What Is Unconditional Love And Do I Have It?

Updated August 05, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

To define unconditional love is to say that a person loves someone unselfishly, that he or she cares about the happiness of the other person and will do anything to help that person feel happiness without expecting anything in return. 

To put a definition another way, unconditional love is the type of love that exists between a parent and child, or even between a dog and his master. It is a love that is given without expecting or even really caring if that love is returned. You love this person wholeheartedly, and nothing is going to change that. Unconditional love means that you accept one’s faults without judgment. While romantic love between two people is a means to love unconditionally, the concept of unconditional love refers to one or both individuals loving the other and expecting nothing back. 

What is Unconditional Love?

Unconditional love is a type of love that you give or feel for another. Describing unconditional love is to say that you love someone no matter what they say or do. 

Conditional Vs. Unconditional Love

You may have heard of unconditional love more often than conditional love. So what is conditional love? An example of conditional love would be loving your car because it's reliable. You love the car because it runs well. But if the car had major mechanical issues, you may no longer love that car. Your love for your car is conditional upon it working well.

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Conditional love, therefore, is more about control than real love. You love someone or something because you are under the illusion of control. However, once that person or thing can no longer be "controlled," you no longer love it. This is why conditional love does not make for a healthy relationship whatsoever. If your partner is trying to control how you dress, act, and feel, then he or she is trying to make you live up to their ideal of you in their head, not the person you are. Accepting you for who you are is unconditional love. If there are strings attached to your relationship, such as a certain job, look, or status, then this love is not unconditional.

Passion is conditional love. This is why, when the passion runs out, sometimes hatred takes its place. Both are incredibly strong emotions, and when someone we're passionate about does something to hurt us or otherwise change our opinion of them, that passion can turn to hatred. This is why passion and hatred are both sides of the coin that is conditional love, and this is why neither emotion can nor should be present in a mature, long-lasting relationship. That is not to say that your passionate love for your partner is a bad thing. It is important to have a stable, consistent, unconditional love underneath the passion so that the passion does not turn to hatred if they do not meet your expectations. Falling in love is often not an over night process, nor is growing hatred towards another. Love without conditions is a selfless act where passion and hatred are more self-centered emotions. The limitation or love that are involved with passion and conditional love is a neural basis; they are interconnected, yet separate at the same time. 

Is Loving Unconditionally Possible?

You may ask yourself: is it possible to fall in love with someone unconditionally, and to keep loving them in an unconditional way? And the answer is: absolutely! Unconditional love is not something that just comes along easily, though. It is an unconditional positive regard for the life of another person. Unconditional love is mature love, or romantic love, and so it may be too much to expect someone to love us unconditionally if we become clingy or overly dependent on the other person to fulfill our needs. 

You may have heard that it is unhealthy to make your life all about your partner, and this is true. You need friends, hobbies, and other interests besides your partner to balance yourself. Relying too much on your partner to fulfill all your needs can burn a relationship out, and frankly, it's unfair to your partner.

You need to take care of yourself so that your relationship becomes the cherry on top of the cake, as opposed to the whole cake. Once you ensure that your own needs have been met, then you have a much better chance of seeing your relationship blossom into one that is respectful and filled with love. 

How To Know If You Love Unconditionally In A Relationship

Unconditional positive regard for another is not sometimes fluid. It isn't just for parents and pets. Romantic love can become unconditional love, too - in fact, "true love" is synonymous with its unconditional form. You'll know you have this feeling for another person when you don't judge that person for his or her faults, and when you feel and express empathy when they've had a bad day.

Ultimately, it boils down to something you've heard all your life: you accept your partner when he or she is at their worst, and enjoy them when they're at their best. This is one of those bits of advice that are offered when you're trying to decide if the person you're with is the person to marry. Unconditional positive regard means if they've seen you at your worst and they're still in love with you, that one's a keeper.

Every person will have a bad day, or sometimes be in a bad mood. We will all have our personal rough patches, which may lead to rough patches in your relationship. However, this means no matter what the future holds, you have the faith and confidence that you and your partner will support each other.

When you have unconditional love and are loved unconditionally, you don't feel the need to play head games with each other. You know not to take it personally when they're in a bad mood, and you encourage them to talk about their feelings and offer them the patience and compassion they need to get through it. Above all, you know you're both in the unconditional love for the long haul and can't see yourselves ever being with anyone else. It means you feel safe with them, and them with you.

The Difference Between Unconditional Love And Abuse

It is easy to misconstrue the this meaning by interpreting it to mean that you're justified in loving your partner no matter how they badly they treat you. While this may be unconditional love, it's also unhealthy. Your partner may feel this for you, too, but this does not give him or her carte blanche to abuse you, knowing that no matter how badly they treat you, you will always come back.

Healthy boundaries are essential to healthy relationships. If someone constantly violates your boundaries, then they do not love you unconditionally. Their love is contingent on their ability treat you however they want, without regard to your feelings. Furthermore, if you feel as though you unconditionally love someone despite abuse, then this is not true unconditional love either. The love you feel is the result of the manipulation from the abuser and your own personal anxieties about life without them.

Unconditional love is meant to overlook the little annoyances in a relationship, like eating the last donut and leaving the empty box on the counter or forgetting to put the toilet seat down. Unconditional love is not meant to forgive your partner being physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive toward you. If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important that you get help and get out.

Unconditional love is rooted in caring for another person and being cared for in return. It is not supposed to be a reaction to our partners out of an obligation to them because it is expected of us. The main thing to remember  is that unconditional love is about acceptance. It is about compromise and sacrifice. If your partner isn't willing to do that, but you are, this is destructive self-sacrifice.

Is This Important When Looking For A Soulmate?

You don't have to be dating someone long to feel unconditional love for that person. Some of us feel it right from the outset. However, it can turn conditional when you begin to nitpick the relationship, looking for signs as to whether you could live with that person for the long haul.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it might be better for you to be able to reduce your unconditional love to conditional love so that you can properly evaluate the relationship before going any deeper into a commitment with this person. We all know that couple that got married too fast and only realized when it was too late that their partner was not compatible with them, that they lacked the necessary communication and problem-solving skills that make great marriages work.

The idea of a "soulmate" is that the conditional love and the unconditional love will eventually overlap, making this person your ideal partner. A lot of us put stock in meeting our "soulmate," yet it is naïve to believe that in a world consisting of billions of people, there is only one person out there for you.

The truth is, many people can connect with you on that intimate level. The problem is that such a connection is rare, and so while it may feel like you are only able to do this with one person, the fact of the matter is that you just have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

This is very important to remember if you feel you have found your soulmate, and then things go awry. Maybe your partner turns out to be the opposite of who you thought they were. Or, perhaps even sadder, maybe you did find your ideal partner, and then they passed away. It can give you hope to know, though, that there are other soulmates out there for you. You may have to do a lot of work to find another one, but he or she is out there, which can help encourage you to keep up the fight.


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