Can love actually be unconditional? Like a spider web, the threads are thin and barely visible but they are always there. We all long to be loved and we want to believe that it can be done unconditionally, but I am unsure that love works that way.
Often in a relationship there are trade offs, compromises, conditions given in order to obtain what we as individuals want from others. Regardless of the relationship; child/parent, siblings, friends or a couple, all relationships are predicated on conditional love.
We learn in childhood what will gain the acceptance of our peers and the love and appreciation of those around us. With good behavior rewarded and negative behavior having consequences, we learn how to manipulate or behave correctly to get the desired response from others.
Unconditional love separates the individual from his or her behaviors. Giving or withholding acceptance based on another person's behavior is the essence of conditional love.
I want my sons to keep their room clean and they want to play on the computer so they must clean their room to have computer time. In no way am I saying that I would stop loving them because they have not cleaned their room but that they learn what gains my praise i.e. love.
Perhaps a child parent relationship is not the best example of conditional love. I know regardless of what they may or may not do, I will always love them. It is harder to walk away or give up on a parental kind of love but in a romantic relationship walking away may become easier.
A friend of mine was dating a woman whom did not care for him having a Myspace™ page. They argued several times over the content of the page and the numerous female friends that were on his page. She asked him to deactivate his account. He chose to do so, but this was a condition to the survival of their relationship.
I don't believe the condition was put that clearly, the choice was his but he knew in order to obtain her approval and to continue receiving her love that sacrifices must be made. Some may call this a compromise, a trade off but to a certain degree aren’t most compromises merely “conditions” we are willing to accept.
The best example of unconditional love that I can come up with is a puppy and an owner. If I have a new puppy he comes and greets me at the door and is excited to see me, he loves me and I love him. When that puppy tinkles on the floor I become irate knowing I have to clean it up and that the puppy needs to be punished and taught to not tinkle on my floor.
I begin training and modifying his behavior with reward and punishment in order for him to learn what will make me happy. The major difference between the puppy and me is a cognitive level of thinking and rational thought. The puppy will continue to love me and be excited to see me because it does not have cognitive thinking.
A human being can rationalize out what “conditions” they are willing to take before they take their love somewhere else. The puppy will stay. He will love me, greet me, and be excited to see me. Once you reach a level of cognitive reasoning love inevitably becomes conditional.
Please don't think I don't believe in love because I do, I just think we love with conditions. The threads are tiny and often barely visible. Most of the time the conditions are so inconsequential they don't even register as conditions but make no mistake they are there with the potential of breaking us completely.