Understanding Conditional and Unconditional Love: Psychological Insights on Relationships, Self-Worth, and Self-Care

A while ago, a friend was chatting: “Growing up, I have always longed for unconditional love in relationships, but I have always been disappointed. Does it really exist?”

I think this may also be the confusion of many friends: Are there any conditions for love? What exactly is “unconditional love” in psychology? How should we treat conditional love as adults?

Can only accept “unconditional love”
May be a sign of trauma

What is often called “unconditional love” in psychology actually refers to the earliest stage of life.

We are still little babies, and we completely need to rely on the “love” of another person to survive. At that time, the relationship between the baby and the caregiver could not be called a “relationship” because it was one-dimensional and the caregiver needed to completely surround the baby. The needs are turned around and become a “container” to provide support. Babies are also unable to distinguish the boundaries between themselves and others. They only see their own needs and cry when they cannot be met. They need a lot and are unable to give. The love at this time is unconditional.

You may also feel that this kind of unconditional love is very much like a fusion with no boundaries at all, so it changes quickly (and it shouldn’t last forever). But this stage is still important. Only after receiving unconditional love can the child accept some “just the right setbacks” – the caregiver also has his own needs and will not satisfy himself anytime and anywhere. Even the caregiver will have some “adequate setbacks” for himself. Require”. At this time, they gradually complete the “differentiation” from their caregivers and feel the presence of others.

But if the initial stage is not satisfied, you will continue to fall into the pursuit of “unconditional love” in the rest of your life. In fact, it is the desire for the feeling of complete integration at the beginning of life – most likely. Always disappointed.

▨For them, conditional love means no love;
▨The kind of relationship that adults can establish may also be “not enough” for them, always mixed with a lot of disappointment, conflict, and the needs of another person;
▨The love in their eyes mostly means “being loved” (rather than loving another person);
▨The desire for unconditional love is partly due to the fact that one does not believe that one is worthy of being loved.

At this time, you may need to stop and see if you are “trapped” by something in the past.

I don’t care about my parents’ “conditional love”
From a very early age, I realized that my parents’ love for me was conditional.

When I was in elementary school, because my grades were always very good and I was always ranked first in the class, I was always that “other people’s kid.” My parents are also very tolerant of me. They often praise me, almost never lose their temper with me, and give me more autonomy in big and small matters. At that time, I seemed to experience the richest and most abundant love that my parents had ever given me.

However, when I entered junior high school, my grades began to decline, and I dropped from first in the class to top ten in the class. As a result, my favorite painting class was stopped on the grounds that it “interfered with learning”; I was not allowed to go out with my classmates for the reason: I was afraid that I would be misled by children who did not study well; when I stayed in the bedroom, I always I could hear my parents whispering outside the door; they would even accuse my grandpa, “You shouldn’t have taken her to the barber shop to get those straight bangs, she’s starting to love beauty now”…

Later, my parents and I slowly reconciled. Maybe it’s because my academic performance has improved, or maybe it’s because they realized that no matter what, I can’t go back to the “good girl” I was in elementary school.

But it was also during this process that I began to realize that my parents’ love is conditional – their expectations must be met in order to receive more love.

When I first realized this fact, I felt hopeless and uneasy. This is different from what I have heard since I was a child: “My parents are the people who love you most in the world.” So is there still someone in the world who loves me unconditionally…

These questions were part of my growing up process. It was not until later, when I experienced several different intimate relationships, that I developed a deeper understanding of “love”. In fact, my love for others is also conditional. For example: when my boyfriend does a small thing that touches me, I will feel that I love him very much; but when he makes me angry, I will feel “as if I don’t love him that much.” Already…

It turns out that conditional love is not “not loving”, because “love” itself is an unstable and intermittent emotion.

In the past, I often thought about a question: If I were not their child, would my parents still love me? Will they like me as a person? Now I feel that this answer is not important.

Although love has conditions, the emergence of love also requires conditions. It’s hard to say what kind of chance coincidence allowed you and him or her to meet each other, and how love was generated and passed between you.

This may be the real wonder of love. Getting conditional love is actually a kind of luck ❤️

Love to the point of losing oneself
It’s not “unconditional love”

When talking about this topic, I think of a confusing situation, that is, the kind of person who can give everything to a relationship. Such a person does seem to be giving a lot of love, and the person being given should receive strong, unconditional love. but it is not the truth.

