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Unconditional Love Doesn’t Exist  

Unconditional love is a wonderful idea, but the idea can also be very problematic to relationships. I’m going to start with the premise that it doesn’t exist. If you think of love as caring for someone and wanting the best for them and nothing being able to change that, perhaps it does exist. And the willingness to do anything for a child and sacrifice oneself for a child might well be considered unconditional love. I won’t argue with those ideas. What I am talking about is love in a primary, intimate relationship. Unconditional love does not exist in such a relationship, or, if it does, it is a sign of a problem rather than a good thing.

The reason I say this is that mutuality is the foundation of a primary, intimate relationship. Love in such a relationship is the creation of two people who care about each other, are responsive to each other and each other’s needs, and who support each other and treat each other in kind and caring ways. You can see how it would be a problem if only one person takes such an attitude in a relationship. Taken this way, love in an intimate relationship is something that is created by two people working together to create it.

A key for this is that each person has to be secure enough in their own worth so they don’t require something external to feel OK about themselves. It is not uncommon for me to run into someone who talks about wanting to be loved for who they are.  What this usually means is they want to receive validation from someone outside themselves so they feel OK. Sometimes the appropriate response to “I want to be loved for who I am” is to say, “Then stop being such a jackass.” More often, though, it is appropriate to point out that all of us humans are imperfect beings with needs and quirks and we get into relationships because of needs we have. So to be loved in such a relationship, you have to meet needs of that person.

The idea of unconditional love can also be problematic when someone believes giving unconditional love will create a perfect relationship. They then try to be all for the other person, but underneath they still have their own needs that they usually aren’t even expressing. The end result is resentment and grief.

Personal validation has to be personal. It has to come from you rather than from somewhere outside of you. The good news is the love that can be created in a relationship by two people who are secure in themselves can be amazing! So, experience good loving. Just don’t expect it to be unconditional.