The Importance of Conditional Love in Relationships

Throughout our entire lives, we were taught the value of unconditional love, but never conditional love. Most of us grew up believing that unconditional love was the foundation of a lasting and fruitful relationship, but how true is that? In today’s world of self-care, boundaries, otherwise known as conditions, are a necessity for maintaining peace and happiness. This holds particularly true within our relationships, especially romantic ones. Too often we’re pushed to love our partners “no matter what”. However, as we awaken to our search for love, free of toxicity, we realize the vitality of conditions to the health of our relationship. 

Here is how the idea of unconditional love became the standard for relationships, and how to move forward and embrace conditional love within our lives.

What is unconditional love?

Unconditional love is the act of loving a person without bounds, limits, or conditions. In other words, it is loving a person no matter what. Unconditional love is seen as the standard for commitment. It’s taken to mean “no matter what happens between us, I choose to love and honor my commitment to you as a partner”. In a real-world application, we see that loving without bounds or limits creates a justification for staying in unhealthy dynamics. How often have we watched our friends remain with someone who treated them poorly because of the idea of being a “ride or die”? In full transparency, how often have we stayed when our gut told us to leave because we were taught that’s what it means to be a romantic partner?

Unconditional love became the standard of relationships through the biblical context. Most people, especially women, are taught to love each other as God loves His children, unconditionally. And while that is a very noble concept, in real life, it poses conflicts constantly because we’re all simply human. However, one thing in life is for certain, humans are going to human.

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 What is conditional love?

Conditional love is exactly what it sounds like—love dependent on conditions or boundaries. This is an unpopular idea of love because it gives the impression that with the slightest mistake or mishap a person’s love dissipates. This couldn’t be further than true. The thing is, conditional love is dependent on YOUR conditions. It is choosing to honor your boundaries and ultimately yourself, instead of a partner. Conditional love is self-love. I am a proud conditional lover in romantic relationships, friendships, and even with my family. I pour love abundantly, but once a boundary is truly crossed, I have to turn away and choose myself. This doesn’t mean giving up when things hurt my feelings once or twice. This means honoring when my intuition tells me it’s truly time to leave. This looks different for everybody.

Some people can walk away from a relationship at the first sign of infidelity, some can withstand. The purpose of this article isn’t to vilify anyone for their personal conditions. What you choose to withstand is a personal decision. The purpose of this article is to empower you to listen to your intuition and embrace choosing yourself when your boundary is broken. If you’re still not convinced about the idea of loving with conditions, below are a few reasons why conditional love should be normalized and applied to our relationships.

Boundaries are Healthy

Self-care has rightfully become a major pillar in our society. We’re all focused on how to truly become the best possible version of ourselves, which is only possible through continuous self-care. Any mental healthcare professional will tell you the importance of boundaries to mental health. They are vital to our growth. Actively setting boundaries within relationships allows you to be loved the way you need to be loved. It is essential to let your partner know your limits, and trust that they will respect you enough not to cross them. Boundaries, or conditions, are needed for every type of relationship, including romantic ones.

Self-Love Requires Conditions

Loving yourself is not only candles, face masks, and shopping sprees. It’s doing the work internally to be the best version of yourself. In order to constantly be at your best self, you need conditions, or boundaries, to guard yourself against being hurt and/or falling into toxic patterns. Our boundaries serve as reminders to choose ourselves over disrespectful situations. A huge mistake people often make in romantic relationships is forgetting to love themselves because of loving someone else. Without self-love, your relationship is doomed. Self-love requires you to nurture your wellbeing.

It’s Impossible to Love Yourself and Love Someone Else Unconditionally

We all claim to love ourselves until we’re put to a true test. There comes a point in every toxic relationship where you have to make the choice between who to love unconditionally—your partner or yourself. It’s a hard truth to hear, but I’m here to tell you that both cannot coexist. Loving yourself unconditionally means you cannot love another in the same way. It means that you choose the best for yourself, even if it means leaving the other person. Choosing yourself is a choice you’ll benefit from tenfold. It’s hard at the moment, but once you move past the initial sting you’ll see the beauty that only self-love could bring.  

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How can you apply conditional love to your relationships?

So, how do you apply conditional love to your relationships without seeming cold and unloving? It’s honestly much simpler than you think. The key is communication. In every relationship, discuss the conditions that are vital for you to feel loved and appreciated. These conditions don’t have to be specified actions, but can rather be feelings that are important for you. For instance, I can’t deal with a lack of trust in any of my relationships. I’ve had conversations with friends about bringing issues about me directly to me so that I can address them. After having this conversation with one friend in particular, a situation happened again where an issue was spoken about me behind my back. Her breaking this boundary was enough for me to sever the relationship.

Romantically, my boyfriend and I have made our boundaries with each other clear. After the most recent episode of Red Table Talk, we had a heart-to-heart moment where we shared that we did not want a relationship full of hurt and pain for the sake of loving unconditionally. We love each other, and love ourselves, too much to force the notion of staying through anything. Conversations like these are difficult but extremely important for healthy relationships.

So go forth and embark on conditional love! And remember, relationships do not actually HAVE to be hard. That’s a myth. We can love each other without hurting each other, and all it takes is communication. 

Submission written by: Jordyn Jones (

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