What do you think of conditional love?

So, we’ve all heard the term, “unconditional love”, right? The kind that you get regardless of your performance. The kind that doesn’t flip on and off like a lightswitch.

How about the cheap imitation, conditional love? The kind where the attitude is, I love you as long as you don’t screw up, but if you do, fix it yourself or go die quietly someplace. What do you think?

Is it a contradiction in terms? If it has conditions, is it really love?

If a parent has only conditional love for their children, what then? Does this make them a bad parent? Can a child brought up under these circumstances learn unconditional love on their own?

Can you tell unconditional from conditional love? I mean, if somebody screws up, and you’re so mad at them that it causes you to lash out and hurt and lie to them, does this make it conditional love (at best)? How selfish can you be and still love someone unconditionally?

Well, this whole binary love concept is silly. All love is conditional. You may think your mother has “unconditional love” for you, but just see how she feels if you axe the rest of your family.

“Conditions” are just consequences for your actions. If you do something that hurts someone, they’re likely to create consequences. Diminishing or ending their love for you is just one of those potential consequences.

I agree with Bill H. for the general perspective but would like to add the observation that people nowadays constantly rush to ‘being in love’ without due consideration for what the word truly means. They mistake lust for love in their rush to grow up and emulate the images of love all around them.

Bill H. said exactly what I thought, when I finished reading the OP.

Damn straight there’s conditional love–in all relationships. Man, even God gets a little edgy if you go and build a golden calf or use his name in vain.

Sure, I’d like to believe in unconditional love. But if you think that my feelings towards my SO wouldn’t change an iota if he went around banging a few girls over the weekend, you’ve got another thing coming. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my love for him would lessen. It would go the same way if the roles were reversed for us. Our love is based on trust–if either one of us were to breech that, the consequence would be the loss of love.

Unconditional love does not truly exist in humans–by the fact that we are human, we have limits for what we will accept from others. Granted, everyone’s limits are different, so what is wonderful for one, is another’s personal hell.

I think it’s ridiculous to expect unconditional love from another person–it’s like expecting them to not have flaws, fears, prejudices, dislikes, and quirks.

I have to disagree with you guys.
I don’t think that love is voluntary. Sure, it’s susceptable to influeces (icluding one’s own decisions), and it can wax and wane, but I don’t think it can be conditional. Love, though, need not be exclusive. It can mix quite freely with hate, contempt, fear and other emotions. If I killed my family, my mom would still love me a little, but she’d hate me a lot.

Retationships, though… relationships are conditional. Always. As my wife once told me in a less-than-pleasent moment, “I will always love you. But if you do THAT,” - please don’t ask what - “I will leave you and never come back.”

We patched things up. But I’ve taken her words to heart.

Gee. I talked to my mom tonight. I’m thirty-four now but I put my mother though hell when I was fourteen. She still loves me. After ALL I did. We talked about that, like, if I was in jail now or whatever… she would still love me. Cause she’s my mom. She will ALWAYS love me. Even if I was the biggest fuck up on the planet, she would still love me.

So, yeah, I’ve got to say unconditional love does exist. My mother has it for me. I have it for her. And no matter how much my father fucks me over, in the end, I still love him. I may not like him or respect him, but I will ALWAYS love him. He’s my dad.

And, in the end, it’s unconditional. Because I just can’t help it. He can be the biggest fucking prick but I will always love him.

I have the same feelings about my brothers and sisters. No matter how bad they are, which they aren’t, they are great, I will ALWAYS love them.

But that’s just me.

Unconditional love would be extrememly difficult without blood ties. Humans being what we are, there are probably always conditions under which we would remove ourselves from our mates and friends.

On the other hand, I can understand that Tim McVey’s mother still loves her son even if she believes him guilty of the Oklahoma massacre.

Fortunately, my children have never put me in Mrs. McVey’s position. It pains me when they do things I don’t approve of, especially when those things have consequences for their children. As wrong as they may be in my eyes, my love for them remains.

On the other hand, I’m on my third husband. 'nuff said.

unconditional love is extremely possible, and does exist.
i have it for my friends and family. being angry doesn’t stop one from loving. anger is not hatred, it’s being upset at a situation or for a reason, that can pass. i can unconditionally love a person, fall in love with a woman and lover her unconditionally, but it doesn’t always work out because the feelings aren’t mutual. that doesn’t mean i won’t love her anymore, but that i had best move on and let go of the idea that with her things might be possible. Conditional love is not love, its fear. Placing obligations and conditions on a realtionship is a factor of fear and not love.

