“Can there be unconditional love? I don’t believe there can be. You tell me Prerna, have you ever seen any marriage without conditions? What is wrong if I say I would like to be in this marriage only if he makes me his priority?” Kinjal was furious after a discussion she had with her husband the previous night. She and her husband had been coming to me for marriage counseling. I was aware of the difficult times Kinjal had gone through in her marriage and could understand her frustration. Her words left me thinking of the response I can give her that could help her understand the value of “Unconditional Love” and at the same time make her feel understood.
Love with conditions can feel very suffocating in any relationship. As the spiritual masters have guided us over centuries, love is supposed to make us feel free. Love (for others) is our (personal) expression of feelings towards the other person and hence it should not be shared as a reward on fulfillment of a condition or in exchange of something . It can also not depend on the other person’s feelings for us, simply because it is independent of that. It is about “us”. I tried to explain this to Kinjal. Her immediate response was, “that means I should continue loving my husband even when he continues to ill treat me?” That is when I asked her “Do you love yourself?” I believe, that love should be as unconditional for ourselves, as it can be for others. It is only when we learn “Self Love” without conditions, would we be able to forgive ourselves, for our mistakes and learn to forgive others. I tried explaining Kinjal that maybe if she tried to forgive herself and her husband, she will feel free and may be able to allow him some freedom too. He may learn a different way of behaving with her, if she changes her ways.
Kinjal, is a smart, intelligent, educated, working woman. She does not take my words at face value. She likes to discuss, debate and think before she is convinced. So the next question to me was, “that means I must not say anything to him even if his actions or decisions can be harmful for me or my children?” She went on to explain some of her concerns. That is when I realized that Kinjal was talking about her expectations from her husband, as a spouse and a father. Of course, most people have certain expectations from all relationships. Some expectations are unsaid but assumed or taken for granted in the relationship and some are expressed. Some are expressed clearly while others are expressed by way of frustration, when not met with. But, most of us do have expectations from our near and dear ones.
People often get confused between “expectations” and “conditions”. They tend to interchange it in their mind and that is how they end up communicating to others. Expectations, if explained properly, need not feel binding or suffocating. In fact, they may be well received and fulfilled by the other person, if understood correctly. However, Conditions may tempt a person to turn into a rebel at times, because of its binding nature. It is healthy to have some expectations from our relationships because that is an expression of co-dependency. When we co-exist with our family and friends, some amount of interdependency helps us feel needed. Barring a very selected few who have the strength to live a solo life, leading them on their spiritual or religious journey, most humans, can’t live as Islands. Hence, interdependency is a good feeling. When I explained this, Kinjal felt understood. She felt her concerns being acknowledged. That is when she herself realized that maybe she had interchanged “expectations” and “conditions” in her mind and thus felt that Love cannot be “Unconditional”.
*Disclaimer : This article is inspired by my case studies. All characters and events are entirely fictional.