Unconditional love is possibly one of the most popular concepts in the world of love relationships . And it is, among other things, because throughout the last decades a kind of mythology has been created around it: it has been extolled as if it were the only kind of love possible, and everything else is a deviation from this ideal model.
Unfortunately, the fact that there are so many myths about this love and relationship dynamic has contributed to the fact that what unconditional love really is has been distorted and camouflaged under a thick layer of stereotypes and appeals to the emotional that are often more negative than positive. There are those who aspire to live unconditional love without really knowing what it is.
Throughout this article we will see exactly what this way of loving and relating to loved ones consists of, how we can recognize it in a couple from a description of its characteristics, and why its idealization produces controversy.
What is unconditional love?
One of the most curious things about unconditional love is that this concept carries such a strong emotional charge behind it that we can forget its meaning even though we have it before our eyes, in the very name of the term. In fact, unconditional love is the form of love that is exercised without conditions that compromise one of the parties , that is, without there being a concrete benefit for at least one of the lovers… beyond the experience of love itself.
Thus, unconditional love is special because in theory to maintain it, a series of requirements and commitments do not have to be met. Not even the fact that it is an unrequited love should end it directly, since as unconditional as it is, it does not need the participation of the loved one to exist. In other words, it is a selfless love.
Thus, this way of loving is prone to generate suffering , since it can give rise to situations in which the discomfort experienced by a person becomes chronic because there is no clear line indicating whether that emotional bond is functional or not (something that would happen in the case of commitments that establish whether that bond is valued).
Characteristics and signs of selfless love
Among the most common signs that we find in the dynamics of unconditional love are the following.
1. Propensity for asymmetries to appear
As there is a person who loves unconditionally, this easily triggers the other person to let go of the possibility of obeying commitments .
2. Search for constant contact
Unconditional love is not entirely unconditional, because even if the other person does not want it, one pays the price of being subjected to attempts to be in touch by the one who loves in a seemingly selfless way. Due to the asymmetry of the relationship , situations of rejection easily arise.
3. Tragic perception of the situation
Usually, those who try to love unconditionally are influenced by a whole series of imagery of selfless love stories fed by film, literature and the like. In other words, an identification with this type of fictitious or mythical characters is generated. This gives a sense of purpose to what he does .
4. Moments to fantasize
In unconditional love there are not many expectations applied to the real world, and that is why imagination is often an escape route to imagine realities in which that relationship is better and more balanced.
5. Doubts about the nature of love
When the love relationship is based on clear commitments it is not so common to enter into states of introspection where one wonders what it is like to love in this way. But when there is apparently nothing to sustain that love beyond love itself, this kind of doubt is more common: if the other person can not love us, what exactly is this love that one feels for oneself?
Why has this way of loving been idealized?
As we are beginning to sense, unconditional love is far from being the perfect model of love that many people believe it to be. How, then, can it be considered in many places the goal to which to aspire in terms of intimate and emotional life? Let us see how this applies both to the emotional realm of the couple and to that of the blood family.
Your idealization in the couple
For many centuries, love was not the main criterion by which people were guided when they married, when they formed a family. It was banished to the world of passions, that which does not obey rationality and which therefore, however intense and pleasant it may be, should not be taken into account if one wants to live in the most sensible and realistic way.
At a time when the vast majority of the population lived on the edge of the resources needed to exist and support a family, marriages were more like an economic transaction for which two families collaborated.
However, as the living conditions of the majority of the population improved, this transactionalist logic and the role of feelings came to the fore. Nevertheless, the institution of marriage has continued to maintain its popularity, in part because beyond the religious sphere from which these formal links arise, marriage offers a series of legal resources that help two people to maintain a family in a way that is appropriate.
The union between the idealization of the importance of feelings (as if they had always been the fundamental force that has oriented the life of human beings) and its application to the schemes set by marriage (maintained by necessity) has led to the idea of an unconditional love that is especially powerful in love relationships applied to the search for a partner.
It is what happens when love relationships are assumed to be forever because of the influence of the history of marriages, and it applies to the realm of feelings, and it has given rise to what is often called the myth of the better half: the belief that we are all incomplete pieces in search of a union that is usually embodied in the wedding.
Your idealization in the blood family
As far as blood family relationships are concerned, the idealization of unconditional love follows a different logic. While the selflessness of this feeling has no clear purpose in the couple, it has a purpose in the family; usually what is important is not the love itself, but the fact that it accompanies the concern for protection and concern for the other person.
This is typical of parents who care for their children regardless of whether the latter appreciate it or not , and it makes sense if we take into account the generational leap and the fact that from the birth of the children a clear dynamic of protection is established that is completely unilateral. What would be rare is for this unilaterality to disappear completely as the children grow up.
But this distinction of roles is not exclusive to the relationship between parents and children: is reproduced through practically any kind of kinship , due to the dynamics of mutual protection: an older brother can easily find excuses to control the older brother, and the same happens with an uncle and his nephew, etc.
Therefore, the need for control over the life of the other can become a miniature tyranny, since any resistance on the part of the loved one is seen as something to be avoided because of the difference in roles established by family functioning.
Under the label of unconditional love are hidden different psychological and relational dynamics that in many cases are harmful due to the lack of reference about what is the point at which a person should stop projecting their affections towards the other person and should direct them to their own person. Knowing how to find a good balance between concern for a loved one and the maintenance of one$0027s dignity and integrity is key to maintaining well-being.
- Lewis, C. S. (2007). The four loves. Barcelona: Rialp.
- Lewis, T., Amini, F., Lannon, R. (2000). A General Theory of Love. Random House.
- McElroy, W. (1996). The Free Love Movement and Radical Individualism. Libertarian Enterprise 19: 1.