The Type of Love That Lasts

Marriage and Family Therapist By Shelly Bullard, MFT
Marriage and Family Therapist
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to relationships. She has worked with thousands of clients on improving their relationships with others and themselves.

Love. We all want it. We're all striving for it. We each have the desire to feel completion and connection. And yet, we all struggle with it. We lose love. We fear love. We can't quite seem to get a grasp on it.

In essence, love is our greatest desire and greatest fear simultaneously.

Many of us struggle with love mainly because we don't understand it. I'm here to help with that. In this article I will discuss two of the main ways we know how to love and the difference between them. One of these experiences is the source of many of our issues in relationships; the other is the answer. Hopefully by learning a little more about love you can start to cultivate more of it in your life.

So let's get started.

Real love has one form: unconditional. That's it, pure and simple. And what exactly is unconditional love? It is the experience of loving someone without conditions. This means that you love someone just for who they are. Sounds easy enough, but it isn't always so.

Many of us probably think that we are loving unconditionally, but actually what we are doing most of the time is loving conditionally.

This means we love others for what they give to us. Conditional love is: “I love you because ______.” And sure, we all love people, places, and things for certain reasons. Great. Especially if those reasons stay constant. But what if the reasons change? Or what if you do? Then what happens to the love?

Conditional love covertly occurs within a “get-mentality”—“I get [insert emotion or quality here] from you and therefore I love you.” But when I stop getting [insert emotion or quality here] from you, or during moments when I’m not getting [insert emotion or quality here] from you, then we have a big problem on our hands. In conditional love, when the very specific reasons we love someone change, then the love seeps away and other, not-so-loving feelings come into existence.

This causes a major roller coaster in relationships. We want our partners to do pleasing things ALL THE TIME. We try to control them—to get them to to give us the love we want 24/7! But it doesn't work like that.

And so, conditional love leaves us chasing.

A relationship cannot last alone on conditional love BECAUSE WE CHANGE! 

In fact, we change often. No one person can be pleasing to you 100% the time. It's just not possible. Therefore, if you do not love someone beyond conditions—beyond the reasons that they are pleasing or displeasing to you—then your experience of love is going to feel very up and down. One minute I love you, next minute I don't. One minute I want to be in this relationship, next minute I don't. Sound familiar? Welcome to conditional love.

Luckily for all of us there's another option: unconditional love. This love is the foundation of all loves; this is the one that lasts.

Unconditional love occurs regardless of conditions because it has nothing to do with getting something from someone else. It's about loving someone, just because.

This description of unconditional love may seem a little elusive, but you know it when you feel it. In the moments of loving another person unconditionally, you too, feel unconditionally loved.

Unconditional love is an act of giving. It is about feeling love within yourself and pouring it out to another. You're not focused on trying to get anything in return—you are compelled to GIVE. And, ironically, it is this way of loving that allows you to the receive the most.

Loving someone unconditionally does not mean that you never feel angry or disappointed or unsatisfied in your relationships. What it does mean, though, is that you are not asking another person to be a certain way to receive your love. You don't pull the carpet of love out from under them when they make mistakes.

Unconditional love is the ability to let someone be who they really are, and love them for that.

Unconditional love is not always easy. Again, we are trained to love people conditionally so it sometimes takes a little effort to love someone beyond their flaws and beyond what they do for you. However if you are committed to seeing love beyond conditions in yourself and in others, you will find a love that outlasts anything you've ever experienced.

We are all love. It is at the core of every single one of us. And when we make a commitment to love—to see love in others and to give our love freely—it is then that we really understand the true meaning of love.

Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to...
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Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a...
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