trying to define a spiral staircase to an alien who has never seen one!
I know! Not a great metaphor but the thought remains... just HOW does one define unconditional love in a world of conditional cause and effect?
Human beings are notoriously flawed at demonstrating love "without condition". We can't seem to do it easily, we all have our own needs that require fulfilment and understanding too! Don't we?
One thing is clear, being a doormat isn't unconditional love! Always acquiesing to another in order to prevent conflict or resolution to conflict isn't love at all but emotional blackmail.
Unconditional love means that one must also love oneself unconditionally too. Self-respect and confidence in ones equality to another person is just as important as not imposing unloving expectations on another. Where there is equality in a relationship, there is mutual respect and yes - even"unconditional" love.
But, I have to say that unconditional love isn't about conditions so much as boundaries. It's a framework that undergirds behaviours within a relationship.
The sheep is given this much pasture in which to roam freely. The fences, or boundaries are there to protect rather than constrain. They prevent the sheep from getting 1) lost and 2) from predation from outside. The conditions within this pasture are such that the sheep is free to do as the sheep wishes; free and yet bordered by that fence - that boundary - that condition of being a sheep!
There is however, unconditional freedom within those boundaries.
If anyone says that this is not unconditional love at all because of those very boundaries - then they misunderstand the nature of love! It is NOT unconditional love to allow a sheep (or a loved one) to choose to do something unwise such as get 1) lost or 2) be prey. This is not love but apathy.
In marriage there ARE boundaries to the unconditional love between a man and woman (or partners if you prefer :)). There is a defined fence of protection around the union which is measured by loving protection of that union and of each other. It is a 'condition' of marriage that the two people involved share the same pasture within these fences in an unconditionally loving way - free to be themselves but also together.
The question for many married couples is to determine just how big the pasture is in which they freely roam! From there they must negotiate just where those boundaries are exactly and what they mean. It is pointless for a marriage to work if the pasture in which the couple live and grow is too big - they will not meet and be together often. It is also pointless for a marriage to work if the pasture is too small where they live practically on top of each other with barely room to breathe.
Finding that happy balance to being both individuals and loving partners in marriage is the goal of most couples. The key to finding it is to negotiate those boundaries and be clear about how these conditions define the unconditional love within.
Confused? Yes! It is confusing for sure!
We must always remember though that unconditional love isn't love without condition - it is love with boundaries. We ALL want to feel safe in our relationships, protected, wanted, needed and desired. If we have no boundaries to our love then we do not have love - just lonliness and quite a lot of fear too. People react badly to that.
Love does not demand but it does protect.