What it means to love someone unconditionally

What It Means and How to Find It

Unconditional love, simply put, is love without strings attached. It’s love you offer freely.

You don’t base it on what someone does for you in return. You simply love them and want nothing more than their happiness.

This type of love, sometimes called compassionate or agape love, might sound somewhat familiar. Maybe it brings to mind the love your parents have for you or the love you have for your own child.

While people often associate unconditional love with familial love, many look for this love in romantic relationships, too.

Wanting someone to love you for yourself — no matter what — is an understandable desire. Yet this type of love might still seem like the stuff of fairy tales and movies, not something most people encounter in real life.

Is this love as elusive as it sounds? Can it even happen in romantic relationships?

Read on for a deeper understanding of what unconditional love is (and isn’t) and some strategies for cultivating it.

Unconditional love is a selfless act. You’re not in it for yourself.

Though it may overlap with other types of love in some ways, other elements set it apart.

You can recognize it by these key characteristics.

It can benefit emotional health

A small 2009 study explored the brain regions activated by feelings of unconditional love. The results of the study suggest that unconditional love activates some of the same areas of the brain’s reward system that romantic love does.

In other words, the simple act of loving someone unconditionally may produce positive feelings.

Receiving unconditional love can also make a difference in emotional well-being. According to research from 2010, children who receive higher levels of affection from their parents or caregivers tend to have greater resilience in adulthood. They also tend to experience fewer mental health symptoms.

Results from a 2013 study support the idea that loving children unconditionally improves their lifelong health and wellness. This suggests parental unconditional love could offer some protection against the harmful, often lingering effects of childhood trauma or abuse.

It feels secure

Unconditional love can provide a sense of security in both childhood and adulthood.

Feeling confident in someone’s love and knowing it won’t go away can help create secure attachments and foster autonomy, independence, and self-worth.

If you know your parents or caregivers will continue to love you even after you make mistakes or do things they don’t approve of — from failing a class to having a drink at a party when you’re underage — you’ll feel more comfortable making your own choices and learning from them as you go.

In the context of friendship, unconditional love might weather tests like conflict, falling out of touch, or differing life goals.

When it comes to romantic relationships, unconditional love could mean that love doesn’t go away, despite challenges like life-altering health conditions or changes in appearance or personality.

It’s altruistic

Altruism refers to helpful actions taken to support and benefit others, often at your own expense.

In terms of unconditional love, altruism means you don’t consider any potential benefits of loving someone. You offer your love for their support and benefit.

Love, many say, is its own reward, but you typically don’t get anything out of altruistic acts. This is one point of contention in discussions of unconditional love in romantic situations.

Because healthy relationships, by definition, are mutually beneficial, this would seem to suggest that romantic love — at least within the boundaries of a relationship — can’t be truly unconditional.

It involves acceptance and forgiveness

People aren’t perfect, and nearly everyone makes a few choices they regret. Unconditional love, however, requires unconditional acceptance.

So, you forgive mistakes and continue to offer love and acceptance, even — and this is important — if their choices distress you or cause harm.

You can’t love someone unconditionally unless your love remains unchanged despite their actions. You can, however, love someone unconditionally without having a relationship with them.

Acceptance sometimes involves recognizing when it’s unlikely someone will change and taking steps to protect your own well-being.

Confusion and misconceptions about the true nature of unconditional love can seem to suggest this type of love reflects unhealthy or toxic relationship dynamics.

There’s an important distinction between offering love and forgiveness and continuing to accept harmful actions. It’s also important to understand you can love someone unconditionally without staying with them unconditionally.

To clear things up a bit more, here’s what unconditional love does not mean.

Ignoring relationship issues

Conflict is normal (and healthy) in relationships. Unconditional love doesn’t mean you avoid this conflict or look away from problematic behavior.

Say your partner spends your joint savings on an expensive exercise bike — a choice you completely disagree with — when you’d agreed to save up for a house. You might not stop loving them, but neither do you ignore the breach of trust.

Depending on the circumstances, you might agree to work together on rebuilding trust (and your savings), but you might also see no future in the relationship. You can walk away still holding forgiveness and love in your heart.

Neglecting your own needs

It’s true that unconditional love can involve some sacrifice, but these sacrifices shouldn’t require you to give up everything you need and want for yourself.

Attempting to meet all your partner’s needs can seem like one way of expressing unconditional love, but this can actually create an unhealthy dynamic in your relationship. No one person can provide another person with everything they need.

You should feel comfortable setting boundaries around things you don’t want to do. What’s more, they should respect your limits and consider any requests you make.

