I think unconditional love is an absurd construct. Even my dog has his limits. If I stopped feeding him or started torturing him, how much do you think he would love me then?
While it’s comforting to think that there is love that you can count on, I believe that the responsibility for maintaining that bond goes both ways. Frankly, I’d find it rather creepy if someone loved me so unconditionally that I could become a monster and that person would be okay with that. I do not want someone loving me even if I decide to be a serial killer. I expect to be held accountable for my actions.
I was once in a 16-year relationship with someone who enjoyed saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I knew he was attempting to be reassuring, but in truth that always made me inwardly shudder. I don’t want blind adoration. I actually kind of feel better when there are well-defined boundaries. When I know where I stand, I can do so with confidence. That, and there’s a great deal of pressure to maintain your center of decency when, literally, anything goes. (I admit I didn’t handle it well.)
Parents are expected to love their children unconditionally. I can’t really speak from experience, as I chose not to have kids, but I suspect that “unconditional” condition is the very source of a great deal of dysfunction. If “unconditional” were taken off the table, more parents would be invested in instilling values in their children that would encourage them to be decent human beings, because it’s safe to assume that most parents really do want to love their children.
If we stopped looking at love as if it were a possession, as if, once obtained, you get to keep it, a lot of things would change. If people genuinely believed that one must be loving and lovable in order to receive love, this would be a kinder, gentler planet. If we knew that love must be earned, fewer people would remain with their abusers. If we set the bar ever-so-slightly higher when choosing a mate, it would make for much healthier family units. And if we looked at love as something that must constantly be nurtured in order to thrive, we wouldn’t be so shocked and devastated when it withers on the vine due to our own neglect.
It might also allow us to exercise critical thinking. This whole blind loyalty thing that is becoming the cultural norm is actually rather terrifying. If you vote for someone whose behavior becomes more despicable over time, your FIRST instinct should be a withdrawal of political love for that person. Your standards should be high, and your tolerance for outrage should be short-lived. Our leaders should be kept in check, as their powers allow for rather more destruction than most of us can endure.
So, dear reader, be loving. Be kind. And remember that it’s okay to set boundaries.
I was driving down the road the other day and the song “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat came on the radio. I had one of those moments. Happy tears. Because that used to be “our” song. (Cheesy, I know, but whatever.)
Used to be. I’m not one who falls in love easily. In fact, it’s only happened to me three times in 50 years. And I don’t think I fall out of love at all. Even when relationships end. Especially when they end for stupid reasons, and that one, my friends, was a doozie.
But I’m old enough, and world-weary enough, to know that I can’t control how people think or feel or act. I can’t make someone love me back. But here’s something no one can take away from me: what we had when we had it.
I remember how good it was and how perfect it felt… until it stopped feeling so perfect. I know what I would have been willing to sacrifice, and what I would have been willing to give, and how freakin’ hard I tried. I know the joy I felt when I felt it, and I still think it was a gift. And I shall keep that gift. Forever.
So that makes a quote spring to mind.
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson
But here’s the thing. (Yeah, there’s always a thing.) I don’t feel like I loved and lost. I feel like I loved and won, because I’ve got all those memories and I experienced those moments, and that will never change.
Granted, I wish now more than ever that things could have ended differently, or rather not ended at all, which is why I cry when I hear Bubbly. But they’re happy tears, because my past is mine, and always will be. It’s part of who I am, just as surely as my eyes are blue.
And I hope that sometimes he hears that song, too, and when he does, he thinks about the importance of trust, and the precious and rare gift of love. If he took nothing else away from the experience, I hope he takes that, as the song says, “wherever he goes”.