and unhappy without knowing why.
Two people fleeing from unidentified problems, problems arising from the desire to make their relationship and family life a success. We are dealing here with a couple who communicate less and less with each other. Medicines, alcohol abuse, divorce and heartbreak are lurking. Really a shame!
Unconditional love is certainly not a form of ultimate love
In the example above, I showed you why unconditional love can be so destructive to your relationship. It takes a lot more to make your relationship work.
Sure, it’s nice to open your heart and love your partner a lot, but a love affair is only viable if it goes through these steps all the time:
1. Identify what you need
2. inform the other about what is important to you
3. look for solutions together
4. take each other into account
When two people who love each other take into account not only the needs of the partner but also their own needs – and they see those differences as a welcome addition that enriches their relationship – only then can the relationship succeed.
So the ultimate form of love is not to give unconditional love, but to dare to take the risks of real contact. Real contact between partners can be soft or hard, loving or aggressive, intense or subtle, but it is always nourishing and enriching. So an ideal relationship is one where two people receive each other in such a way, knowing that they sometimes have to be quite persistent, and that their search for solutions can be intense at times.
I am very curious about your opinion about unconditional love and whether that is the ultimate form of love for you. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
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