The Conditional Lover
I’ve been thinking/reading about conditional vs. unconditional love lately. Recently, I’ve felt it necessary to examine this aspect within myself because I’ve been grappling with some heavy feelings on how I love versus how I expect others to love me.
After having a conversation with my partner Sarah, I realized that I have a lot of ‘conditions’ attached to my idea of love. It seems that how I give love and how I receive it are both impacted by my list of rules. To go a little deeper, self-love as well as externally directed love are in the mix.
I love you… But only if…
What do I mean by this? It means that I often have a condition attached to what I perceive as love; i.e., it’s only ‘love’ if this person does x, y, or z or if they love me in the same way as I love them. And love in this case isn’t necessarily referring to love in the romantic sense, it can be platonic, familial, etc. If I don’t see, feel or get certain things then I equate it with there being a lack of love/care/interest.
The issue that this creates is that I’m often left feeling as though I am lacking something. This of course leaves me with few moods - bitter, sad, angry, rejected, you name it. The part that’s really harmful is that I have a tendency to attach these icky feelings with the other person, blaming them for my pain and assuming that if they offered me more I would be content. But the truth is, more is never enough.
That’s the first layer. If I peel it back a bit further, I find that it starts within. All love starts at the individual level and I’ve had a lot of conditions attached to my experience of self. This inevitably makes me feel insecure within myself and therefore within my relationships with others. The good news is that these are things that can be worked on. It all starts with being aware.
Having such strict conditions hasn’t done much of any good. I put my walls up and shut people out when I have conditions. I make it hard for others to get to know me and for me to get to know them. In essence, I limit the amount of love that I’m willing to give if I feel like they’re not willing or able to reciprocate. But in doing so, I’m missing the point of love. I shouldn’t have to get anything in return to give it. As Sarah so wonderfully put it, “I fucking love Lennon (a musician), but she doesn’t even know that I exist”. This is a hard pill for me to swallow, but I’m slowly getting it down with some sips of water.
Learn to love yourself. Take yourself on dates. Get comfortable with the idea of being alone and become your own ally. Just as it takes time and effort to get to know other people, it also takes time and effort (likely more) to get to know yourself. But it’s worth everything that you put into it. Once there aren’t any conditions on your self love, you’ll be more emotionally freed up to loosen your conditions on external love.
It feels bitter to hold on to conditions and restrictions. It feels better to let love flow. I don’t want to say that my whole view of what love is is wrong, but I think I’ve been missing the mark. Have you?