When they can’t provide the support you need, they might offer a potential compromise or help you think of some other solution.

Even when your love doesn’t depend on their ability to meet your needs, you still have those needs — everyone does.

Unconditional love can’t fuel a healthy relationship on its own. It’s essential to take care of your own needs, too, or you won’t be in any position to support someone else.

Tolerating abuse

A sense of safety is a basic human need.

Perhaps your partner says unkind things after drinking. You might tell yourself, “They wouldn’t shout at me if they weren’t drunk.” You might accept that this is who they are and make the choice to forgive their words and continue loving them.

But unconditional love doesn’t mean staying in an unhealthy situation when you’re better off letting go.

You want them to be happy, but what if quitting drinking and dealing with the issues that trigger the urge to drink would improve their health and help them find greater happiness?

Again, you can offer forgiveness and love even after safely leaving the relationship.

Blanket tolerance for harmful behavior can prevent them from making needed changes. Though remember that this absolutely doesn’t mean you’re to blame. The responsibility for their actions rests entirely in their hands.

If you’re starting to think unconditional love sounds a lot more complicated than you’d imagined, you’ve pretty much hit the mark.

As one philosophy professor pointed out, even the love between a parent and a child falls short of unconditional. A parent might love their child no matter what they do, but this love still has a condition: They love their child because their child is theirs.

In a similar vein, consider the love you have for your partner or anyone else. What triggered it originally? Perhaps you felt attracted to certain specific characteristics: sense of humor, a kind heart, intelligence.

If they no longer had those characteristics, would your love continue, unaltered? From a philosophical perspective, if conditions never change, you might never know whether your love truly is unconditional.

In reality, love grows and shifts over time. It can also fade, through no fault of anyone involved. Love changes, in part, because people change. You, or your partner, may not be the same person years down the line.

Instead of seeking out an idealized, potentially unattainable type of love, try for a better, more realistic, goal: mature love founded on compassion and respect.

While a parent may love their child from the moment of birth, romantic love can take a little more time and effort.

These strategies can help you nurture and sustain deep, lasting love.

Offer respect, even when you disagree

You and your partner are two different people, so it makes sense you’ll have a difference of opinion at some point.

Many people think of conflict as something negative, but it isn’t always bad. It can even improve the health of your relationship when handled in a productive way.

When navigating conflict, it’s important to accept any differences with respect. You want to send a message that says, “I disagree with you, but I still respect your opinion.”

Once you both express your opinions, you can begin working toward resolution. This might involve collaboration or compromise. Without respect, though, it’ll be tough.

Practice open communication

Good communication should be clear, honest, and timely. All the honest, open sharing in the world may not make much difference if it comes too late.

By communicating with your partner, you show your respect and commitment to working through challenges and finding ways to meet conflicting goals.

For better communication:

  • Bring up issues as they arise instead of letting your irritation simmer and gather heat.
  • Share your thoughts honestly, but also listen empathically to what your partner has to say.
  • Make sure to clarify when you don’t understand something to better prevent conflict in the future.

If you’re not used to communicating in this way (plenty of us aren’t), be patient. Things will get easier with practice.

Support each other

Most relationships that thrive involve plenty of mutual support.

When your partner struggles, you listen with empathy or offer a helping hand, and they do the same for you. You stay mindful of their needs as well as your own, and they know you have their back when they’re up against something they can’t handle alone.

A time may come when you find yourself sacrificing something for their benefit, but sacrifice and support should go both ways. A healthy relationship involves not just take, but also some give — so they’ll likely make sacrifices for your benefit, too.

Unconditional love might sound like a dream come true. But while love is one thing, a relationship is quite another.

A healthy relationship does have conditions, of a sort: your boundaries. If your partner doesn’t respect your boundaries, the relationship isn’t healthy, no matter how deeply you love them.

Moving on from it, then, could be an act of unconditional self-love.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.

What Is Unconditional Love in a Relationship? 8 Great Examples

PUBLISHED Mar 5th, 2021 & UPDATED ON Jan 25th, 2023

For those who grew up listening to love songs, we bet you were pretty busy imagining what your future love life would look like and daydreaming about who you’ll be with forever and ever. Ahhhh romance. We remember it well! But if you haven’t been in a relationship where unconditional love is a major player, you might be wondering what does it mean to love someone unconditionally?? What is that even supposed to look like?? We’ve gotchu, boo. 

