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What Is Unconditional Love? Is It The Key To Long Lasting Relationships?

“Don’t take too long to find

True love transcends all time

That non-reacting, everlasting love

Give me your unconditional love.”

These lyrics by Donna Summer sum up two important qualities about unconditional love: non-reacting and everlasting. When most of us think of unconditional love, we think of true love, love that is given freely, without asking or expecting anything in return. While a love like this has been sung and written about, it does lead one to wonder about its application in real life. What is unconditional love in the context of modern human relationships? And does it really work long term?


Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

So what is unconditional love really? Simply saying, unconditional love is just that – love given freely, without any conditions or expectations. Some might say that unconditional love is what true love really is, and everything else is just a kind of contract – there’s giving only as long as there’s receiving. If you’re the kind of person who rolls her eyes at the mention of ‘soul mates’ or ‘the one,’ you might think unconditional love belongs to the same category – romantic and great for poetry, but not really practical in real life.

Suggested read: Why you should stop looking for ‘the one’

However, science begs to differ, and there are studies that prove that humans are capable of unconditional love, and that it’s not the same as other kinds of love. Mario Beauregard and his associates conducted a study, where they used fMRI to examine the brain imaging of several people. These people were shown images depicting various kinds of love and their resulting brain responses were studied.

The study threw up some interesting findings; when the participants looked at images of unconditional love, seven areas of their brain fired up, of which four areas were absent in other kinds of love. These areas generally include feelings like pleasure, empathy, and compassion. So there you go, science agrees that unconditional love exists in real life and not just in ballads!

Different kinds of love

Now, unconditional love can be romantic, maternal or any other kind of love. In fact, the most common instance of unconditional love that all of us can relate to is that between a mother and her child. For this reason, some researchers even refer to unconditional love as ‘maternal love’ – a kind of love that only thinks about the benefit of the other person and stays alive even if there is no reciprocation. You might say that a parent is biologically wired to feel that way towards a child, but unconditional love also exists between siblings and friends. As long as the love is given unreservedly, it is unconditional!


Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

When we come to unconditional love in romantic relationships, it becomes a little more complicated and difficult to define. It’s not really hard to fall in love with someone; it’s when the love transcends time and circumstances that it becomes truly unconditional love. When you love someone for who they really are deep down, only then can unconditional love be possible in its truest sense. It is a bond, but it isn’t binding; it is forever keeping the other person’s best interests at heart while giving them the space to grow.

A great example of unconditional love can be seen in The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. I’m assuming you’ve watched the movie if not read the book, where Noah loves Allie and treats her with lots of love and tenderness – even though Allie’s got Alzheimer’s and doesn’t even remember him or their 50-year-old marriage. Allie hasn’t got anything to give Noah anymore, but none of that has any impact on Noah’s pure, unconditional love for her.

What unconditional love isn’t


Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Reading about unconditional love, it’s possible that people get the wrong idea about it, that unconditional love means complete submission of yourself and your life to the one you love, and tolerating and accepting everything they do – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, nothing could be further from the truth! To clear things up on this front, here is a list of what unconditional love isn’t:

1. Being a doormat – Just because you love someone to the ends of the earth doesn’t mean that they have the right to walk all over you; that’s just exploitation. Unconditional love means giving the other person due respect by maintaining your own.

Suggested read: Here’s why love hurts when it doesn’t work out

2. Being blind – If the object of your affections is going astray, and you keep mum for fear of contradicting them, your love is not really of much use to them, is it? Not having conditions for your love doesn’t mean that you enable destructive behavior which will anyway ruin a person at the end.

3. Changing someone – If you find yourself trying to change the other person’s behavioral traits or personal characteristics to suit your own version of the perfect partner, then I’m sorry, but that’s not unconditional love! As Chris Moore says, “Love is to love someone for who they are, who they were, and who they will be.”

4. Infatuation – Know that feeling when you think you’re in love and you want to follow the other person wherever they go? Well, that’s just infatuation and nowhere near unconditional love.

Unconditional love begins from within

By now, it’s clear that unconditional love for a person doesn’t mean that you live the life of a sacrificial lamb or suffer in silence. This goes on to prove that true love for another person can only begin by feeling unconditional love for yourself. Self-esteem is an important requirement of unconditional love, and if you think poorly of yourself or tend to blame yourself in every situation, you need to work on yourself first. Unconditional love can only come from a place of total acceptance and peace, not from a place of negativity.


Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Successful relationships where both partners shower unconditional love on each other are usually between people who have some core values in common. But for this to work, it requires having a good knowledge of your own thoughts and beliefs, as well as loving yourself for the person you really are. When you are ready to accept yourself for all your strengths and weaknesses, it becomes much easier for you to do the same with another person, paving the way towards a relationship of deeper understanding and love.

While unconditional love benefits from self love, it also improves your perspective of your relationship and life in general. You tend to let the small things go, by focusing on the big picture. You learn to be grateful for all the pleasures in your life and you become more compassionate and forgiving – even towards yourself.

How we think of ourselves is also tied to how we feel when we’re on the receiving end of unconditional love from someone else. When people feel they’re being given more than they deserve, they begin to self-sabotage. Such feelings can be very deep-rooted, probably originating from an absence of unconditional love in childhood. Again, in such situations, the healing needs to begin from within, so that we can open up our hearts to both give and receive love. As Morrie Schwartz said, “The most important thing in this world is to learn to give out love, and let it come in.”

Unconditional love and unconditional relationships

We now have the answer to the question of what is unconditional love, but how does this information apply to the daily practicalities of a modern romantic relationship? As you can imagine, loving someone from a distance is easy, but when you’re living with them and having to deal with mortgages, bosses, check-ups, and busted tyres, it can be hard to feel any kind of love! However, crisis situations and similar circumstances prove to be the true test of unconditional love, and if you’re able to get over these, you’ve nailed it!


Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Of course, this is easier said than done, but relationships were never meant to be easy! Unconditional love cannot be forced by any means, and trying too hard can only backfire. However, being mindful of the situation and realizing that you need to go easy on yourself first before loving another can help. Another point to consider is that all of us eventually change as we go through life, and unconditional love being based on a person’s basic nature, doesn’t waver in the face of change. You just find your new normal and move ahead; the rest just falls in place on the way.

Suggested read: Finding a new normal with the one you love

With an open, honest channel of communication, the ability to listen empathetically, a heart to forgive and the willingness to respect boundaries, unconditional love can be a lovely mutually beneficial exchange between two people. Unconditional love does require many things – courage, generosity, maturity – but, it’s all worth it when you think of the lifelong bond that you’ll share with the love of your life.

As Nicholas Sparks says in The Notebook, “I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.”

Featured image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Article Name
What Is Unconditional Love? Is It The Key To Long Lasting Relationships?
What is unconditional love? Find out if unconditional love can exist beyond ballads and how it works in real life to build a lasting, happy relationship.
Fabida Abdulla

Fabida Abdulla

Fabida is an erstwhile Software Engineer and current Freelance Writer cum stay-at-home mom to her boisterous 6-year-old. In between all the writing, baking, nagging, reading, and cuddling, she manages to blog a bit about her crazy life at Shocks and Shoes. []