These signs will help you understand what unconditional love is, and if it exists in your relationship. If you don’t feel loved unconditionally, then something has to change. And it’s not you.
“To be brave is to love someone unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. To just give. That takes courage, because we don’t want to fall on our faces or leave ourselves open to hurt.” – Madonna.
Before you can hope or expect your partner to love you unconditionally, you need to love him first. This makes you vulnerable, and it’s a completely unselfish type of love. And that’s what unconditional love is: unselfish, hopeful, and dangerous.
The only way to love someone unconditionally is to first learn how to love yourself unconditionally. If you struggle to love and be loved, read Receiving Love: Transform Your Relationship by Letting Yourself Be Loved. Learn how giving and receiving unconditional love are related, and how you can improve your relationship.
What is Unconditional Love?
There is a difference between a mother’s unconditional love and a partner’s unconditional love. Your mom loves you no matter what you do – even if you cheat on your taxes, cheat on your spouse, or cheat in Scrabble. Your partner, on the other hand, loves you with a different type of “unconditional love.”
Your partner’s love may be based on how you treat him. If you’re faithful, communicative, supportive, and loving, then you’ll love him unconditionally. Those are signs of unconditional love that communicate respect and love in its deepest, most honorable form. What is unconditional love? An action, not just a feeling.
Loving someone unconditionally means not trying to change who they are. That is the simplest, purest definition of unconditional love in romantic relationships. I think it’s a better definition than “loving someone no matter what”, which is more of a maternal definition of unconditional love.
Your mom will love you no matter what you do…but she may try to change you because she believes she knows what’s best for you. That’s what a mother’s unconditional love is. For example, my mom often tells me what to do because she genuinely thinks she knows best. My husband, on the other hand, rarely tells me what to do because he accepts me for who I am.
A partner’s unconditional love is about acceptance. I think that is how we should love our partners. I don’t believe we should practice our mothers’ type of unconditional love in our intimate relationships.
Signs of Unconditional Love
Equality. Your partner treats you the way he wants to be treated. I’m listing this as the first sign of unconditional love because my friend is in an emotionally abusive marriage. Her husband calls her names, doesn’t care about her feelings, and verbally manipulates and controls her. Their relationship is not based on equality, and I don’t believe she should extend unconditional love to him because he treats her like dirt. He would never talk to himself the way he talks to her.
Acceptance. You don’t try to change your partner’s habits, personality, work, style, or way of being in the world. You love him for who he is. That is the essential answer to the ‘what is unconditional love’ question: accepting your partner for who he is. And vice versa. Acceptance and unconditional love have to co-exist.
Freedom and authenticity. My two favorite things in the world – freedom and authenticity – are also signs of unconditional love! What is the point of loving someone if you aren’t free to be yourself? It’s painful to be in a relationship in which you’re pretending to be someone or something you’re not.
Support. I believe my husband loves me unconditionally because he is supportive of my goals, plans, and dreams. He doesn’t try to change me, or re-create me in his image. He’s not the absolute perfect example of unconditional love (Jesus Christ is), but I feel loved unconditionally by him.
Communication. My last sentence describes how I feel in my marriage. I feel unconditionally loved – my husband tells and shows me he loves me – so I feel prepared to define what unconditional love is. I wouldn’t feel loved if my husband didn’t somehow communicate that to me. I don’t think this is the most important sign of unconditional love, but it’s really important! If we can’t communicate our love, we can’t feel loved.
My thoughts on what unconditional love is may not resonate with you. Or, you may be in a relationship that you’re confused about. I can think of a hundred questions that you may be struggling with – such as my friend’s struggle with loving an abusive man. She wants to love him unconditionally, so she stays in the marriage. She is sacrificing her life, self-esteem, self-confidence, and even her children because she believes that is what unconditional love is. She’s wrong.
Unconditional love shouldn’t cause you harm. It may be painful, since all relationships require work and sacrifice, but unconditional love doesn’t destroy you. On the contrary, a sign of unconditional love is feeling stronger, energized, and happier than you were before.
Here’s a quote about unconditional love that should apply to all relationships: “Accept the children the way we accept trees—with gratitude, because they are a blessing—but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change, you love them as they are.” Isabel Allende.
If you’re still wondering what unconditional love is, read 8 Signs He Doesn’t Love You.
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.