Unconditional love sounds ideal and romantic, but is it really? To love someone no matter what they do, no matter what happens, might be okay in a fairytale without real-life complexities and realities. In the real world, we each have to have our own backs and we have to ensure that our own needs are met. In fact, love with no conditions can be pretty toxic. Here’s why unconditional love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
- Unconditional love blurs boundaries. Boundaries are important in any relationship. In order to satisfy your needs, you have to communicate what you will and won’t stand for. Unconditional love tends to blur those boundaries. It’s another way of saying that you’ll love someone regardless of what they do. So if unconditional love is the standard for your relationship, it tends to take away from the importance of any boundaries either side sets up.
- It sets the tone for the entire relationship. Having someone love you unconditionally sounds great in theory. But in most cases, it also sets the tone for the entire relationship. So if your partner loves you unconditionally, they probably expect the same from you. And that can mean having to put up with things that you don’t feel comfortable with.
- It doesn’t hold you accountable when you do something wrong. We all make mistakes and, if we’re going to learn, we have to hold ourselves accountable. That’s the only way to grow and improve. Unconditional love makes it more difficult to own your mistakes and take responsibility for them. It suggests that those mistakes don’t have the same consequences. Holding someone accountable when they lie, cheat, steal, or do anything else to hurt you is healthy. But it tends to fall outside the realm of unconditional love.
- Unconditional love can pave the way to abuse. In addition to toxic behavior in general, unconditional love can also lead to abuse within a relationship. Loving unconditionally means loving no matter what. So all sorts of trespasses come under that term, including mental, physical, and emotional abuse. That’s not to say that all unconditional love results in abuse all the time. But that line of thinking aligns with staying in a toxic relationship, just because you have to love the person unconditionally.
- It leaves no space for healthy arguments. When two people try to love each other unconditionally, it can make it more difficult for them to argue. Although that sounds ideal, the truth is all healthy couples disagree from time to time. But when you’re supposed to love someone unconditionally, you might feel like you’re betraying that standard by getting into a healthy argument.
- It makes it harder to raise feelings and issues. By the same token, it can also be harder to voice feelings and issues in a relationship based on unconditional love. Either person can shut down any thoughts with a simple, “You have to love me no matter what.” Because of this, one or both people can end up feeling guilty for experiencing emotions such as frustration or disappointment. They can also feel like it’s not worth bringing those things up if the other person will just dismiss them.
- It makes you worse at relationships. It seems that a relationship based on unconditional love leaves less space for personal growth. The beauty of making mistakes in relationships—even painful mistakes, is that’s how you grow. You learn not to do something again. But if all behavior is just accepted because anything else would be conditional, you might think that you can always do whatever you like. And when the next relationship comes along, it will probably be difficult to adjust to reality.
- Unconditional love doesn’t align with self-love values. Unconditional love sounds like something out of a fairytale. That said, it doesn’t actually align with self-love values. Being loved no matter what might be comforting. But having to reciprocate that could leave you at odds with your own sense of self-worth. If you have to accept all behavior from your partner, no matter what, it’s harder to love and respect yourself in an authentic way. In reality, values of self-love and respect involve setting healthy boundaries for other people who come into your life and not betraying your standards.
- Conditional love doesn’t mean being judgmental. You don’t need someone to love you unconditionally. Why? Because conditional love doesn’t mean what you think it means. Love with conditions isn’t automatically judgmental. Fair conditions, such as, “I will leave this relationship if you’re unfaithful to me,” don’t mean that there’s no room for understanding or tolerance in other areas. They just mean that there will be tolerance up to a point that is healthy. They also mean that you’re honoring the relationship you have with yourself and you’re not trading your own right to happiness for the sake of someone else.