Unconditional love has a lot of layers. Shrek would probably argue that it resembles an onion or an ogre. Relationships aren’t easy, no matter what the dynamic is, and there can be a lot to consider when difficult and strenuous situations pop up. And sometimes when this happens, the unconditional-ness can start to feel more like an obligation rather than a selfless act of kindness. 

So, let’s break it allll down together! We’re getting into what unconditional love really is and what it REALLY isn’t. 

What Is Unconditional Love? 

WOW that’s a heavy term, isn’t it? No strings attached, no expectations, no fine print, just… unconditional. 

The problem with the term “unconditional love” is that it has a different definition for everyone who uses it. And this can get a little tricky because it can lead to us putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves or our partners. For some people, it might mean defending a friend regardless of whether they are right or wrong. For others, it might mean being the ‘responsible one’ and calling out a friend when they’re making a questionable decision. Either way, it’s really about giving in to the vulnerability of loving someone wholeheartedly.

Unconditional love can be between just about anyone in any kind of relationship. Friendships, romantic relationships, the relationship between a parent and a child, you name it! We even see this type of love from our pets. But what does unconditional love really look like? 

1. No Strings Are Attached

Loving someone unconditionally means that you don’t have an ulterior motive or unspoken expectation of obligation from the other person. No conditions. Just love. It’s a totally selfless act of caring for another person without thinking about how these actions could benefit you in the future. 

You just genuinely want to love, help and care for someone! And that’s pretty fucking incredible. It’s one of the best gifts that you could give to another person. The best feeling is when this person is able to reciprocate your no-strings-attached love, because it means that you’re well on your way to fostering a healthy and happy relationship! 

2. Partners Support Each Other 

Supporting your partner — or anyone you love for that matter — can bring a lot of happiness and health to a relationship. Helping your partner through tough times, emotional struggles and life changes can help you accomplish more together than you ever likely could on your own. Likewise, you get to share the good times and celebrate your individual wins together! The keys to supporting your partner are open communication, honesty, kindness and equality.

3. Partners Honour Requests Without Compromising Themselves

This is a masssssiiiiveee point that we want to really emphasize. Loving someone unconditionally does not mean that you can’t have boundaries. We’ll get more into boundaries and love a little later, but for now, we have to talk about your needs. 

The person, or people, you love can ask for your help. BUT, you’re not obligated to help or agree to their request if it goes against your own needs, boundaries and morals. And they shouldn’t expect you to compromise yourself to help them. Unconditional love can still be considered unconditional love when boundaries are included. In fact, we HIGHLY recommend it! 

4. Tough Times Are Worked Through With Kindness

It’s only natural for relationships to hit rough patches. No one is perfect and no one has a perfect relationship. You might be close, but we’re allll bound to have a disagreement every once in a while. Forgiveness, kindness, listening skills and calm communication are major players when it comes to working through rough spots. The key is that everyone in the relationship has to enact these techniques because, otherwise, it’s unfair and unkind to the other(s).  

5. Partners Provide Security for Each Other

With unconditional love, there is no fear or sense of uncertainty. It’s secure, kind and loving. You don’t feel like you have to walk around on eggshells to placate the other person. It’s safe and warm, and it’s an emotional space without judgement that you share with this person.

Unconditional Love Examples

Let’s take everrryyytthing we just learned and think about ways we can put it into practice. Here are a few examples that might help you express this feeling! They might also help you answer the big overwhelming question…what IS unconditional love in a relationship? Well, it looks like this.

“I love that about you.”

“No matter what, your Dad and I will always be proud of you.”

“It’s okay to feel sad.”

“I don’t feel the same way but I understand why _______ is important you.”

“Congratulations! I’m so excited for you! You’ve worked so hard for this.”

“I know you have a really busy day so I’ve made your lunch for you.”

“Have a great day at school honey! Enjoy your lunch. Love, Dad.”

“Hey! I got you something. I saw this in the store and it made me think of you.”

Unhealthy Forms of Love to Watch For

Many of us feel that when we offer unconditional love to someone we have to continue to love them regardless of any changes  — like if they cross boundaries or disregard your needs. We’re here to tell you that’s not true and that it’s actually unhealthy af to do this. This is what conditional love looks like:

1. It Comes With Limits

Loving without boundaries can lead to serious issues, like being unhappy, abused and taken advantage of. You’re not meant to overlook the hurt and pain that another person causes you. It’s not healthy and TOTALLY unfair to you. 

2. Strings ARE Attached 

If there are strings attached to love…OOF! That’s not good. Love is not unconditional if you or your partner are expecting the other person to be emotionally obligated in one way or another. When there are strings attached there’s an expectation of something in return. Yes, you should totally expect that the respect and love you give is reciprocated. But, if your partner is expecting you to do something uncomfortable that goes against your own wellbeing, that’s unacceptable.

