I was reflecting on the solemn agreement made in a wedding vow. These promises evoke a sense of undying love so solid that nothing could ever break it. I mean, my partner is dope and I feel so fortunate to be with him, but let’s say he suddenly changed and started lying to me or cheating on me. I have developed expectations of him that exclude this kind of behavior, and this has made my love grow rigid and therefore fragile. It is the continuous choice we make each day to treat each other with respect that keeps our love and the life we’ve built together from shattering.
Our love for each other is conditional.
I think a more accurate wedding vow would say I feel a great deal for you at this time in our lives as we both currently are, and hopefully we won’t change so much so that I no longer feel this way.
Maybe it’s not as romantic as reciting Corinthians but you have to admit, it’s a lot more honest.
Conditional love can be found in any relationship, including between friends and even between a parent and a child. We have a certain set of expectations of another person and how they fit in our lives. And I think this is a good thing. We need boundaries. The trouble is that we often look to others for unconditional love and it is painful when they fail us again and again in delivering it in the way we think they should.
Only we can offer ourselves truly unconditional love. And this is so hard. Just like in relationships with other people, we have learned to put conditions on the love we give ourselves. I will love myself when I lose ten pounds. I will love myself when I get a better job. I will love myself when I am perfect. The difference here is that we can learn to let go of these conditions because we are the ones who have developed and enforced them. They are ours to burn down with gratitude for who we are. We are the only ones with the true ability to love ourselves fully, no matter how we grow and change.