Who in the world would prefer conditional love over unconditional love? Yet most of us live by conditional love and think what we’re experiencing is unconditional love.
Do you know what the definition of conditional love is? Care to take a poke at it?
It’s giving approval and support to someone in exchange for prescribed behavior.
In other words, if you say, do or act the way I want you to, I’ll love you. Here’s how you may have experienced conditional love growing up:
“You’ve made me very upset.” “You make me so happy.” “When you do ______ you make me ________.”
Belief in our false power
We grow up thinking these are the epitome of loving someone – if we do or say the right thing, then we’re loved/approved of/accepted. We’re led to believe we have the power to make others happy or not. This is conditional and it’s a false, though very common believe. This false power is inner “fake news.”
So we may go around thinking we have the power to change how someone feels or thinks, and / or expecting someone else to say or do the kinds of things that will make you happy.
We want to set people rightly — “you should be / do (fill in the blank).
I love being right, don’t you?
Who can blame us – I’m much happier when my dog obeys me, the weather is beautiful, my neighbors don’t mind my grass not being mowed every week. Instead, MY neighbors get out the leaf blower at the first sign of an errant leaf on their lawn, and run the lawnmower anytime they spy a missed blade of grass.
I’m one of many who wold prefer to be agreed with all the time. I love being “right.”
See how easily conditional love gets in there? I’m not happy unless I’m right about what you should do.
Yes I know. What’s wrong with wanting the leaves picked up?
The point is, it’s my most immediate example of conditional love!
A common example of conditional love
Couples are into conditional love when either one of the partners has it in their head that the other makes them so happy. I hear it all the time when I interview a couple to officiate at the wedding.
And I get it. It feels good to believe you’ve found someone who will accept you for who you are. That this person will not say or do things that will really get your goat.
Because what happens if that isn’t always the case? (And trust me, there aren’t many experienced married couples who haven’t hit that turning point in their relationship.)
The silent treatment? Sleeping in the spare bedroom alone? Separation? Social posts that insult wives or husbands?
Highest calling in marriage
Unconditional love is the highest calling of marriage. It’s the hardest thing to do. One of my brides who just had her 10 year anniversary shared with me how difficult the first few years were, despite their belief they were different and could disregard the warnings about how hard marriage could be.
“But we stuck with it,” she told me. “We’ve worked through a lot and understand each other a lot better now.” And that “working through” comment CAN be the signal that a person has moved from conditional love (you make me so happy) to Unconditional love (I love you, and I’m happy no matter what you do or don’t do.
Finite and infinite
Anything else bears the earmarks of conditional love, which is finite. Unconditional love is Infinite because it has no beginning and no end. It can’t be exhausted – unconditional love can be tried and tempted to revert to conditional love – but it’s always there.
Unconditional love doesn’t ask you to look the other way, or even to “turn the other cheek.” That saying in Scripture that is often used to encourage taking punishment and not complaining is more correctly interpreted as “change your perspective…Turn your face / cheek so you see from a different perspective.”
Unconditional love is not setting but seeing…
Rather than look at the other person’s good behavior/words as reasons to love or withhold love from them, gaining a new perspective of one another can lead to the power of unconditional love working its magic.
Look away from the behavior and see things differently. As one of the great Unity ministers, Eric Butterworth taught, “Love as it is experienced in marriage is not setting the other person right, but seeing the person right.”
The perspective of dementia
When I made the difficult decision to place my best friend, my mother, into assisted living, she was NOT happy with me. And I could understand why. Moving to a new place was a huge change for her. She wouldn’t talk to me for weeks. But I never stopped loving her, in fact it was because I was afraid I was stopping loving her (dementia is no walk in the park) that I knew I had to get another perspective. And slowly, as we stepped into our own spaces, I learned that it wasn’t my mom who repeated the same things 10 times in 5 minutes, or put the chicken to bake in the oven with the plastic still on it, it was her brain.
That setting her right, (“Mom, what the hell are you doing?”) didn’t help her. It made things worse for both of us. When I finally learned to accept her for who she was, and could go along with her brain’s disconnects, love was much much easier to come by.
How I felt, and how you feel is your responsibility, whether it’s happy or upset. And the bottom line it’s how you’re feeling about yourself, not the other person, that’s conditional or unconditional.
Do the work
So Commandment #6 is Seek to See Rightly, not Set Right.
If you find yourself demanding the other behave in a certain way, you’re reverting to conditional love. To open to unconditional love,
Then, ask yourself these 4 questions (paraphrased from The Work by Byron Katie).
- Am I seeing this situation as it actually is? Is it really true the way I’m seeing it?
- Can I absolutely know that my analysis of the situation is true?
- How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought?
- What would I be without that thought?
When you ask yourself these questions, you’ll begin to see the situation right. You’ll have much more freedom within your own head to return to your natural state of being, which is someone who innately knows how to love unconditionally.
Contact me for more information on how I can help you have a fabulous ceremony that celebrates your commitment to love unconditionally