Conditional Love?


 It’s almost cliché for people to “love unconditionally”. The phrase is meant in good faith- love yourself and others without any expectations and love people as they are.

Thinking about self-love: do you love yourself conditionally? Do you only feel like you’re enough if you look a certain way? Wear certain clothes? Have people in your life?

Here’s a question I will pose- is it wrong to have conditions?

My take on this:

Conditions are boundaries- the boundaries that we set around our happiness, growth and progress. For example, if you choose to only be around people who are uplifting and supportive of you, you are setting conditions on who you have in your life (as you should). Should those same people no longer support you, or become toxic, you are likely to change their position in your life.

This sets the stage for what some have called “struggle love”- being unhappy with someone (could be friend, family or romantic love) but sticking around anyway, because we should love unconditionally.

When someone encourages us to love them without conditions, careful discernment is needed. Are they asking you to love them through abusing or mistreating you? Love them even though your needs aren’t being met? Love them through unnecessary trauma and pain? I know this will not be popular opinion, but consider this for a moment:

Relationships today are codependent and based on relating through trauma. The people we say are “real” are people who have expressed living similar trauma to your own. The people we connect with most are people we connect with through our similar negative life experiences.

The notion that people who chose not to lead with their trauma are “perfect” or “fake” deters us from forming relationships based on healthy, positive bonds and keeps us stuck searching for trauma in others to connect to. For example, I find that when I am speaking about uplifting, positive things, people may roll their eyes, look disinterested or seem uncomfortable; but if I were to mention struggle or something negative they light up and want to know more. Does anyone else find that to be strange? Or is it just me?

Having conditions is the same as having boundaries- your boundaries are the conditions for your happiness- and there is nothing wrong with having them. You are completely allowed to state what you need and surround yourself with people who can meet you there. The caveat to this is that not all people who can’t meet you there are “bad” people. We tend to demonize people who don’t meet our standards, instead of learning to live and let live. Some people are meant to be at an acquaintance level in your life, some people are meant for your inner circle, and others are meant to be kept at arm’s length, all based on your boundaries and where you are going in life.

Don’t fall into the trap on “unconditional” love- the type that causes you to lose your sense of self, boundaries and self-respect. To love without conditions is really tied to the “live and let live” philosophy- have your standards, but don’t judge or ridicule others for having theirs, should they be different from yours.

Love is a verb. It requires action- and those actions we require differ among us. You deserve to have your needs met, and deserve to be loved in a way that feels good to you. Accept yourself as you are, and accept others where they are- and if where they are is having a negative impact on you and your goals, stay true to the boundaries you set to honor your own happiness.

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