3. Boundaries Are Ignored

Boundaries are sooooooo important in relationships. It’s important to communicate your boundaries with your partner in a caring and kind way so that the two of you can work to respect the other’s needs. When one person is blatantly ignoring the other’s boundaries the relationship becomes unhealthy. This behaviour can lead to hurt, neglect, pain and even abuse. We DEFINITELY don’t want that to happen to you. Stay strong and don’t let anyone cross a line and disrespect your loving heart! 

4. Inappropriate Behaviour and Disrespect Is Overlooked

If someone has crossed a line, hurt you, disrespected you, and still expects you to accept it all, that’s not love. The meaning of unconditional love isn’t that you overlook this shit and accept it. You are not meant to tolerate abuse and disrespect. That should never — everrrrr — be expected of you by your partner! Remember that your needs matter and you deserve kindness and respect from the other person. 

5. Needs Are Neglected

It’s normal to care for someone else’s needs when you’re in a relationship, but it’s not ok to forget about your own. It’s also not ok for someone to expect you to neglect your needs for their own benefit. That’s some controlling behaviour and we are NOT here for it. 

Remember how we said that you are not obligated to assist someone and respond to their request if it compromises you in any way? Apply that shit here! You can still give someone unconditional and selfless love while respecting yourself and your boundaries. You come first, baby! 

Examples of Conditional Love

“I did everything for you and all you’ve done is disappoint me.” 

“This is the thanks I get? After everything I’ve given you?” 

“I would think you’d respect my opinion more than that after all that I’ve given you!”

“My parents would be upset with me if I wasn’t doing well in school.” 

“My parents are upset with me because they don’t like the person I’m dating.” 

“Our Dad yelled at us when we didn’t match his expectations.” 

“Grandma only likes to talk to me when I’m doing well in life. ” 

“My partner is upset with me because I want to become an artist instead of staying at my office job.”

“My best friend ignores me when I need them most, but always expects me to drop everything and help them.” 

“I get chastised if my opinions are even a little different from theirs.” 

How to Love Unconditionally, With Boundaries

It is totally 100% possible to love unconditionally while having boundaries for yourself and your partner. It helps both of you know what you need and expect from each other, and serves as a blueprint for how to go about your relationship. And this isn’t just for romantic relationships. This is for allllll relationships. It might be hard to establish these boundaries with people, like your parents or friends, if there is already a lot of history between you. But boundaries are necessary in order to have a healthy and respectful relationship, no matter what the dynamic is. 

1. Be Transparent About Your Expectations

Be honest! It can be hard to tell people what we really want and need, but it’s necessary in order to have the other person respect your boundaries and wishes. They can’t know what they are unless you telllll them. 

Have a little sit down with them. Maybe pull out a glass of wine and say “Ok, I want us to have the healthiest relationship possible, so we need to know what the other person wants and needs,” then lay out your expectations for them. If at any point this other person doesn’t respect your boundaries and expectations, then tell them! Don’t hold that shit in! Be honest about how that makes you feel and work together to correct it. (But the key is making sure that they don’t take advantage of you. Remember what we said about that? Good!)

2. Learn to Listen 

Listening has to be a two-way street in any relationship! You can actively work to become a better listener so that you hear and know what your partner needs. Listening helps the other person feel seen, heard, respected and cared for. What beautiful feelings to give to someone you love, right?! When we stop listening, communication breaks down and conflict starts to pop up. And conflict leads to negative emotions, so we want to avoid that as much as we can. 

So, open up your ears and open up your heart because learning to love and listen is hella important!

3. Communicate in a Non-Defensive Way 

If you’ve been hurt by your partner, try to approach them in a calm and open manner. Learning to communicate in a healthy and effective way can be difficult when you feel so strongly about things. But conflict can’t be resolved when you both come in hot with emotions running high. That will only help create a defence spiral where the two of you start blaming the other for any issues. 

That’s uhh… that’s not going to get you anywhere. So, approach every tough conversation with patience and understanding. But also take no shit! It’s a fine line to walk, but we know you can do it!

4. Notice Control Tactics

If the other person in the relationship is trying to control, gaslight, or manipulate you, shut that shit dowwwwn. We know that it’s not possible to do this in every situation, because safety can be a real concern. But don’t let anyone treat you unfairly. If this is happening, reach out to people around you, contact domestic violence organizations or safe houses in your area for advice or shelter, and reach out to friends and family for help. Keep your eyes peeled for any relationship red flags. YOU ARE DESERVING OF LOVE AND RESPECT, and anyone who makes you feel less than isn’t willing to love you unconditionally. 

