I was once told by a former boyfriend he wished the women he dated would love him the way his dog did: unconditionally.
The comparison between bitches aside, it got me thinking.
Is that even possible?
We all have our deal breakers — whether it be cheating, broken promises or physical altercations — when it comes to relationships.
So is unconditional romantic love a realistic expectation?
There are definitely circumstances where unconditional love is possible.
Just think about biological and family ties. Parents (typically) love their children unconditionally, and vice versa.
Even if your sister ruins your favorite t-shirt or embarrasses you in front of your crush, you’re still going to love her, right?
So, we know unconditional love is possible when there are family (biological or not) ties, and maybe even when it comes to certain friendships.
But what about when it comes to romantic relationships?
Are people willing to give up certain deal breakers when they tie the knot, or is their inability to do just that why the divorce rate is so high?
I’d go with the latter.
Think about it: Although the vows read “for better or for worse,” we still know people get divorced when the sh*t (aka, the “worse”) hits the fan.
While not the leading cause, 17 percent of all divorces that occur are due to adultery on the part of either or both parties. And cheating is a condition, which means the couple’s love wasn’t unconditional after all.
Why We Strive for “Unconditional”
Why do we feel the need to reach for unconditional romantic love in the first place?
According to Aaron Ben-Zeév, PhD in his article for Psychology Today, our belief we can attain love that is unconditional “stems from the human wish to overcome our basic limitations.”
That makes complete sense.
As human beings, we like to think of ourselves as evolved. We’d like to hope that no matter what our partner did, we’d be able to see past the indiscretions and focus on the love.
More often than not, however, that’s simply not the case.
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Although unconditional romantic love may not be realistic or even a possibility for many, if you really want to make it work, you may be able to convince yourself otherwise.
Dr. Ben-Zeév explains:
The unconditional nature of romantic love can be a great motivator for generating and maintaining love. Sometimes disregarding reality can indeed be advantageous, as it increases our chances of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just as saying to my beloved that my love for her will decrease as time goes by may diminish the likelihood of the relationship's survival, the promise of everlasting love has the function of encouraging lovers to believe in the feasibility of enduring love.
The mind is an incredibly powerful tool. So, if you want to believe in the possibility of unconditional romantic love and want to foster that kind of love between you and your partner, make a mental commitment to it.
Just don’t let your commitment to that ideal blind you from reality.
Is Unconditional Romantic Love Healthy?
There have to be boundaries in order for two people to exist in a healthy, loving, reciprocal partnership. However, sometimes those boundaries can be hard to see in the first place.
According to scientists at University College London, romantic love suppresses the brain waves associated with the critical social assessment of people and negative emotions.
This means if you’re in love with someone, your brain’s need to critically assess the nature of your partner’s character is reduced. And that can be dangerous.
Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell told Match.com:
Expecting or granting unconditional love in romantic relationships poses real hazards to individual emotional health. It creates optimal conditions for abuse (‘I love you unconditionally, so you may treat me horribly, but I’ll still remain true’), codependency (‘I’ll be everything to you and ignore my own needs’), and loss of authentic self (‘I love you so much I’ll be whoever you want me to be!’).
Ultimately, while unconditional romantic love may be something to strive for, healthy, conditional love is the sweet spot.