Unconditional love. We probably all desire it, think that we give it, if we’re lucky we’ve received it at some point. It just might be the whole point of why we are all here. To find our way back to the pure love we all started out being and giving, and clear out all the crud that causes us to forget who we really are.
It seems to me that unconditional love requires us to have non-attachment. Letting go of outcomes, expectations, judgments, and our tight grip on how we ourselves and others “should” behave. It requires a decluttering of our beliefs about how others ought to be living, thinking, feeling and wanting out own way so that we can live free and open.
Conditional love is when we think “If you will change your behavior or the conditions are just right, I will feel better and THEN I will fully show up in this relationship. THEN I will give you love. By doing this, we are actually making the other person or a condition responsible for how we feel. Quite simply… this never works out well because it means we have given our power over to someone or something who we have no control over.
Those of us (oh yes, me included) with codependent tendencies or patterns tend to be conditional. We think we need to manage and control the conditions of how others experience us, what they do, what they feel and think, and THEN we will be happy, safe, “normal” (whatever that is). If it sounds exhausting, it is. Trying to manage conditions or how other people think and feel is endless, because it's an impossibility.
As Esther Hicks says, “Never ask another for behavioral changes as your basis for an improved emotion or perspective. It won’t work.” To love conditionally is to be in resistance and resistance is all about fear. If we wait for conditions to give or receive love, we’ll be waiting a very long time. Instead, if we tune into the frequency of being love, without the requirement of certain conditions we have deemed required for us to show up and stand fully in our light, we aren’t only short changing those we care about – more than anything we are robbing ourselves of our purpose, our passion, and living fully. We dis-empower ourselves and give all the power to other people and conditions, a.k.a. being a victim.
Now, let’s clarify early on, does this mean we let people run roughshod over us and our emotions in order to love unconditionally?? Um…. NO! If you are on the receiving end of blaming, shaming, someone requiring you to change in order for THEM to be happy and "all in", this is an indicator that it’s time to look at the health of your own boundaries. When we allow others to take advantage of us or control us through shaming or blaming, our boundaries need some updating and review. It may also mean we need to love this person from a distance, without blame or judgement - just boundaries.
You CAN love someone unconditionally, and to do this you will need healthy boundaries to protect your wide open heart. Without boundaries, we cannot love unconditionally. Dr. Brene’ Brown found in her research that the most compassionate people are also the most boundaried. They take care of themselves and protect their heart so they can keep it open. They know where their responsibilities begin and end. What belongs to them emotionally and what belongs to the other person.
Boundaries aren't for the other person. They are for ourselves. They are a function of self-respect and self-love. Boundaries are about being responsive - not reactive, and are grounded in self-responsibility as well as self-compassion.
Boundaries are NOT about control of another person. That's called an ultimatum and those are reactive and blames the other person for our own lack of boundaries. Once again, not taking care of our OWN side of the street when we blame or issue ultimatums.
When we lack healthy boundaries, we will tend to abandon ourselves with things like blame, judgment, getting angry, seeking approval, people pleasing, and jealousy. When you abandon yourself – you make your partner responsible for you and your feelings. Not cool. Also not possible. Why would you put the power of your happiness in someone else's hands? This, in my opinion, is a big stumbling block in many relationships.
When we are truly focusing on our OWN growth – we aren’t blaming, shaming, attempting to control another person. When we do this it is a clue that we are out of our own business and avoiding looking at our own side of the street and avoiding working on our OWN growth by focusing on the indiscretions of the other person and how they are causing our suffering. When your locus of control is other people, you are easy to manipulate.
I admit, I too am a blamer at times. As my therapist Joy says "Blame is a place that creates permission to not do any of the work to get better. It's passing the monkey to the other person and saying - 'it's not my fault, so you do something about it.'" For a great short (three and half minutes) video on blame with Brene' Brown click here - it's worth the 3 minute investment. Blame is simply the discharge of pain and discomfort and it is a relationship killer.
To have a shot at giving and receiving unconditional love, it appears to me we have to apply the same things that my counselor Joy says are hallmarks of recovering from codependency:
Our relationship with OURSELVES is played out in our relationships with others. So let’s say that someone I care about seems to make their love for me conditional on my behavior. What that person is showing me is how they feel about themselves. That unless they check all the boxes that they have deemed necessary to be “okay” they can’t love THEMSELVES. I can tell you that knowing this intellectually does NOT make it any less painful when someone withholds their love from you unless you live your life a way they have deemed best for them – but it CAN help you learn from it and notice what you need to do to love yourself no matter what.
When someone makes their love conditional, we have a choice... we can feel guilt, fear, believe we need to change to meet their conditions, get angry, blame, pout - all are reactions and all are based in fear and low self-love.
Plan B anyone??? We can choose to RESPOND, take a moment, take a breath, and see what this is here to teach us about OURSELVES. If someone important to me makes their love conditional, I might want to ask myself where my love for MYSELF is conditional. Is it when I lose the weight? When I make the money? When I pay off all my debt? When I get better clothes? Am I making my love and acceptance for myself conditional? What is this person here in my experience to show me about myself? Yes, they are showing you how they love themselves, and if they are in your life - there's a good chance your frequencies are a match on some level. What can I learn and understand about the other person and most importantly about myself in this condition?
To the degree that we love ourselves, right where we are - no matter what the conditions of our bodies, our life, our relationships - is the same degree we love other people. When you are willing to love yourself unconditionally, you will let everyone else off the hook for your happiness. You love because it's what you are.
2/6/2023 10:00:33 am
Thanks for sharing the article, and more importantly, your personal experience of mindfully using our emotions as data about our inner state and knowing when it’s better to de-escalate by taking a time out are great tools. Appreciate you reading and sharing your story since I can certainly relate and I think others can to
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Sandy Edie Hansen
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