I was at one of my local haunts here in Orlando and someone recognized me and asked me a question about relationships that took both of us some time to really get a grasp of. Laura (don’t worry, her real name is not Laura) told me some about her relationship history and wanted to know if unconditional love actually exists.
Laura: “I get so depressed in relationships and I don’t want to do that anymore.”
The conversation ended with Laura and I agreeing to the statement that, “Our desire for unconditional love exists, but there is no such thing as unconditional love when it comes to romantic relationships.”
It’s painful to come to that conclusion because our desire to find and have unconditional love is so great. I’m going to bring you guys back to this conversation Laura and I had that Orlando Fall morning.
The Conditions of Unconditional Love
Laura and I were sitting outside with our drinks (credit to you if you can figure out where we were sitting from the picture above) and started digging into why we even have this desire for unconditional love.
Unconditional love seems to be ingrained in us and we desire it as infants. If anyone has ever been around a baby you will notice that they want what they want now and seem to expect to have what they want immediately and if not they will let you know they are severely dissatisfied…usually by crying.
A lot of psychoanalytic research has been done with mothers and their children and it has been discovered over and over again that the baby, developmentally a narcissist, expects everything now and our adult desire for unconditional love is a residue of this.
Desiring unconditional love is us expecting the condition that the other person will love us unconditionally.
The other side of desiring unconditional love is that when we do not feel we are getting unconditional love we ourselves take our love away from that person.
When we desire unconditional love, and the condition of being unconditionally loved is not met, we take away our love from that person. Our unconditional love to them will only be present if they meet the condition of giving us unconditional love.
It’s a tongue twister.
Let’s bring this into the story about Laura.
Laura: “Mr. Ayala, I was with Jake for a few years and I swear to you that I loved him unconditionally. No matter what happened I was going to be his woman by his side. It was just that over the years things got to me. He was messy and that was fine, but he was messy with bills and was always late paying them which is ridiculous today when everything can be on auto-pay! He also just didn’t seem to try so hard in the relationship as he once did at the start. He didn’t say that he loved me, that I was beautiful and didn’t act like we were together. In public he didn’t hold my hand and just avoided me a lot, even when we were home. He was in his “man cave” and I was upstairs by myself.”
Mr. Ayala: “What was it like to be upstairs?”
Laura: “I felt horribly alone and started to really resent him and video games. He would rather play them than have sex with me! I mean seriously!? He isn’t a bad man in any way, he didn’t hit me and we didn’t fight, but it wasn’t ok.”
Mr. Ayala: “What happened?”
Laura: “I would tell him over and over again that he needed to pay attention to me and not the games, and he would agree and do nothing about it so I left. I love him…but I don’t love him love him. Does that make sense?”
Mr. Ayala: “What’s that mean?”
Laura: “It means to me that he had to do certain things in our relationship for me to stay with him and love him. I have a way I want to live and goals and values for today and the future. Everything just collapsed around me and if felt like it was my fault for wanting too much.”
Mr. Ayala: “What was holding everything up?”
Laura: “…Love? I want to argue with you and tell you no that my love is not conditional…and I still feel like it isn’t…but it is. I can tell you that if he had the ability to meet me half way and be in a relationship with me that I would still be in love with him. I can’t love someone who isn’t there.”
Mr. Ayala: “What are the conditions to love?”
Laura: She looked up at the sign that says ‘Friends are Universal.’ “I…I feel like living in Orlando makes me want to believe slogans like “Friends are Universal.” But I need things from my boyfriend and future husband. That’s not wrong, right? And I get he will need things from me and if I don’t do those things the relationship will fall apart.”
Laura stays staring at that sign and looks back at me.
Laura: “I value a man who values me. I’m beautiful, young, smart, caring and completely family orientated. If a man can’t value what I have I can’t value them.”
Mr. Ayala: “Are those the conditions of your love?”
Laura: “I don’t really know. I think that’s the problem. I know it’s not what I had with Jake, but I don’t know what I want from someone in a really deep way. I had all the surface stuff with Jake, you know, he wasn’t abusive and made plenty of money, but there’s more to me I guess?”
Mr. Ayala: “Not sure?”
Laura: “I don’t want there to be more to me. I just want it to be easy. You know, Disney!” She laughs. “It’s ridiculous. I’ve grown up, but how I understand love is the same as when I was 6 dressing up as Cinderella.”
Laura is right. Most of us have grown up, but still believe in love as 6 year olds do.
We spoke some more about what a relationship looks like when we aren’t running on this idea of unconditional love and Laura made a discovery that terrified her.
Laura: “I’m not always going to be happy in a relationship and they aren’t always going to be happy with me. I have to work in the relationship, but I also have to find someone else who will work with me. Are you serious? How am I supposed to do that!”
Mr. Ayala: “You won’t always be happy with the relationship and they aren’t always going to be happy with you. Are you ever going to let yourself not be happy with your lover in the future? Seems like you always blame yourself.”
Laura looks at me and laughs out loud. “I don’t know how else to be.”
So many of us find ourselves right here where Laura and I ended up. How are we going to get the point where we can tolerate not being happy all the time with ourselves and our lovers while being able to put in the work for a relationship and worst of all, finding a lover who will be able to tolerate and put in the effort like we do. It’s pretty reasonable to be depressed about all of this.
But, we don’t have to give up. There are solutions out there to the many problems we have in our relationships. My 4-Step Solution on How to Not Argue with your Lover will teach you what words to avoid and what to be thinking to avoid an argument or when an argument has started so you can continue to live in a way that is fulfilling to your lives.