What is unconditional love? Do you receive it from someone, and do you give it to other people? For that matter, do you feel unconditional love towards yourself?
What is unconditional love? “Loving the person even if you don’t like their behavior,” says Amy T. from Triangle, Virginia. “Accepting the person for what they are, not for what they can do for you,” writes Amelia B. from Amarillo, Texas. “Love that loves you through the worst you can do, as well as the best,” describes Jennifer R. of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Unconditional love requires that you place no conditions on loving another person. Whatever they do, good or bad—cheat, lie, steal, kill—you will love them regardless of their behavior—regardless of what they do or don’t do.
Several thousand readers worldwide responded to the question posed in this column about their experiences with unconditional love. Most acknowledged that they had a very difficult—and often impossible time—unconditionally loving another adult that they were tying to be in a long-term intimate relationship with.
Let us permit readers to speak for themselves:
- “I’m not sure if it’s possible for adult love to be totally unconditional, because we all have needs and wants,” says Ann from Wellington, New Zealand.
- “A few years ago I was involved with a man for whom I felt unconditional love. He was a selfish, troubled, closet alcoholic who was incapable of loving anyone, including himself. The things that he chose to do to himself, hurt and scared me, but my strong sense of unconditional love and acceptance kept me miserably with him for the better part of a year. If I ever again feel anything close to the powerful unconditional tangle of the love, lust, devotion and acceptance I felt for him, I would run the other way, fast,” writes Sally J. from Milwaukee.
- “I have become cautious about totally trusting a man/woman relationship because there seem to be so many conditions. A couple’s love is more committed than unconditional, because there are more expectations, and more needs to be met. Unless both partners are fulfilling each other’s needs, the love is fragile,” says Nancy F. from London, Ontario.
- “For me love, sexual love, is conditional: don’t deliberately hurt me, don’t walk all over my feelings and trust,” writes Vanessa B. from Wellington, New Zealand.
Some readers insist that they have—or had—unconditional love from their partners:
- “It means you love him when he’s cranky, joyful, worried, silly, busy, carefree—anytime. Yes, I’ve experienced it, it lasted eighteen years. Then he had a heart attack and I lost him,” laments Sara J. from London, Ontario.
- “What my husband gives me now, loving someone without strings attached. So far it’s lasted seven years,” writes J from Lake Ridge, Virginia.
- “My husband gives (unconditional love) to me regardless of his anger, or the differences, or the distance. I don’t mean he gives it by behavior, it’s just something that I know is there for me. He has said that he loves me so many times, it is one thing that I know to be there unconditionally, even when I don’t deserve it. I guess that would be my definition—love that is given even when it isn’t deserved,” says Mary S. from Milwaukee.