Loving and being loved unconditionally is a wonderful feeling, but building unconditional relationships is unhealthy.
Love is a powerful emotion. Apart from the usual ingredients which make breathing and living possible, love is a contributing element to our mental and physical well-being.
We need love to grow
Research has shown that when infants are born into an environment lacking in love, emotional warmth, and physical contact, the growth of their brain is hugely affected. To grow into healthy adults, we need love from the moment we enter this world.
A mother’s love is unconditional
The first person we ever receive love from is our mother. Although newborns cannot reciprocate love, the bond between the mother and her newborn child is the most powerful in the world.
If you are scientifically inclined, know that love is directly linked to oxytocin, also called the bonding hormone. Love is nature’s way to ensure the newborn baby is cared for and protected thus ensuring the perpetuation of humankind as a species.
Unconditional love is for babies and pets
It’s natural and healthy to receive unconditional love from your mother. When we become parents, we love our babies to the moon and back and we do everything in our power to protect them from harm.
But as adults, is it healthy to offer and expect unconditional love from your romantic partners?
I believe unconditional love is for babies and pets.
When it comes to grown-ups loving each other their love should be based on mutual respect and consideration, healthy boundaries and behaviours, standards and values. These are the makings of a healthy love relationship. It’s actually how any relationship between grown-ups should be no matter who they are: friends, co-workers, business partners etc.
Believing that you should allow any kind of behaviour or attitude from your romantic partner on account of your unconditional love for them is dangerous. It’s a get out of jail free card and you run the risk of your partner using this card with negative consequences for you.
Should your romantic partner hurt you emotionally or physically, do you still love him/her?
Should he/she treat you badly and make you feel unworthy, do you still love him/her?
Unconditional love and unconditional relationships – a necessary distinction
Dr Jeremy Nicholson makes an interesting distinction between unconditional love and unconditional relationships.
He says it’s wonderful when we find someone who loves us for who we are, “warts and all”. But we shouldn’t apply a “no conditions” clause to relationships.
Love is a feeling while relationships involve thoughts, reasons, and decisions.
As a result, love (feelings) and relationships (decisions) can have separate rules and expectations. Love, because it is a feeling, can be unconditional. Sometimes, no matter what a partner does, feelings toward them do not change. Relationships, however, are working partnerships. As such, they require conditions, boundaries, limits, and directions to run smoothly.
Therefore, a distinction must be made between “unconditional love”…and “unconditional relationships”.
In a healthy relationship, partners refrain from making decisions based on their feelings of love alone.
Loving your partner unconditionally is natural but accepting your partner unconditionally is toxic.
When the relationship has negative consequences on your wellbeing and your life, make sure that whatever decision you make, it is based on reason, not love.
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