Monday, January 7, 2013

(Un)Conditional Love

I read an interesting piece by Ziad El-Hady - aka my future husband, he just doesn't know it yet - entitled The Essence of Romantic Love is Nothingness. Funnily enough, I agree with everything he had to say, except for his main point; that relationships are built structures with no foundation, under constant and likely threat of de-construction (such a nicer way to say destruction). Maybe I'm being hopeful here, but I'd like to think that is not true.

One point he did make which rung very true is that there is no such thing as unconditional love. If you consider relationships you've been in but ended, relationships you may or may not have been unconditionally in love. Of those you did see yourself as unconditionally in love, surely it wouldn't have ended if it was truly unconditional, right? Let's say it ended because of an indiscretion of some sort, therefore your love is conditional on fidelity. If it ended because one or both parties 'changed', ergo love is conditional on remaining exactly the same as you did when you first entered the relationship. Somehow, you start to see that love actually is - and always was - conditional! To me the idea of unconditional love is exactly what gets people in trouble; people get swept away by the fairy tale idea until they are faced with the reality of it all. They just end up hugely disappointed. Worse still, instead of believing that their idea of this romantic love is indeed a misconception, they simply believe they just haven't found it yet. So they just abort mission and try again instead of genuinely attempting to change their understanding of love and apply it to their already existing structure. Some might even go RomCom and fight for this love believing that it is there, when it is not. If I had to say some form of love was unconditional, to me it would be the love towards parents and immediate family, even if I do feel at times their love for me could be under the condition that I do as they say or expect, but I digress.

Back to the idea of a foundation-less love. The conclusion reached would make sense based on the overall argument, but I can't help but feel something is missing. Perhaps it's the idea that 'romantic' love is not necessarily imperative in a happy, healthy relationship. Maybe it's a different kind of love. And it is upon finding that love you are able to lay down the foundations of a lasting relationship. A love that is not alone. A love that comes with mutual respect, understanding, trust, compassion, joy, empathy, acceptance and even humor. The all-consuming love, the blinding can't-live-without-you love is unstable and inconsistent. The higher the highs, the lower the lows. It is euphoric though, the 'high'. And once you get a taste of it, that's all you want and you want it all the time. So when something comes along to rock your love boat, panic ensues along with questions, doubts and fear of never getting that feeling of euphoria again. I've said it before and I'll say it is a dangerous thing. Yes, it is beautiful, but the power it yields is immense and could feel threatening. Very threatening.

The problem I see is that such unrealistic expectations of this 'romantic' love, along with the list of personal criteria one has for their ideal partner may need a little tweaking. Not to mention the chronic fear of being alone, which by far I find is the biggest obstacle one must face (and many, many don't even bother to). All, I feel, begin from within.

"A man who - as a physical being - is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him"
- Søren Kierkegaard

Let's address this fear of being alone. A lot of people would never admit to see their relationships for what they really are: a distraction. Oh the amount of relationships I have witnessed and wanted to call bullshit...but didn't because people are sensitive to that sort of thing. I see people somehow find themselves in a relationship with someone, usually after a break-up or a rejection of some sort, or even based on sheer attraction. They try to force it to fit into this mold and endlessly try to manipulate it to make it spell 'happily ever after' but it simply won't. They use the rare, fleeting moments of happiness or 'highs' to justify their attempts, clinging on to the hope that more of this would come. In some cases it just goes terribly wrong and ends for good (might end a couple times before it's officially ended because fear can sometimes make one redundant). Other cases, they manage to spell 'appily e'er after' or something similar and simply make do with what they have, not knowing that over time, the letters will get jumbled up again and you will no longer have the energy or want to make the effort to manipulate it back into place anymore. Admittedly, in some rare cases, with time and effort the letters may eventually start spelling out the correct phrase. That, however, is a hope we all cling on to in such cases, but we need to be able to distinguish where there is hope, and where there is none.

"Nowadays we live in a world which is paradoxical. We pursue happiness and it leads to resentment and it leads to unhappiness. And it leads, in fact, to an explosion of mental illness." 
- Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist

All this, why? Because being alone or single is seen as a failure, in any culture! If you are single, clearly something is wrong with you. Why doesn't anyone want you? I see it's the other way around though; it's not that no one wants you but you don't want anyone...yet. You have not found yourself ready, you have not yet figured out what it is you want in order for you to finally be able to find someone you want, or even want someone you already found. You have to know what it is you want before you can know whether you want someone or not. That's not easy to do though. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes complete, unhindered, unadulterated and uncensored honesty. You have to face yourself, know yourself, love yourself. Embrace all that is you both good and bad, until the 'flaws' become your perfections. You have to be happy and comfortable in your own skin and mind to reach a state where you don't feel you need to be with someone to avoid loneliness, but rather you want to be with someone to further enrich your life.

"To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one's self...and to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one's self"
- Søren Kierkegaard
So I ask that you allow yourself to venture. Find yourself first - personally, physically, professionally - so that along your venture you may cross paths with the person meant to be yours.


  1. Excellent blog piece!

    Just one thing I'd like to point out about your discussion on unconditional love.....

    You gave examples of cases where infidelity or people changing causes a breakdown in the relationship, implying that this means the love was not unconditional. Don't forget, though, that many relationships break down DESPITE the love still existing between the two.... Here, the love was not in fact conditional on the fidelity; he or she did not cease to love the other for their indiscretions (for instance). It is the integrity of the relationship, or at least the trust, which was conditional upon their fidelity. I've seen cases where people will continue to love someone, probably in perpetuity, in spite of the fact that certain events or developments have made it impossible for them to ever be together again. Perhaps that is unconditional love.

    1. Thanks you! It never occurred to me but you're right. I suppose in some cases the love is not conditional but perhaps the relationship is. I feel that is more rare though. Then again what is the point of unconditional love if it is not given to the one you love?

      The way I see it, trust is an inherent part of love, once that's gone, some of that unconditional love does go with it. The deeper I get into the concept of love, the more complex it becomes!