Unconditional Love Across the Life Span – Do We Know What It Is and How to Show It?
February has long been considered the month of love. Whether or not you’re in a romantic relationship, this month is a good excuse to celebrate any type of love and adoration, whether it’s for a partner, friend, child, parent, or pet.
My father was someone who believed in unconditional love. As a Holocaust survivor, he was simply grateful to be alive. In this regard, I’ve always viewed love as a more universal emotion, something inspired by my dad.
He also instilled in me the tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day with cards and heart-shaped chocolate boxes, so I grew up believing that Valentine’s Day wasn’t always about romance.
At the same time, in recent years I’ve been contemplating the concept of unconditional love and thinking about what it is. Unlike conditional love, which is earned, unconditional love exists without, well, conditions.
What Does Unconditional Love Really Mean?
Unconditional love is caring for someone’s happiness without expecting anything in return. It’s also a type of love that separates people from their behaviors. This is the kind of love parents have for their children, or pets have for their masters and mistresses.
It’s love that is given freely and without question. It’s simply a feeling that stems from an open heart, and it is nonjudgmental and accepting.
Sometimes we might love others unconditionally, but we might not approve of their actions. For example, an adolescent going through challenging times, or an aging mother who has become more cantankerous and aggressive as she approaches an advanced age.
Does Age Soften Our Set Ways?
While we might become more opinionated and fixed in our opinions as we age, I feel that in many cases, there’s a softening of our conditional love toward others, along with a calm understanding and acceptance that we’re all different. Being kind, compassionate, and grateful also seems to be even more prevalent as we age.
Transpersonal psychologist John Welwood wrote a great article on the subject in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology (1985). He began by saying, “At the very heart of our experience of being human, each of us has an intuitive sense of the value of unconditional love.”
He remarks that unconditional love seems to be most present during the beginnings and endings of life because we feel most moved by the presence of others in our lives.
Unconditional love in a long-term relationship is not a co-dependency situation; it’s characterized by allowing both parties to grow and follow their dreams.
A couple loves one another because they share similar worldviews and values. It also means that there is a foundation of trust between both individuals.
How Do We Show Unconditional Love?
In order to nurture the concept of unconditional love, you must have a generosity of spirit, be accepting, and understand what the other person is experiencing. Here are some ways to garner unconditional love from another person:
- Be understanding.
- Show feelings of joy when in the other person’s presence.
- Remain independent and nonattached.
- Foster a generosity of spirit toward the other person.
- Hold feelings of compassion.
There are definite advantages to nurturing unconditional love. For example, holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl drew a correlation between unconditional love and happiness. In other words, the more you practice unconditional love, the happier you will be. It’s so simple.
Which of your relationships bear the mark of unconditional love? Why do you think so? Which of your relationships need to be nurtured more? Please share your thoughts with our community.