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You simply love them and want nothing more than their happiness. This type of love, sometimes called compassionate or agape love, might sound somewhat familiar. Maybe it brings to mind the love your parents have for you or the love you have for your own child. While people often associate unconditional love with familial love, many look for this love in romantic relationships, too.
Wanting someone to love you for yourself — no matter what — is an understandable desire. Yet this type of love might still seem like the stuff of fairy tales and movies, not something most people encounter in real life. A small study explored the brain regions activated by feelings of unconditional love.
In other words, the simple act of loving someone unconditionally may produce positive feelings. Receiving unconditional love can also make a difference in emotional well-being. According to research from , children who receive higher levels of affection from their parents or caregivers tend to have greater resilience in adulthood. They also tend to experience fewer mental health symptoms. from a study support the idea that loving children unconditionally improves their lifelong health and wellness.
This suggests parental unconditional love could offer some protection against the harmful, often lingering effects of childhood trauma or abuse. In the context of friendship , unconditional love might weather tests like conflict, falling out of touch, or differing life goals. Altruism refers to helpful actions taken to support and benefit others, often at your own expense. You offer your love for their support and benefit.
This is one point of contention in discussions of unconditional love in romantic situations. Unconditional love, however, requires unconditional acceptance. So, you forgive mistakes and continue to offer love and acceptance, even — and this is important — if their choices distress you or cause harm. You can , however, love someone unconditionally without having a relationship with them. Confusion and misconceptions about the true nature of unconditional love can seem to suggest this type of love reflects unhealthy or toxic relationship dynamics.
Conflict is normal and healthy in relationships. You might not stop loving them, but neither do you ignore the breach of trust. Depending on the circumstances, you might agree to work together on rebuilding trust and your savings , but you might also see no future in the relationship. You can walk away still holding forgiveness and love in your heart. No one person can provide another person with everything they need.
Perhaps your partner says unkind things after drinking. You want them to be happy, but what if quitting drinking and dealing with the issues that trigger the urge to drink would improve their health and help them find greater happiness? Blanket tolerance for harmful behavior can prevent them from making needed changes.
The responsibility for their actions rests entirely in their hands. As one philosophy professor pointed out , even the love between a parent and falls short of unconditional. A parent might love their child no matter what they do, but this love still has a condition: They love their child because their child is theirs. In a similar vein, consider the love you have for your partner or anyone else. What triggered it originally?
Perhaps you felt attracted to certain specific characteristics: sense of humor, a kind heart, intelligence. If they no longer had those characteristics, would your love continue, unaltered? From a philosophical perspective, if conditions never change, you might never know whether your love truly is unconditional. In reality, love grows and shifts over time. It can also fade, through no fault of anyone involved. Love changes, in part, because people change. You, or your partner, may not be the same person years down the line. Instead of seeking out an idealized, potentially unattainable type of love, try for a better, more realistic, goal: mature love founded on compassion and respect.
While a parent may love their child from the moment of birth, romantic love can take a little more time and effort. It can even improve the health of your relationship when handled in a productive way. Once you both express your opinions, you can begin working toward resolution. This might involve collaboration or compromise. Good communication should be clear, honest, and timely.
All the honest, open sharing in the world may not make much difference if it comes too late. By communicating with your partner , you show your respect and commitment to working through challenges and finding ways to meet conflicting goals.
For better communication :. Things will get easier with practice. When your partner struggles, you listen with empathy or offer a helping hand, and they do the same for you. A time may come when you find yourself sacrificing something for their benefit, but sacrifice and support should go both ways. Unconditional love might sound like a dream come true. But while love is one thing, a relationship is quite another. A healthy relationship does have conditions, of a sort: your boundaries.
Crystal Raypole has ly worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. They say love works in mysterious ways, but things start to make a lot more sense when you look at its effects on your mind and body.
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