7 Signs Of Conditional Love (And What It Means For Your Relationship)

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Unconditional love sounds wonderful in theory, but in practice – when it comes to a relationship – it might not necessarily be a good thing. Or rather, loving someone unconditionally is beautiful, but there are some parameters and conditions that really should be held to for the sake of emotional health and wellbeing.

Many people have deal-breakers or conditions that they establish early on in a relationship; circumstances or traits that would be grounds for either ending the relationship, or re-evaluating it seriously.

Here are 7 signs that you’re experiencing conditional love, and what that might mean for you, your partner, and your relationship.

1. You Have Expectations Of Them

Despite the fact that we may claim to not have expectations of our partners, unless we’ve reached a special level of Bodhisattva calm, chances are that we’ll end up irked or disappointed when they fail to live up to what we expect of them.

You might find yourself wishing your partner was tidier, or more social, or quieter, or one of several other things, rather than appreciating them and accepting them exactly as they are.

Take note of your reactions to your partner’s behaviors and choices. Are you happier when they’re behaving the way you’d like them to? Or making choices that lean towards your preferences rather than their own, even if it’s just about dinner plans or what movie to watch?

2. You Feel Like You Can’t Trust Them

Trust is one of the foundations of a healthy relationship, and if your partner has damaged your trust in them by lying to you, cheating on you, or otherwise deceiving you, it’s possible that you’ll never be able to wholly trust them again.

You may have forgiven them, you may still love them, but unconditional love tends to mean that you’ll love and accept someone “no matter what.”

The thing is, just because you love someone, doesn’t mean that they can betray your trust over and over again because they know you’ll forgive them and take them back. You can still love a person, but also realize that they’re not life partner material.

3. You’re Bothered By Their Personal Issues Or Emotional Triggers

Do you find yourself rolling your eyes and feeling resentful or irritated by your partner’s personal issues? Instead of feeling patience and compassion, do you find that you feel contempt? Is that contempt getting in the way of you being physically attracted to your partner, or even showing them a basic amount of affection?

This often happens when one partner has fought through a lot of difficulty in their life and gained strength from their ordeals, while the other has allowed life’s trials to defeat and depress them.

It’s hard to feel empathy for another’s suffering and sorrow when you’ve been through far “worse” and come out swinging, but it’s important to remember that pain and hardship can’t be weighed and measured: each person has their own thresholds and tolerances, and what may be excruciating for one person may slide off another like water off a duck’s back.

4. You Run Away Or Shut Down When Things Get Difficult

It’s easy to claim to love someone “unconditionally” when a relationship is new – when it’s shiny and full of gazing into one another’s eyes, lolling around in bed for days, and talking about dreams for the future… but life is fraught with more ups and downs than any rollercoaster. When things get tough, do you stand your ground? Or do you run away and hide?

If you find that you flee from what you consider to be negativity, or feel that you love your partner less during times of crisis, there may be some serious issues that need to be addressed. Loving a person unconditionally also means standing by them during difficult times, whether that’s the death of a parent, periods of financial hardship, or when/if they suffer from a serious illness.

5. You Tolerate Poor Behavior And Claim It Doesn’t Bother You

Some people believe that to love someone unconditionally means “no matter what,” and have programmed themselves to pour love and light into their partners in the guise of beatific devotion.

If this kind of behavior truly makes you feel fulfilled and happy, okay then. If instead, you’re being passive-aggressive with your partner and complaining about them to your friends and family members, all the while insisting to your other half that you’re “fine” and “not mad” and “everything’s great,” then who’s benefitting from this situation?

6. You Cling

Perhaps you want/need to spend every waking moment with your partner, and then end up getting sullen and resentful if they say that they need some space to be alone. You insist upon doing everything together, and get jealous or suspicious when they want to go out and do things by themselves, or with their friends.

Try to put yourself in another’s shoes for a moment. If someone discussed this kind of behavior with you, would you say that unconditional love means not being possessive, or jealous, or resentful?

7. You Give Support More Than You Receive It

This is quite common in codependent relationships in which one partner is a narcissist and the other is an empath with low self-esteem. If you’re an empath, you might bend over backwards to love and support your partner however possible, but when you, in turn, need to be supported, your narcissist counterpart might look upon your fragility with contempt: they might see it as weakness, and withdraw their support when you need it the most.

Some people can handle this, acknowledge that they’ll never get this kind of support from their partner/spouse, and find the support they need in friends and family members. Other people are absolutely devastated to know that they’ll never get the love and support they need from the person they love most in the world.

What To Do About It All

Many people don’t believe in unconditional love… and you know what? That’s totally okay. Some would argue that unconditional love is a fairytale that can’t be attained, whereas conditional love – messy, difficult, frustrating, and euphoric at turns – is much healthier and more sustainable.

In conditional love, you’re not expected to be in a constant state of bliss no matter what your partner may do, but rather are in the relationship with your eyes wide open: accepting your beloved as a flawed, messed up, beautiful creature with whom you can grow and evolve over time.

If you’re yearning for that magical unconditional love, however, then you’ll need to take a number of things into account.

As with pain, pleasure, and ice cream consumption, people have different thresholds when it comes to what they’re able to tolerate before they reach the point of having had enough. Some people can experience all of the points above and still have a happy relationship that lasts the rest of their lifetime, while others may consider any more than two of the aforementioned to be deal-breakers.

When it comes to unconditional love, keep in mind that you can love someone dearly, but not be romantically compatible with them. If you love and love and love, but feel unfulfilled, unappreciated, or just unhappy, it might be time to seriously ask yourself why you’re in this relationship.

Is it because you crave companionship? Connection? Are you here for personal growth? Or are you in this person’s life to trigger their emotional and spiritual development?

People come into each other’s lives when they’re meant to, and as the saying goes, that can be for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

Which kind of love would you prefer to give, and to receive in turn? Unconditional fairytale love? Or conditional, but human?

Still not sure whether your love is conditional or unconditional? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.