5. Share Power 

No one person should have the upper-hand in a relationship. That’s an unhealthy and abusive dynamic that can get unsafe really quickly. A relationship isn’t a competition, it’s about sharing your life with another person. There should be respect on both sides and an understanding that you both have value, and you both have to be open to listening and changing.

Unconditional love, simply put, is the kindest version of ourselves — but we don’t have to offer up this love without bounds. Unconditional love is the choice to love and respect each other every single day. It doesn’t come without its difficulties, but when you get it right, it feels sooooo good. Love has the ability to improve our lives, benefit our mental health and help us become the best possible version of ourselves. Life becomes happier, brighter and more exciting when you have loving people to share it all with.


Read More: 8 Tips to Work Through Your First Date Nerves, Coping With Infidelity: How to Heal After Being Cheated On,

What does it mean to love unconditionally - Relationships

In this article

  • You believe in the good that they have
  • It involves sacrifice
  • Only the best for your beloved
  • This is a deep feeling that cannot be seen, only felt
  • You love their shortcomings

To love unconditionally means to love selflessly without expecting anything in return. Most people would say that this is a myth and that such love does not exist. However, it actually comes in the form of a commitment to someone who may not be perfect. If you love someone unconditionally, you don't see their flaws and don't expect any benefit from the relationship. Nothing can stand in the way of a lover who loves with all his heart and cares about the happiness of another person. This is the kind of love that is so different from what most people know, the essence of true love. And trust me, this is not a stamp. nine0003

Such love exists, and we can feel unconditional love for someone without even realizing it. Keep reading to understand what it means to love unconditionally.

1. You believe in the good things they have

It's easy to look at the negative side of everything, but our heart makes exceptions when it comes to those who matter. That's why you give a second chance. When you know the worst in someone, but still believe in the good that they have, that's true love. Your love is so unconditional that you don't think twice about forgiving them for what they did. This is because when love is unconditional, you don't judge or reject someone you love. And unlike the way society sees this person, you see beyond the outer flaws and focus on what is inside. nine0003

2. It has to do with victims

Unconditional love is not easy at all. It has to do with a lot of casualties. Unconditional love is probably one of the most courageous things because you never doubt your decision. You are willing to do something for someone, even if it means losing something of your own. It takes courage to sacrifice desire for a relationship. At times, you may even go so far as to take the blame or jeopardize your self-esteem and respect. Why are you doing this? Just to see them happy. nine0003

3. Only the best for your beloved.

We want to see our loved ones happy. When you love someone unconditionally, you start believing that they deserve only the best. So, you do everything in your power to get them what they rightfully deserve.

Unconditional love comes with selflessness - you start thinking about how to help your partner. This leaves you with an irresistible desire to see your loved ones prosper and find satisfaction in what they do. You love them with all your heart and try to share every happiness with them. You get upset when they're not at their best and you're happy when they're happy. nine0003

4. This is a deep feeling that cannot be seen, only felt.

True love cannot be seen. You simply share your heart with the person and let him enjoy your affection for him. You may be shy about the rest of the world, but when it comes to your loved one, you are off guard, vulnerable, and honest about your feelings. Even if it's unrequited, you don't care, because when your love is selfless, you only care about giving, not about receiving. nine0003

When you experience negative emotions such as anger, disappointment, or pain from them, you continue to love them the same way. No hardship can diminish the love you have for them in your heart.

5. You love their flaws.

They may not be perfect for others, but they are perfect for you. You forgive all their mistakes and accept every flaw. Loving someone unconditionally means that you acknowledge their mistakes and believe that they can change. You love something about them that not everyone can see. It is usually very difficult to forgive someone who has hurt you. But in this case, you will let it go. You open your heart to the person instead of protecting yourself. Whatever happens, you will find yourself fighting for the relationship. nine0003

This is what unconditional love means. Even if it puts you in a vulnerable position and may hurt you, you don't stop loving. You can love your mother, your close friend, your brother or sister, your child, or your spouse unconditionally. In some cases it is reciprocity, but at the end of the day it is a long-term commitment that you make to the other person. A commitment to never stop loving him/her, to always think of him/her before you, to always be there for him no matter what, and to understand him/her in every situation. It's a beautiful journey of unconditional love. This kind of love is truly magical. And worth every little pain it might cause you. nine0003


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