Unfortunately, I am a person who always loves to give crazily in various relationships. I take the initiative to take care of the dirty work, take care of the other person’s food, clothing, housing, and transportation, and even take care of the other person’s emotions/work, etc.

Sounds like I should be a great friend, right? But later I figured out that a person always wants to get something after giving. At that time, I wanted the other party to give me a stable relationship, love and kindness, affirmation of me, and my initiative in the relationship in return.

Because these efforts (love) have a secret price tag, if I don’t get a response, I will be disappointed, resentful, and leave the relationship. The person being given to is always vaguely aware of these expectations and feels as if he is being kidnapped and should give something back. If we really break up, no one will think it’s me who has the problem. It’s most likely that the other party is ungrateful. Neither party is comfortable in such a relationship.

I think there is no problem with giving in itself. The problem is that you give to the point where you lose yourself and place bets on whether you can live a good life on others, expecting others to pay for you. If I were to encounter such “unconditional love” next time, I would run far away (thinking about it now I’m starting to get suffocated).

The premise of love is self-integrity, so work hard to practice it first.

The consultant told me

“Unconditional love” does not exist

This year I heard a lot of people talking about “unconditional love”, and I am also one of these “lack of love” people. The moment he realizes that he may have never received “unconditional love” is also the beginning of resentment towards his parents.

This has also become a theme that I focus on in psychological counseling. Until I heard the counselor say to me: “Do you think there is really unconditional love in this world?”

I was stunned.

“It seems that we have a small disagreement on this point. From my personal point of view, I don’t really believe that there is really unconditional love in this world. Parents are the most likely people to give this love, but even parents are themselves A person with limitations.”

I expressed shock and shock. I suddenly realized that we often put too much emphasis on the issue of “willingness to love”, but neglect the issue of “ability to love”.

When we overemphasize the former, it is easy for us to project our parents and lovers into embodiments of “evil”, but forget that we are all imperfect ordinary people. Maybe they haven’t received much high-quality love, and they have wounds that haven’t been cleaned. This is all they can get.

Of course, this is not to excuse parents. From a factual perspective, some of our parents’ actions have indeed hurt us, resulting in our needs not being met and leaving trauma. Of course, there will be a process of anger and resentment. However, when we further see the whole of things, see the reality of each person, and see the complete world, mourning will begin to occur – the purpose of psychology is to allow us to complete mourning and move towards integration, rather than breed endless resentment.

So now I tend to think that “unconditional love” may not exist most of the time. It may really be a particularly ideal relationship that only a few people in this world are lucky enough to have.

However, this does not prevent me from pursuing it and trying to make myself become it. The things that are praised by people in this world are praised by people precisely because they are too scarce, such as love and courage. But it’s the rare and beautiful things that are worth fighting for, right?

At the end of the movie “Seven Deadly Sins”, Hemingway is quoted as saying: The world is a good place and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part.

I also agree with the second part, the world is lacking love, but it is worth fighting to create more love.

When you grow up, learn to love yourself unconditionally

As adults, it is unrealistic and unnecessary to ask another person to love us unconditionally, but we can treat ourselves this way! Especially children who were not loved unconditionally as children.

To love yourself unconditionally is to love your own being, not your doing . I deserve to be loved and treated well just because I am alive, just like loving a plant, loving falling snowflakes, loving my own existence itself.

I think this kind of love is very meaningful. It can improve your relationship with yourself and provide you with a lot of support and strength.

This kind of existential love is also an uncommon narrative in our culture. We always feel that we have to “endure hardships and become a master” in order to love ourselves, we have to “return home in fine clothes” in order to love ourselves, and we have to “return home in fine clothes” to love ourselves. Only when you buy a house and settle down can you love yourself.

So, it also requires practice. Let’s share some practical tips:

1. Loving yourself is too abstract, taking care of your body is more concrete. Let yourself eat well, sleep well and not freeze, and take care of your body’s pain . These most inconspicuous things are actually the most solid actions of loving yourself.

2. There are always some things you love unconditionally, such as your pets and children who are my sister to me. Try to think of yourself as the person you love, and learn to treat yourself the same way you treat them.

3. Try not to “judge” but just “experience” . Whether it is good or bad judgment, it is actually hurting oneself. Whatever happens is good and whatever happens is bad, but our existence itself is not good or bad. Try to just feel your experience, I am sad, I am happy, I am angry, I am alone.

Then you will make an interesting discovery – when you can love yourself unconditionally, you no longer desire unconditional love from the outside world . Encourage you to try it!

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