Loving Unconditionally

I want to address loving unconditionally. What it means and what it doesn’t mean simply because this is one of those ideas that we hear about a lot. I have had clients ask me if there really is such a thing as unconditional love and it is usually a pretty lively conversation. My answer to that is yes. You can love unconditionally.  But -that doesn’t mean that there are unconditional consequences.

We can practice unconditional love or at least we think we can really well with our kids because there’s nothing that they could do that would make us not love them in the moment.  Practicing unconditional love with our closest most intimate partner or spouse is not as easy. That’s a whole other ball game.

So here’s what usually happens. When you are kind and loving towards me, I will be kind and loving towards you and when you are not kind and loving towards me, then I am not going to be kind and loving towards you. I am going to take that loving, good feeling, light away from you. So that is not unconditional.  That’s a condition. When you show me love, I’ll show it to you in return. Now you may be thinking that this is not really a problem, but if we only show love in return, that requires the other person to be steady enough to always be showing us love and we all know how that goes.

It’s incredibly hard to be loving towards someone who isn’t loving towards us. It definitely isn’t easy but the truth is that you absolutely can be loving towards someone who isn’t loving towards you. You can make that choice, because it is just a choice.  You can be loving because loving feels better than being hateful towards someone even if they’re being hateful towards you. Even if you feel completely justified,  that judgement, that hatefulness is not going to feel good. So you can actually choose.

However, unconditional love does not mean eating **** with a spoon, overlooking bad behavior, allowing someone to overstep boundaries or be disrespectful to you. It doesn’t mean that when someone’s yelling at you or doing something that is not oaky with you that you just accept it. That’s not what unconditional love looks like.  You can love unconditionally but that does not mean that there are no circumstances in response to those people’s choices.

If every adult gets to do whatever they want to do, which they do, then the other truth about that is that every person also gets to live with the outcomes of their choices. They get to live with the circumstances that are a result of the choices that they made.  So it doesn’t mean that you have to remain in a relationship, overlook decades of hurtful behavior and try to convince yourself that it is okay and that you are loving that person unconditionally. That is not okay, that’s not honoring you.

Sometimes, to love people unconditionally, you have to set new boundaries. Sometimes those boundaries might be a little further away than what that other person wants.  Usually this is a result of the choices and decisions they made, and the actions they took in terms of being in relationship with you.

Unconditional love has to begin with you. It has to be done with you first. Then you can share it with somebody else. So you can practice unconditional love. You can still choose to love someone and set new boundaries. You can choose to love someone and not  be in relationship with them anymore. You can do that for yourself.

Loving unconditionally is the hardest thing we will ever do and we will be challenged with it every day as long as we are in relationship with other people.   But unconditional love is not the same as unconditional circumstances.