What is Unconditional Love, Really?

What is unconditional love? Years ago, I bought my best friend a very expensive gift, despite things being tight financially for me. I did this because I adored this friend. She truly wanted this gift. It meant a lot to her and I wanted more than anything to make her happy. I wanted her to know how important she was to me and how much I loved our friendship.

A few months later I needed emotional support from this friend. She was dealing with her own challenges and was unable to give me the support I needed. I was hurt that she could not support me when I had done something so special for her, by buying her that gift. It wasn’t until I realized what unconditional love really is that I began to feel less hurt by the situation. 

Unconditional love is giving to give – not to receive. If you only give to others in hope of something in return or as a safety net to ensure you never have to go without, you will often find yourself disappointed. 

People will not always be able to give as much as you emotionally or financially, especially not always right when you want it. When your love is conditional, not only are you keeping yourself from experiencing the true gift of giving but you can teach others around you that in order to feel and to receive love, they must always be indebted to others.

Unconditional Love DOES NOT Mean:

  • You offer love the same way to a person forever even if that person begins to harm you.
  • Ignoring signs of emotional or physical abuse from others.
  • Accepting and tolerating indifference and general disregard of your feelings from others

A general rule I go by before giving to someone I ask myself what my intentions are. Am I doing this to prove how good of a friend or partner I am? Does giving this gift make me feel more secure in the relationship? Am I doing this because I want something specific from them in return? Is doing this going to cause me significant emotional or financial burden?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then reevaluate and try to manage these feelings in healthier ways. This usually can be done through healthy and productive communication. 

Give to express love and appreciation not to receive it.


About Shelton Piland: Shelton is a Resident in Clinical Social Work and provides services at our Fredericksburg location. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a B.A. in Sociology. She received her Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. Throughout her time at VCU she has worked with elementary, middle school, and high school students in the Spotsylvania Public School system. Shelton has also worked with veterans and their families at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center. She is certified in Motivational Interviewing and in Inter-Professional Collaboration. Shelton has experience working with individuals, children, couples, families, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, veterans, and hospice patients. To learn more about Shelton, visit here.

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