Couple therapist Larry Letich, LCSW says that getting carried away by the concept of romantic and unconditional love can lead you or your partner (s) to overlook destructive, selfish or abusive behavior. “If your partner treats you in a blatant, indifferent, or hurtful way, loving them unconditionally is not loving you,” Letich says.
“Unconditional love is a distortion of acceptance.” âJess Carbino, PhD
In order to have the healthiest relationships possible, we need to know and respect not only other people’s boundaries, but our own as well. “If someone experiences this idea of ââunconditional love with their romantic partner, they may not be able to set proper boundaries,” says the relationship and dating expert. Jess Carbino, PhD, former sociologist of dating apps Tinder and Bumble. “It can [also] lead individuals not to … have appropriate mechanisms to establish themselves as an individual in the relationship, [or] be able to have mechanisms to assert their own needs.
So where does this idea come from that unconditional love is good for a relationship? Dr. Carbino traces this back to the relationships we have with our parents and ourselves, as both are relationships that require unconditional love. A romantic relationship, however, is fundamentally different from its Platonic counterparts, she adds.
One of the reasons they’re different, according to Dr. Carbino, is because unconditional love is essential to a developmentally parent-child relationship. Loving yourself unconditionally is also an important part of your relationship with yourself, as it is the only relationship that cannot become separate. So while it’s reasonable to expect unconditional love from you and your parents, expecting it in a romantic relationship is a whole different ball game.
Simply put, this is not a concept applicable to romantic relationships, explains Dr. Carbino, because “the norms regarding romantic relationships are different.” In addition, the needs of your parents can vary widely from what you have of your romantic partners.
A better indicator that your romantic relationship is healthy would be to ask if your partner accepts you or not, explains Dr. Carbino: âPeople basically seek acceptance from their romantic partner – and they should be accepted by their romantic partners – that is. is fundamental, [but] unconditional love is a distortion of acceptance.
Letich adds that when you unlearn how to demand unconditional love, an introspective alternative is powerful: ask yourself if you love who you are when you’re with your romantic partner. âIf the answer is yes, that means that person brings out the best in you,â Letich says. âIt’s a good basis for long-term happiness. “
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