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Linda: Some people have a mistaken understanding of unconditional love. They believe that no matter how they are treated by their partner, they should love them exactly the same way. This idea leads people to believe that they should be unaffected by our partner’s bad behavior. If they ignore us, insult us, or make unreasonable demands, it’s a normal response to pull away in an attempt to protect ourselves from further harm.

For a brief period of time, the trust level goes down and is accompanied by a drop in feeling love for the one who is causing us this harm. To continue to feel the deep love that is present when we feel safe and secure in their presence is an unrealistic expectation. It’s undue pressure that we place on ourselves to expect that we should be unaffected by the other person’s behavior. The love is still there but buried under layers that we may not access for a period of time.

The concept of unconditional love has tremendous appeal because it’s what we so desire. The whole notion that no matter what they do or don’t do, or say or didn’t say, that hurts us, we should rise about it is a set up for a diminishment of love. The idea that we should love unconditionally can contribute to glossing over issues that need to be frankly addressed so that excellent love can be established. I am fond of the idea of striving for an excellent love where we stay in conversation with a spirit of goodwill, to more and more deeply understand what does and does not work.

People can feel bad about themselves when they think that they don’t think they have unconditional love to give. They may end up feeling that there is something important that other people have that they don’t and that they are missing out. If we can trust that we have a love that is huge, deep, and fabulous, but that we have some conditions, that certainly can be enough. When the conditions that we do have are abundantly met, it’s celebration time. But if, for any reason, they aren’t being met, over time, the substrate of love that is the foundation of a relationship will erode. 

The idea of unconditional love is associated with no boundaries. Why would anyone want to have no boundaries? Many of us have worked long and hard over many years to negotiate for our needs by establishing clear boundaries. We’ve created a set of agreements with those we love to keep our relationships safe and strong. Why would we want to dismiss all those skillful negotiations? With unconditional love, there is an implication that one partner can be selfish and have their needs met, and that they can be fully loved even if they behave badly.

I like to merge as much as the next person. In fact, I think I like to merge a lot more than the next person, but I like my boundaries too. So, I don’t believe in unconditional love, just like I don’t believe in perfection. I do believe in excellence, and since excellence is possible and perfection isn’t, I’ll strive for excellence, thank you very much. Trying to be perfect left me feeling exhausted and inadequate. Excellence is my standard now and it’s way better. 

Excellent love can be deep and wide, expansive, and comprehensive. And like excellence, there is room for imperfection. I like the spaciousness that it allows. There can be imperfection and still there is great beauty. We can have our irreconcilable differences, and yet the joyful places where we connect mightily far outweigh them. There is a place for being tired, stressed, and cranky. The relationship has enough goodwill that these occasional breakdowns are easily absorbed without any problem. We can both be in the process, learning to become masterful lovers. We can feel broken and unhealed from time-to-time, and yet someone is there to reflect back on our strength and wholeness in our weak moments. We can trip and fall down and get right up. We can make mistakes and be instantly forgiven. Like Courtney Walish says, “we are “flawed and fabulous.” That works for me!

The whole idea of unconditional love doesn’t provide enough room to have our dark shadowy thoughts and feelings like resentment anger, rage, loneliness, insecurity, fantasies of revenge, and the other small, petty, selfish parts of us that we know are there. 

Maybe unconditional love is for the fully enlightened. Most of us are regular humans doing our best in Earth School to learn to love well. We can be good students and continue to study the curriculum. We can be committed to the BIG LOVE, and to make it a high priority. But this unconditional idea is a myth, too high and mighty for us, ordinary humans. But this excellent love I must say is mighty sweet.


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