A Pet’s Love Is Unconditional, But Human Love Isn’t — Here’s Why

It’s a well-known fact that many people today are intimacy-phobic. Why?

The answer is fear. They are afraid that they are going to lose their individual identities in a relationship. They are afraid they are going to be asked — or, more likely, told — that they must give up hobbies, interests, and friendships which are important to them.

How perverse! If you respect yourself and value your life, you will not give up your important friendships and interests for anybody — least of all somebody who is to be your life partner.

No romantic partner who really loves you in a healthy, adult way will want you to give up anything that is important to you. Even if they know your behavior is self-destructive — say, as in the case of drug abuse — they will want you to give up the behavior so that you can survive. If you resist doing what they want, they will at least tolerate your choice and look elsewhere for intimacy.

We all need and want to be cherished for who we are. The ideal is to find a romantic partner who knows everything about us, and loves us precisely for those reasons — with no obligation or sacrifice implied. By you being who you are, your partner is rewarded; by your partner being who she is, you are rewarded. It’s a trade, and a good one at that! Tragically, this is not the consistent rule for too many relationships. Consider some examples of relationships based on the opposite principle.

A man loves his motorcycle club. His wife knows this fact about him when they start dating. She doesn’t complain much while they’re dating, but once they marry she escalates her disapproval. She asks him to change, at first. Then she starts telling him to change.

Another example? A woman loves her career. Her husband-to-be sees this clearly when they date. He doesn’t comment on it very much. Eventually they marry, and he asks her to give up her career to raise a child. She wants to wait a few years before having a child, and then to determine how to divide up time raising the child together. He says, ‘Absolutely not!’ He insists she change her views. ‘You’re not the woman I married,’ he claims, trying to generate a guilt response in her.

Some people think unconditional love is the ideal. It isn’t. You don’t unconditionally accept whatever your partner asks you to accept. Rather, you decide what you want first. If you recognize what you want in your partner, then you cherish him because he is the embodiment of your values. If you find serious gaps between what you want and what your partner has to offer, then you know it’s not a match. You have no right to evade those differences and then, once married, act surprised that such differences exist.

Like it or not — and whether you know it or not — all happy, healthy romantic matches are based on conditions. You don’t love your partner for ‘no reason.’ You love him for specific reasons.