Unconditional Love and Mental Health

Have you ever loved anyone so much, you expect nothing back? Unconditional love basically means you’re not expecting anything in return.

I have always felt a little defect because I have never loved another adult unconditionally. Not once. I have no children, so that explains that. Though I have loved some children and young people unconditionally, but as soon as they become adults, the unconditional part ends for me. Mostly, this is because I really love being in equal-effort relationships. Even with family members. It is not that we should all contribute the same things in equal measure, rather that we complete the circle for each other. Kind of find the things we love doing, and do them consequently inside the relationship for ourselves, and for each other. I don’t want to be paid back, I want my efforts and existence to be acknowledged and appreciated.

For people we love unconditionally, we extend our non-judgmental attention, our acceptance, and caring toward a person. We do this without expecting or hoping to receive anything back. And, we do not want the people we love unconditionally to change in order to meet our needs. When we consider another person’s happiness and security to be as important and as meaningful to us as our own, we love that person unconditionally.

This is a very commendable kind of love.

However, human love tends to be conditional. Most people expect, at the very least, to be loved back. At most, we expect someone to submissively accept to be our home keepers, make our breakfast before 7:40am and iron our clothes. The submissive home-keeper will expect you to pay the rent if you want sex and give some pocket money if you want real intimacy.

Is unconditional love healthy?

Let’s say, it depends. If the receiver of unconditional love is also offering unconditional love, then we have a partnership approved by cupid. But, if there’s any sort of abuse or violence in the relationship, unconditional love ceases to be a good thing. A selfish person would definitely love to meet an unconditional lover. In the setting of condition-less love, nurture, support, adoration etc, a selfish person can receive – taking, and never giving back.

This is very unhealthy and devastating for the giver in the long term.

When active, some neurological circuits will turn off the parts of the brain associated with bitterness, hostility, and other destructive emotional states. If left turned on for too long, bitterness, hostility, and other destructive emotional states can create long-lasting stress. This can damage vascular health over time. Vascular Health relates to the health of the arteries & veins going to the legs, stomach, arms and head.

However, unconditional love is not always unhealthy. When all involved refuse to tolerate hurtful behavior, a setting in which no one is a doormat. When it reciprocates real warmth and includes a sense of joy unconditional love can take you to an emotional well being where the right neurological circuits are activated. A deep joy, self-love, belonging and a support system which can will heal even the worst traumas.

Accepting or tolerating hurtful behavior is dangerous even on a community level because it teaches people that treating others poorly is okay. Which it isn’t.

In its extremes, unconditional love, is a self-betrayal that allows an inconsiderate partner to damage our soul.

Is unconditional love human nature?

No. Except with our children. Mature love requires reciprocity because an adult is not a needy child who doesn’t know any better. Our relationships can’t bloom in neglect, disrespect or abuse. There are limits to what we can offer others unconditionally. As human beings we’re wired to need acceptance, kindness, and intimacy.

It is very difficult to extend ourselves indefinitely if we’re not getting enough back. This makes us bitter. If our kindly expressed needs are continually ignored, it inevitably leads to feelings of depletion or defeat. When takers get used to unconditional love, takers will try to make us feel demanding if we even dare request for some support in difficult times. It’s good to be aware that there is nothing shameful about wanting to meet our basic human longings in our adult relationships.

Our way forward is not to pride ourselves on being unconditionally loving, but rather to empower ourselves to learn what it takes to create a lasting, mature love. Rather than striving for selfless love, we can do our part to create conditions for mutual love.

Recommended reading: This is a good place to start it you want to learn more about unconditional love vs lasting love.

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