Why seeking unconditional love can destroy relationships

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Friends and family warned you, and coworkers and colleagues expressed concern, yet you can’t see what they see: the person you’re in love with isn’t good for you–you refuse to believe it.

How did this happen? How did your vision become so clouded?

A Brief History of Unconditional Love

In human relationships, love is a force like no other; it is the beating heart of our most incredible memories, the glue that binds us to others, the fuel that drives our passions, and the comfort that soothes us.

For most people, the earliest experiences of love are of being held in an all-encompassing embrace. Think of an infant cradled in her mother’s arms, completely safe and protected. That feeling of unconditional love is intoxicating; it’s an emotion like no other.


This is where things get complicated.

Longing for Unconditional Love

Sometimes we seek to recapture that early feeling of unconditional love in our romantic adult relationships. This may be especially true if you felt deprived of love during your childhood.


When you doggedly seek unconditional love, you can start to cling to the desperate notion that if someone loves you unconditionally, your life will be perfect; all needs will be met, and you will feel complete. Unfortunately, media and popular culture promote this idolized view of love.

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As the yearning for unconditional love grows, it pressurizes a relationship and puts it under stress; your vision and judgment become distorted.

When Unconditional Love Becomes an Obsession


Craving unconditional love can destabilize you and flood you with uncertainty and confusion. Soon, you stop thinking clearly and blind yourself to red flags and the warning signals of an unhealthy relationship. In other words, you don’t see the person in front of you; you see the person that you want to see.

The quest for unconditional love springs from primal hunger and projections; for this reason, it nearly always ends badly. Like a house built on a weak foundation, no relationship can withstand the weight of such enormous expectations.

Ultimately, a desperate desire for unconditional love masks a profound lack of self-love.


Why Seeking Unconditional Love Is Bad for Relationships

No relationship is smooth sailing. But when your want of unconditional love is unmet, chances are you will react in the following three ways:

  1. Distrust. You constantly badger your partner for proof of their love. Yet no matter how they try, you find a reason to distrust them. To manage your fears, you may double down on controlling behaviors, such as tracking your partner or interrogating them.
  1. Anxiety. You continually feel hurt and confused by your partner’s choices; you start to doubt your judgment, and soon your anxiety skyrockets. You feel rejected and abandoned when your partner attempts to set boundaries or asks for space.
  2. Illness. The quest for unconditional love can make you physically sick. Headaches, backaches, insomnia, and a host of psychosomatic symptoms can result when you feel let down or disappointed in your partner. Such ongoing emotional strain can damage your mental and physical health.
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Breaking Free of the Unconditional Love Dilemma


The best way to find a loving relationship is to start with a loving relationship with yourself. Rather than seeking a partner to complete you, complete yourself by practicing self-care and developing your interests and passions. And if you feel stuck in relationships, group therapy is an excellent choice. All these self-care efforts will strengthen your sense of identity and self-worth so you won’t develop an unhealthy dependency on your partner to meet all your emotional needs.

Remember, falling in love is easy; sustaining love is hard. True love takes time and patience to nurture. Demanding unconditional love, particularly too soon in a relationship, is a choice that is bound to end in regret.


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Psychology Today
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