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  • Writer's pictureJeff Johnston

Unconditional Love

Does unconditional love actually exist and is it really where we should aim our attention?

Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions. It’s love offered without strings attached and evokes many feelings and emotions. Perhaps it takes you back to your childhood, or your aging parents. It’s unselfish love, yet should it be a “one-way street” or should it work both ways? I say the latter.

Studies suggest unconditional love can increase your overall health and well-being. It can provide safety and support. True altruism, in this context, means you don’t consider any benefits personally yet you provide unconditional love for the support and the benefit of someone else. So, isn’t this a “one-way street” if there are no reciprocal expectations? Can this actually work?

In the case of an alcoholic let’s say, isn’t unconditional love potentially an open door for abuse and enabling? “I love you unconditionally and will support you through your darkest times!” Hold on, is this really advisable? How healthy can this be for YOU if this is a one-way deal? By definition unconditional love doesn’t benefit you personally. I have seen those in the death grip of alcoholism blame all those around them.

“You weren’t there for me”

“You didn’t support me when I needed it most”

“F’off and it’s none of your business”

At some point “unconditional love” can be a very heavy emotional weight dragging you to the bottom of your own personal abyss. If you love someone “unconditionally” yet this is at your own peril how is this a good thing? Unconditional love is circumstantial. Was it “unconditional love” when we kicked Seth out of our house after he was released from prison? I loved him more than anything yet I couldn’t have him in our house at that time as we had two young boys still living with us. He was dead within 2 months.

I have never liked this phrase. It’s a “romantic” term that comes down to how we ultimately frame and define the words “unconditional” and “love.” Is having to put your pet down an example of how much we love our pet? I submit it is. The intentional act of killing our pet is due to our absolute love of the animal. Yet how is this beneficial to the pet? It’s not unconditional love by definition. It’s compassion and empathy. Kicking Seth out of our house was more because I loved him AND I loved the rest of my family equally. It wasn’t unconditional love yet I wanted to believe, and still want to believe I loved him unconditionally.

Ultimately, tolerating abuse and enabling someone isn’t a productive way to live for either party involved. Walking away from a relationship, putting a pet down or making a very tough decision with someone you love is difficult. For these reasons, for me, unconditional love is a pipedream. A Hollywood flamed emotion that pulls at our heartstrings. I have replaced the word “unconditional” with “unlimited” love. My love is limitless but does have conditions. Live Undeterred!

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