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I’ve always been a romantic at heart.
Regardless of what happens, I struggle to let go of the person I love. No conditions, no limits—only pure, limitless love in my being.
What I receive from my partner doesn’t quite matter. What matters is that I stay, regardless of how they choose to love me.
I know, it’s sweet.
Unconditional love is the kind of love we all fantasize about. To love and be loved, despite all the wrong, all the bad. What’s love anyway if it doesn’t endure everything, right?
I had to go through far too many toxic relationships to realize that this “no-matter-what kind of love” only works when you find the right time, way, and person to practice it with. I’ve also realized that enduring those common, day-to-day problems is different than enduring manipulation or mistreatment.
I clearly had a misunderstanding on this topic in the past. I was like Santa Claus with a huge bag of unconditional love, distributing it to every person my heart fell for—no matter what. The consequences were awful. I endured hurtful situations and stayed with the wrong partners, all because my love was supposed to be “unconditional.”
I’m not the only one with this skewed notion though. Most of us have the impression that unconditional love is the only way to genuinely love someone, and that not doing so devalues the nature of our love.
>> How many of us have accepted forms of abuse, cheating, mistreatment, and pain in the name of unconditional love?
>> How many times have we stepped over our values out of fear that we’d be accused of being a “cold-hearted” partner?
>> How long did we stay stuck in a bad relationship because we believed unconditional love would liberate us?
In these situations, unconditional love ceases to be love. It becomes an unhealthy clinging to a mere idea that implies we should stay in a relationship no matter how bad, unhealthy, or toxic it gets.
But despite what we know, everything in life—and especially love—only grows under certain conditions. Be it a flower, a tree, or a plant, specific conditions must come together to induce growth. And the idea of unconditional love is no different; this kind of love must be conditional at its core.
The word “conditional” might come off as harsh, but in this context, it implies being on the same page with our partner and respecting our own values (and theirs). Putting conditions on unconditional love happens once we’re aware of what we want and what we deserve.
We can think of it in terms of deal breakers. I’m not implying that we should give only when we receive or love someone only if and when they do this or that. Having boundaries and deal breakers means that we stay in a relationship as long as our partner exhibits signs that are worthy enough to allow us to stay. What we give might be different from what we receive because we have different ways of loving each other. But the foundation (the values) must be the same: no emotional or physical abuse, no cheating, no mistreatment, no threats, and no bad behaviors.
We also need to know the difference between a normal conflict and a relationship that’s turning toxic. Common conflicts or disagreements are often beneficial. Through them, we learn more about our partner and can enhance the relationship. But when a relationship turns toxic, we need to walk away.
It’s challenging, but totally acceptable, to walk away from someone who you promised to stay with no matter what. Leaving a partner who doesn’t respect you, who abuses you, or who mistreats you in any way doesn’t mean you don’t love them anymore. It means that you love yourself enough to know what you deserve.
With no basic conditions defined, most couples end up taking each other for granted and there’s nothing to work for in the relationship. Then we’re staying simply because we believe that’s what unconditional love requires.
We need to rethink the idea of unconditional love and remember that the beautiful thing about love is being able to work for it and help it grow.
Do not put up with repetitive bad behavior in the name of love. Remember, love is a verb, a behavior. So if the behavior is bad, the love is too.
We can love our partner, but still have standards on how we want to be treated. We can be there for the one we love, but stand up for ourselves if we’re being mistreated. We can still wish them well, but walk away if their behavior becomes toxic.
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