Source: Simon Carey, CC 2.0
How wonderful to be loved for just who you are. Conversely, how comforting to feel so close to someone that you unconditionally love him or her.
But how realistic is that? Is it even desirable? This essay argues no on both counts.
Some have argued that unconditional love only means loving the person no matter what the external world throws at the couple but the unconditionality ends when one person hurts the other. Really?
Would you unconditionally love a serial killer? Or would you leave and figure that unconditionally accepting a serial killer is a psychotherapist’s job? Conversely, if you were an serial killer, would you want to be accepted as-is? Or would you be better off with someone who wants to help change you?
Of course, that’s an extreme example but it applies even to the garden variety miscreant. Let’s say your spouse believes in corporal punishment and you think that’s terrible parenting. And s/he loves marijuana, which turns him or her into a demotivated, overeating bore. Even if you didn’t know that before marriage and now find yourself having vowed to love, honor, and cherish ’til death do you part, should you unconditionally love this person?
It seems wiser to threaten, yes threaten that person: Straighten up or you’re out of there. Sure, it may wise and kind to offer to help, but that’s far from unconditional love.
Let’s tighten the ratchet even a notch further. Let’s say your spouse has a number of venial but annoying habits: S/he picks her nose despite being told it grosses you out. No matter how many times you remind him or her, s/he can’t seem to remember to clean the dishes. Despite your begging for attention, s/he’d rather stare at the smartphone, TV, or “big” game. Should a reasonable person be expected to unconditionally love that person, even if s/he has positive qualities?
While to err is human, to ongoing err despite feedback and reasonable support isn’t worthy of unconditional love. People need to earn love every day. For what it’s worth, I believe that has been a key to my 40+ year good marriage.