Remember those long, super embarrassing Facebook bios we all used to write back in the day?
I recently found a screenshot of mine, which I wrote back when there was still a two at the beginning of my age. It read like a mantra of all the things I believed and wanted at that moment in time.
Reading it now, some of it makes me cringe a little, but honestly, most of it is dead-on to what I still believe and still want from my life.
“I wish the words could flow from my brain into a book without all that writing nonsense.”
“I feel most at peace when snuggling with my dog.”
“I think seeing your favorite artist live in concert can be equal to a religious experience.”
“I have no guilty pleasures—love what you love.”
One line toward the end stood out to me though:
“I believe love is and should be unconditional, but relationships require boundaries.”
It’s a statement I still fully stand behind. But with so much talk these days about boundaries and toxic relationships and deal breakers, I think many of us have a huge blind spot when it comes to what unconditional love really means.
Here’s my take:
Love is a noun. But love is also a verb.
Love is a feeling. But love is also an action.
When we talk about the feeling of loving someone—what goes through our heads and hearts when we know, without a doubt, that we love someone—that feeling is a fixed point.
We see this person for who they truly are: their good qualities, their mistakes, their desire to grow, their poor choices. We see the way life and circumstance has brought out the best and the worst in them. We see their potential and their limitations, and we say, “I see you. I accept you.” We love them because of and in spite of who they are, both in reality and in our eyes.
And that feeling of love stays. Through the good and the bad. Through whatever that love throws our way.
You either love, or you don’t.
But the act of loving someone—what we choose to tolerate, how we allow others to treat us, whether we continue to have this person in our life—is 1,000 percent conditional. It has to be, for their sake and ours.
No matter how much love we feel for someone, it’s not healthy for us to continue showing up for someone who can’t show up for us. It’s not healthy for us to tolerate bad behavior (whether it’s a lack of attention and effort or disrespect and abuse of any kind), to allow their mistakes and poor choices to bring us down just because we love them.
Love, as an action, requires each person to be accountable for their choices. To take responsibility for how they’ve hurt or helped another. To be willing to grow, both for their own development and that of the relationship.
We can love someone, we can feel that love for them—fully, deeply, unconditionally—and still choose to not act on that love if what they’re showing us doesn’t line up with the conditions and boundaries we’ve both set for the relationship.
Walking away does not diminish or devalue that love.
And this isn’t just for romantic partnerships either. How many of us have family members or friends we still love but who we no longer allow into our lives? Who we no longer speak to? Who we actively chose to let go of, even though that love still exists in our heads and hearts? Personally, there’s an entire chunk of my family I no longer associate with for exactly this reason. And although the feeling of love is still there, somewhere deep inside, I know that walking away and not acting on that love is the best choice for me and my happiness and my peace.
I recently saw an Instagram Reel from love coach Sabrina Flores, where she breaks down the nuance of unconditional love, particularly the version that most of us grew up believing—the version that says, “I love you and I will share my love with you no matter what.”
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It’s a great explanation, but those last three words—”no matter what“—are what we need to remember when it comes to unconditional love.
Unconditional love, as a feeling, means “I love you…no matter what.”
But unconditional love, as an action, means “I will share my love with you…but only if.”
Anything less than that means we’re accepting less than we deserve.