I find the concept of “unconditional love” funny.
The truth is that no relationship is unconditional. Some of you might find this thought hard to digest because it could hurt your ego or collapse your firmly held worldview. Well, take a deep breath and listen to me.
Be it a parent, spouse, or child, no matter the nature of the relationship, there’s innately some expectation or reward the other person craves in the relationship. And there’s nothing wrong with it.
E.g. parents want the best things for their children and, in turn, expect their children to adhere to their belief system and make their dreams come true. Seems fair. Laying the groundwork, so the child can easily navigate this journey called life requires incredible effort. And many parents do that to make their children’s life less miserable. All I want to emphasise is that no human relationship can thrive on unconditionality.
I agree that the idea of offering unconditional love, care, or anything is attractive and like a fairytale. All of us want to develop the capacity to display unconditional love.
But is it humanly possible?
I often feel that the idea of unconditional love is associated with no boundaries, and it has to do with caring less about what you want and how you feel and saying yes to things that will only enervate you. And choosing to do things without setting boundaries and complying with the idea of being a perfect human while being unkind to yourself can exhaust you and make you feel inadequate.
Even if a person continues to keep giving, they will reach a point where they’d be dead on their feet and pray that the other person notices their effort and reciprocates. And during this very moment, they will experience so many unexpressed emotions — resentment, anger, loneliness, insecurity, vulnerability, etc. When this happens, the fort of ‘unconditional giving’ crumples.
What can we do about this?
The first step is to develop the courage to throw away the notion of being perfect lovers, parents, children, or friends. It helps lay the path to true freedom. Secondly, we must also learn to be okay with being messy, selfish, cranky, and incomprehensible and accept that these are human experiences. Finally, it’s super important to do the inner work, i.e., to become more self-aware, identify our ego, and choose to find joy in small things.
And when we do this, we become excellent lovers, parents, and children who approach relationships with a spirit of goodwill to more deeply understand what does and does not work. There can be imperfection, and still, there is great beauty. We can have our irreconcilable differences, and yet the joyful places where we connect could mightily far outweigh them.
Life is too short to be sucked into the idea of perfection and lose our identity in the process of wanting to master unconditional love.