Soul -
I’d hope that no one in a “committed” relationship believes that their love is based on certain conditions. My own romantic soul wants to believe that my love for my husband is unconditional. In fact, I have, and I believe that he also has, made a conscious decision that the bond between us is greater than those things about him/me that make me/him crazy.

On the other hand, I am pragmatic enough to know that both of us are human enough that either one of us is capable of some act or behavior that could erode and neutralize that bond over time.

We’re human, and therefore fallible.

but love is infallible, only anger and fear sets us humans apart.

Well, that sounds like the whole gamut of possible responses. And yes, as implied by the OP, I do think unconditional love is possible. Maybe it’s subtle Christian influences (I’m agnostic, but I’ve certainly absorbed Christian teachings from time to time), but I think you can avoid someone, divorce someone, even throw someone in jail while still loving them. The last breakup I had (not the one on my current Mundane Pointless thread, which wasn’t a breakup) would have been much easier if I didn’t love the woman I was breaking up with.

So maybe unconditional love is simply hard to distinguish from conditional love - it’s just a difference in mental states and we’re not mind-readers, after all. I just wonder what to make of it when someone who ostensibly loves someone else, acts in a completely selfish way. I see it all the time and it kind of weirds me out.

So perhaps I’ve framed the question wrong. Maybe, it’s more about fairweather/selfish love vs. unselfish love. I can just think of too many examples where convenience and love got into a fight and love was left bleeding in an alley. My generation’s attitude toward material wealth is radically different from that of the generation immediately previous. So that is probably coloring my perceptions a little. I’m not trying to be unfair, but does it really make sense to ignore your friends and family for a better-paying job? Respond to the birth of your child by flying all over the country in the name of “financial independence”? I know I haven’t adhered very tightly to the original topic. The real problem, I suppose, is that people show love in such completely different ways that it’s not guaranteed to get across.

I can’t properly separate this issue from the decay of the extended family, but that is another issue.

After reading the OP, I had an answer all mapped out. Then I read Bill H.'s response and almost didn’t post an answer because he had pretty much put in what I thought.

Then a few contrary opinions entered the picture, so here’s my two cents worth:

All love is conditional. Obviously, some love is less conditioned than other love, but everyone has their limits.

Sure you may have pissed off your parents in high school. Of course they still love you. Tie them up and torture them for a few weeks. Burn down their house. Destroy their lives. Probably a little less likely that they still love you.

True love involves low-conditioned love that is shared. So not only will the person still love me if I screw up, they know (rightfully so) that I would never intentionally breach their trust, and that I would in turn still love them should they ever screw up.

Just my opinion.

You’re right, Boris, that love has about as many definitions and interpretations as there are people on earth.

Over the past few decades so much has changed so quickly, that lots of people are confused, I think. We went from the very community and family oriented mores of the past to the ME generation with lots of minor back and forth swings in the process.

It is very difficult for many people to adjust to the give and take required to keep the relationship or the family overall well being at the top of the heap.

What is more important, my career progress, or my bond with my children? My career progress or that of my mate? My social status or my kids’ baseball games?

With any luck, the answer is that a decision is made based on the long term health of the partnership and family. And even sometimes that goes wrong.

How many middle aged men have finally reached a point in their careers when they could relax a little with the family only to find that the family had developed their own lived independent of his. They were doing it for the sake of the family. ???

What is unconditional love? I will always love you? I will always love you, but I have this great job offer I can’t refuse even if you won’t move 2,000 miles away with me? Call me if you ever come into town.

I guess the bottom line is that there’s often a difference between the feeling “love” and the conscious mental committment to work to maintain a lasting bond with someone.

Sometimes love doesn’t conquer all.

1 Corinthians 13

(4) Love is long suffering, love is kind, it is not jealous, love does not boast, it is
not inflated. (5) It is not discourteous, it is not selfish, it is not irritable, it does not
enumerate the evil. (6) It does not rejoice over the wrong, but rejoices in the truth
(7) It covers all things, it has faith for all things, it hopes in all things, it endures in
all things.

(8) Love never falls in ruins; but whether prophecies, they will be abolished; or
tongues, they will cease; or knowledge, it will be superseded. (9) For we know in
part and we prophecy in part. (10) But when the perfect comes, the imperfect will
be superseded. (11) When I was an infant, I spoke as an infant, I reckoned as an
infant; when I became a man, I abolished the things of the infant. (12) For now
we see through a mirror in an enigma, but then face to face. Now I know in part,
but then I shall know as also I was fully known. (13 But now remains faith, hope,
love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.