Is Unconditional Love Healthy?

What does it mean to have unconditional love for another person?
on December 05, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

While we all have heard of unrequited love (or experienced it ourselves), unconditional love is an ideal that many couples desire and strive for. 

After all, loving someone unconditionally means that you love them no matter what — even when they have morning breath, or have spinach in their teeth! 

Even though loving someone unconditionally can sound very romantic, is this lack of boundaries or restrictions a good thing? We’ve evaluated the concept of unconditional love, and whether this is the kind of romantic relationship that we should be striving for… 

Key Takeaways
  • Unconditional love meaning is based on loving someone without strings attached, you don’t expect anything in return and your actions are centered around their happiness.
  • Common examples of unconditional love are paternal or maternal love, the love found in strong friendships, and of course in romantic relationships.
  • Loving someone unconditionally or unequivocally sounds very romantic, but a relationship without boundaries or restrictions can lead to toxic behaviors — for example, accepting bad behavior in the name of love.
  • Unconditional love doesn’t have to be unhealthy or dangerous, as long as mutual respect and some healthy boundaries are allowed (even if this qualifies as conditions!)

What is unconditional love? 

Unconditional love means that you love someone without any conditions or restrictions, whereby you aren’t basing your decision on what you could get in return. This can also be known as compassionate love, where love is a selfless act, with nothing expected as a reward.  

Studies show that unconditional love activates the same parts of the brain as both maternal and romantic love, with this kind of love triggering positive emotions and effects. 

Loving someone unequivocally can be a very rewarding experience, as your primary focus is making them happy. However, loving someone without any boundaries can also expose your vulnerabilities, as you’re more willing to overlook bad behavior in the name of unequivocal love. 

“Loving someone unconditionally means you are holding yourself to a place of stripping back your judgment of others and still loving them,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“This difference embraces real freedom in not feeling any need to control another person's behaviors to love them.”

What is an example of unconditional love?

There are many different types of unequivocal love, with common examples including maternal love or the love of friendship, alongside traditional romantic love. 

Parental love is often the most common example of unconditional love, with healthy parent-child relationships facilitating this dynamic. For example, the love a parent has for their own child is often considered one of the strongest bonds, with mothers and fathers doing everything in their power to support their children. 

This kind of unequivocal love directly affects the development of secure attachment styles, with research also showing that this kind of love actually improves children’s overall health and wellness later in life.

What does it mean to love someone unconditionally in a romantic relationship?

Loving someone unconditionally leans into the concept of relationships overall, whereby you love your partner despite their flaws, allowing them to be authentically themselves. 

This fosters the romantic notion of ‘I love you, no matter what’ — which can make both partners feel safe, secure, and supported. 

While this is a very positive aspect of a relationship, it’s important to approach this kind of love with a more balanced approach. At the end of the day, real love shouldn’t feel pressurized — as no one person should be responsible for their partner’s happiness.

According to research, unconditional love in romantic relationships should be considered more akin to unconditional positive regard. This concept means that you love someone unconditionally, but this doesn’t mean you disregard your personal boundaries in the process. Therefore, loving this person doesn’t mean you have to do things that are damaging to your own personal health or well-being. 

This unconditional positive regard is a more regulated version of this type of love, more aligned with mutual respect. Even though the same core principles of love apply — no one is getting hurt in the process. 

Why do people think that unconditional love is dangerous?

Unconditional love may sound romantic in theory, but this type of love can be damaging on many levels. 

Loving someone without any boundaries or restrictions can lead to some toxic relationship patterns, as you're putting your own life and your own needs on hold to facilitate this form of love. This approach could become damaging to your mental health and well-being, especially if you’re tolerating abuse or infidelity in the name of this kind of love. It’s almost impossible to sustain a healthy relationship in these circumstances, with your self-worth and self-esteem taking a pummelling in the process. 

If you’ve agreed to love them unconditionally, you might be willing to excuse these ‘flaws’ because you’re holding on to the idea of this true love. This can also facilitate a codependency dynamic, with several negative consequences arising and damaging the relationship's overall integrity. 

This is why people prefer a more mature love or conditional love, whereby you still love your partner but with healthy boundaries in place. This allows you to love people in your life, whether your friends or your partner, without affecting your personal growth. 

This form of love isn’t any lesser than unconditional love, as it can still have all the other attributes of this form of love — just without any negative consequences! 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between unconditional love and love?

    Unconditional love puts forward the idea that you love someone no matter what, whereby you expect nothing in return. This is similar to the traditional concept of healthy love but without the existence of any boundaries or conditions. If mutual respect is still present, both kinds of love can be healthy if approached in a balanced way.
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