Tiny Threads

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.


Big Geek said...

I would agree with most of what you say. Its a rather clinical assessment of the situation but yes love is at some level conditional. Each person has needs that they want met. In general love and sex are so closely linked that if your love and sex are not compatible then it becomes very difficult to remain in love. Sex is a unique "activity" in that regard. In general as a couple you can participate in activities separately any time. If the husband loves his golf he can find himself down to the course any Sunday and participate in a game with a mixed group of people. He can spend time alone practicing to get better at his game buy accessories to help with that improvement talk to his wife about it talk to his friends look at pictures and videos read magazines about it but if you substitute sex for golf... then things change up drastically. suddenly you better not be "playing" with any one else it is not ok to buy magazines, watch videos buy accessories, talk to your friends... sex is a private thing between your wife and yourself... unless you have a very special relationship. In my experience those relationships don't stand the test of time. I have seen several of those relationships eventually dissolve. Even "professional" types don't seem to be able to make that sort of relationship work.

wow I totally... well from my perspective the love and sex components are the most critical aspects of the conditions that are involved with the conditional love. Most other things can be negotiated into or out of a relationship. being desired sexually by your partner is typically a critical condition of love... I hope what I am trying to say here is leaking through. With out I have time to read and re-read this and edit it down for meandering idea derailments its tough to know what I said. I think Balance is also important. You can take any thing too far and break the conditions under which a love can endure through time... alcohol and drugs and work affairs and toys can all be abuse and stress the conditions under which a love can survive. Desire for anything above your partner will general break the conditions under which love will flourish.

wow that was waaaay too much yacking.

cjn said...

This is an amazing observation. What I notice is that many times we as people tend to take each other's conditions for granted, sometimes we even take our own needs and desires and set them aside in order to ”keep the peace”. Life is full of this, it's a very complex form of check and balance. You have once again impressed me with the depth of your thinking. Very well written.

Fruit Taster said...

I'm glad you decided to start writing in prose in addition to poetry!

It's true that the unconditional love thing is a tough thing to get right. In parental advice They tell us we should say "I love you but I don't like your behavior". I think this is confusing the issue. This isn't about love but about respect. Children need to respect you. Telling them you love them even though they did something bad makes them think love is in question. If it's not in question, maybe we should just not mention it.

In an adult relationship I think you're right, it's more conditional at the beginning, and it becomes more complex over time.

Your analogy of training the dog made me smile because I found in my relationship that I became trained too. I would avoid saying certain things because I knew She would react in a certain way and I didn't want to lose her love, even temporarily. But minimizing arguments this way was just training me to tone my personality down and to forget who I was and what was important for me. The same kind of dynamics was happening on her side too. The result was boring and unhealthy. The worse part I think is you start losing respect for one another.

B said...

Conditional vs. unconditional is the ultimate question.

As humans we crave the unconditional love and seek it in everything we do and see. A hope ours from us as we walk through life. However, it seems to elude us daily.

As for learning during love we hope the things we hold dear we can teach to someone else but some times they have to want to learn. Cognitively speaking this is called scaffolding and we teach them in order to allow them to do the task we want eventually on their own and hope they also use prior knowledge to obtain the skill we want mastered.

As a parent we love unconditionally because we would do anything for the life we created but as a spouse or committed lover we love conditionally until we it becomes useful to us, or we gain what we wanted.However, as humans we usually have no idea what we really want or is is constantly changing do to experiences and new knowledge.

As a single woman I fear love and am truly afraid to love someone again after the last two years of my life. I loved two men in my life unconditionally and was willing to do anything for them and in the end I only ended up hurt, lied to and craving the things I could not have again.

So the battle continues and we may never have answer to what is better or best for us as humans, parents and lovers.

Big Geek said...

wow I totally missed the point... sigh