For centuries, the perfect end result of any romantic relationship is unconditional love. We’ve read it in magazine articles. Love novels. Movies. Blogs on the Internet. Everyone is searching for unconditional love in their romantic relationships. The question today, is one that’s been around forever, we wonder how many people who claim they are in relationships filled with unconditional love really are?

Is it Unconditional love? Or Codependent Love?

Unconditional Love or Codependent Love: How You Know the DifferenceI once had a client who insisted that she loved her boyfriend unconditionally, more than any other man she had ever dated. In her late 30s, with many relationships behind her, she loved to throw the word unconditional love around like rice at a wedding. As we continued to work together, I started to see a crack in the façade of her relationship. Was it really unconditional love? And what is unconditional love? I posed those two questions to her as a homework assignment that I wanted her to explore and bring in  her written answers during our next Skype session.

She did. I was shocked. But maybe I shouldn’t have been.

Her answer was that she unconditionally loved her boyfriend, which is how she could stay with him during his weekend bouts with alcoholism. She went on to say that even though he neglected her many days during the week, never returned her calls, and chose not to attend any family functions with her, she still unconditionally loved him.

Red flags were dancing all through my head. I was thinking how sad it was that we’ve come to this point in  society, that we put up with peoples bullshit, nonsense, emotional abuse and addiction. But somehow that allows us to claim that we just unconditionally love that person.

It’s nonsense. It’s ridiculous. What I eventually was able to show her, is that she didn’t necessarily unconditionally love this person, but she was unconditionally codependent with him as hell.
What many people call unconditional love is a severe form of codependency. Codependency is the largest addiction in the world. They mask it with these pretty words, unconditional love, but what it really means is there afraid to be on their own. They’re afraid to be alone. They’re afraid to set boundaries with consequences. They’re afraid to stand up for themselves. They’re afraid to call an addict an addict, an emotional abuser an emotional abuser.
Unconditional Love or Codependent Love: How You Know the DifferenceIt’s like a painting a house filled with termites that are chewing through the outside wood of the house, and hoping somehow that that layer of paint which looks really pretty today, will be there tomorrow. It won’t. The termites will laugh, as they chew their way through the new layers of paint, because we’ve never gone to the termite nest.

It’s the same with unconditional love, or in most cases, codependency. Until we go to the root of the codependent behaviour, the enabling, the justification, the denial, there is no way that these relationships will ever show any sign of unconditional love.

Unconditional love is extremely rare between two people in a romantic relationship. It might even be impossible to reach sometimes but it’s worthwhile going after.

Believe it or not, unconditional love can be shown in the way we set boundaries and consequences. In other words, if I didn’t love this person so much, I wouldn’t bother setting boundaries and consequences. But because I want to see this relationship last, grow, and thrive, I will set boundaries and consequences knowing that the person might walk away and reject me. That’s how much I love this person, and myself. Yes, setting boundaries is also a
sign of unconditional love for ourselves, because learning to do so proves, once and for all, we are worthy of being respected and loved all at the same time.
David Essel, M.S., is a master life coach, counselor and author of Focus!, a motivational book to change the way that we approach success, goal achievement, and profound love.

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