Throughout the year, especially on certain special occasions, I keep seeing memes and messages circulating about ‘unconditional love.’ It’s a nice concept, of course, but the older I get and the more I date, the more I realize that conditions are actually pretty damn important.
Most of us absorb our ideas of love from romance novels and romantic comedies which are filled with declarations of ‘forever’ and ‘no matter what.’ In reality, love doesn’t always mean your lives and values will align. That’s where laying down conditions could help.
Why Are Conditions Important In Love?
Conditions could be as simple as not being with a cheating partner or wanting a partner who will respect your parents and upbringing. Or, it could be wanting someone who has roots in the same geographical location where you grew up. It sounds romantic to follow someone halfway around the world for the sake of love, but that might not be possible for a lot of us.
“I need to be close to my parents, so for me, a partner who needs to travel a lot for work, or who might want to move away is not feasible,” says Jen, 27.
Twenty-two-year-old Nikki says, “I don’t think flinging yourself into a romance with no conditions is healthy at all. What about the condition of not cheating, or of always being honest? When you say, ‘unconditional love’, aren’t you basically saying, ‘Even if you’re a terrible partner, it’s okay?’”
Kevin, 30, agrees, saying, “I want my partner to take care of himself, physically and mentally. I’m not saying I won’t be there to help and support him, but I don’t want a relationship with someone who doesn’t take care of himself, too. Those are my conditions, and I stick to them.”
Expert take on loving unconditionally
Experts agree that laying down clear conditions and boundaries are essential if we’re to have sustainable, happy relationships.
“To sustain long-term relationships, it’s essential that they are value-based, i.e., to know what you value and also have and expect some common alignment of values,” says clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh, who holds a Master’s degree in research in her field.
Conditions are equivalent to healthy relationship boundaries, and there’s nothing more important than knowing your own limits and being aware of where you can compromise, and where you absolutely won’t. As romantic as unconditional love sounds, it’s never a good idea to erase your own expectations and boundaries for a relationship.
Related Reading: 10 Must-Follow Healthy Relationship Boundaries
“The moment you put conditions into a relationship for the common good is the moment when you’re on a surer footing about each other and the relationship. On the other hand, feeling a tremendous gush of attraction that we often call unconditional love can put the relationship under stress because the reality of the other person might change upon getting to know them better.
“This may lead to resentment and bitterness which often comes across in statements like, “You’re not the man I fell for” or “I don’t know this girl anymore.” So, clearly stating some basic conditions in a relationship is a good way to prevent any unhealthy expectations or mind games in the long run,” Devaleena adds.
Why conditional love isn’t selfish
For a lot of people, women especially, laying down conditions is equated with selfishness or the inability to nurture a relationship fully. Remember, there will be times when you put your partner and your relationship first. However, you have an identity that is separate from your relationship, and in order to preserve and nourish it, it is vital that you have a love with conditions.
If we consider love as a series of expansive, dynamic, deeply emotional acts, self-love cannot be left out of the equation. To me, laying down conditions could actually broaden and heighten our understanding of love and of each other, because we’re going in with honesty, and our eyes and hearts wide open.