The Myth of Unconditional love: Dispelling it
Over the past four decades of my experience treating patients, I have seen how many people trust in impossible outcomes, even when they don’t happen. Regardless of the disappointments they face, they believe that their next chance at success will be better.
One of the most popular of these deeply-rooted, irrational fantasies about true love is that it should be unconditional. If people are devoted to each other and show undying love, they can be sure that love won’t require compromises and that all their needs will be met. Forgiveness will also be a way of healing all past mistakes.
It may seem this way in the beginning months of many relationships. It can seem like neither partner can disappoint the other or turn them away during this “honeymoon” period. People who are newly in love tend to view one another as symbolic, forever-beloved children who will always be at the center of their lives.
But that is not how real relationships work. The initial months of unreserved generosity and devotion quickly give way to new needs that were not apparent when the relationship was fresh. Both partners quickly realize that their initial passion and excitement is fading, and that many of their needs will not be met. They will also have to compromise some of their needs in order to maintain the relationship.
A successful relationship requires compromise
Surprisingly, many people who share their beliefs with me know that unconditional love is a myth. They readily confess that they have never experienced unconditional love and I ask them if this is true. Although childhood is often regarded as the best time to experience unconditional love, most people realize that they had to behave certain ways in order to keep their parents’ trust and approval. When faced with the reality of their friendship’s success, lifelong friends will realize that their trust is built upon making compromises to keep their trust.
These reasonable expectations are not something that most people can predict when they start a relationship. They expect their relationships to be free from these predictable compromises and become disillusioned when their partners ask for more or less.
It is important that partners in a relationship recognize that compromise is part of any successful partnership. This should be done as soon as possible. They will be more inclined to feel appreciated for the sacrifices that they make and to acknowledge the benefits they receive in return. This will help to prevent them from becoming bitter and degrading the potential relationship.
How to talk about compromise with a partner
What are the key elements that relationship partners must recognize in order to identify and make compromises? And what gifts can be given easily without resentment? How can they communicate their thoughts and feelings early in a relationship?
These guidelines might be helpful:
Do this exercise even if you’re not currently in a relationship. If you are currently in a relationship, you can ask your partner for the same four steps. The first two steps are about making willing sacrifices. The second two refer to appreciated gifts.
Step 1– List the ways that you are willing to sacrifice your needs in order to have a healthy relationship.
Step 2– Create a list of behaviors that you think your partner is willing to sacrifice in the same way.
Step 3– Create a list of things you can easily give to your partner, that you don’t regret or require reciprocity.
Step 4– Create a list of the things you think your partner gives you that you enjoy giving.
Step 5Your partner might not be able to tell when you give from your heart and when your needs are being sacrificed for them. You may not even realize that your partner is doing the same. Add one of these numbers to each item to help you understand and share more clearly.
Frequency of Behavior
3: Most of all.
These are examples of a step-1 compromise:
- Even though I feel the need to resolve, I won’t have conversations with you late at night if I am tired. Frequency:
- Even though I love you more, I won’t ask for it because I know how difficult it is for you. Frequency: 3
- I would love to spend more time with you. Frequency:
These are examples of a step-2 compromise:
- I’m allowed to sleep in on weekends, even though you might be tired. Frequency: 2
- Even if they don’t like you, you’re kind to people I care about. Frequency: 2
- To me, it is important that you remember what is important. Frequency: 2
These are examples of step 3 gifts:
- I want to tell you how much I appreciate you. Frequency: 2
- You don’t have to ask me to help. I am always available to you. Frequency:
- I will care for your parents, even if they are struggling. Frequency: 3
These are just a few examples of step 4 gifts:
- I like surprises. Frequency: 2
- I love it when you make me laugh. Frequency: 3
- Even if they aren’t important to you, I care about the things that really matter to me. Frequency: 2
Now, share your lists with one another. Now, take the time to review what you know and what you have learned about each other that is not what you expected.
The evolution of sacrifices and gifts over time
It is a lie to expect unconditional love. Sacrifices, gifts and sacrifices are the reality. Couples can become more real, more open-minded, and more grateful when they are willing to let go of the illusion and accept the reality.
People change with time. This information is vital for successful couples to exchange with one another. Sometimes what may seem like a gift can turn into a burden at another time, and vice versa. As relationships develop and become more stable, or when unexpected events happen, new needs might emerge. During times of crisis, both partners may need to make new sacrifices. There may be new gifts that neither partner knew they could offer but still want to give.
It is vital that the partners are honest and open with each other. They must also realize that neither of them can be everything or everyone at once. Acceptance of these realities allows for unconditional love to be a myth. It can lead to acceptance and choice of conditions that are both understandable and possible. Acceptance and forgiveness are the guardians that defeat resentment, martyrdom, and keep them from returning to it.