Just about everyone wants to think that when they find the one they're meant to be with, they'll be loved unconditionally. You might hope for unconditional love in your family relationships or friendships as well. Unconditional love gives you the ability to be the flawed human being that you are, without having to worry that those closest to you will run away and abandon you. It lets you be you, not the you that you think someone wants you to be, but the real you. Looking out for some of the signs your partner doesn't love you unconditionally can tell you if you have that kind of love in your relationship or not, but, honestly, in real life, the concept of unconditional love is sort of a tricky one.
"Every human unfortunately has boundaries that you can’t cross," Allen Wagner, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper in an email exchange. "There are estranged parents, children, siblings and best friends. Human beings who truly love one another can feel betrayed when certain lines are crossed. The best thing we can do is educate the people we love as to what these lines are."
If you don't feel as though your partner loves you unconditionally or you think you see signs that they might not, you can't just assume that your partner will understand how you're feeling.
"If you don’t feel loved unconditionally by your partner, you have to fight to make that problem known," Dr. Claudia Luiz, PsyaD, a psychoanalyst, tells Romper in an email exchange. "Some people get divorced, stop talking to their parents, or become a strange from family and friends as a way to handle feeling unloved. But I preferred to see people stay in the ring, to get out, and egg their way up to unacceptable deep connection."
It's difficult to face, but knowing which signs might mean that your partner's love isn't unconditional might, in a way, help you work through these things and come out stronger on the other side or realize that you two might not actually belong together after all.
1. There Are Conditions
Sara Stanizai, MA, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist, says that she thinks that partners have to decide to love each other everyday, particularly at the beginning of a relationship (and that as the relationship goes on, it might feel more unconditional), but that an obvious sign that your partner doesn't love you unconditionally is that there are conditions. Maybe they want you to be someone you're not or do something you're uncomfortable with in order to receive their love. That's conditional love, not unconditional love.
2. They Can't Love You When You're At Your Worst
Sometimes things go wrong. People aren't always at their best, but you hope that those in your life will love you even when you're not. "The biggest sign that your partner cannot love you unconditionally is if they cannot respond in a comforting and loving way when you’re at your worst," Luiz says. "Ideally, you want to feel loved even when you’re grumpy, sick, or when you’re in a bad place, like out of a job or in mourning. The true test of unconditional love is whether or not you can feel loved no matter what."
3. They Try To Control You
Controlling behaviors are not OK and Stanizai says that this is another potential sign that they don't love you unconditionally. If there are rules that you're expected to follow or they try to dictate how you'll act and live your life, that's a sign that they don't love you unconditionally.
Stanizai also notes that sometimes controlling behaviors have more to do with a lack of trust or unmet needs and that addressing those things can help.
4. They Don't Try To Bridge The Gaps
Couples don't agree on everything all the time and sometimes the things that they disagree on are pretty major. But calling it quits instead of making an effort to bridge the gaps between the two of you might also be a sign that they don't love you unconditionally.
"If they're not willing to do the dirty work of being vulnerable and compromising and 'maybe we can't come to an agreement on this, but I'm not even going to try,' I think that that is a big sign," Stanizai says.
5. They Want To Be With You All The Time
You might think that them wanting to be with you much of the time is a good sign, but it might not actually be what it seems. "When your partner is too clingy, it could indicate some kind of co-dependence, which is not at all the same as unconditional love," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, tells Romper by email. "The love is on condition that you spend time with them, etc."
6. They Try To Protect Themselves When Things Get Hard
"Some partners tend to become passive, avoidant or even increase conflicts during times that they find scary or hurtful," Allen says. "They tend to out the focus on self-protection and empathy gets lost, replaced by resentment."
Rather than practice unconditional love, when something has happened that's difficult, say, you're having financial issues or you cheated on them, they might move to protect themselves and end up resenting you. It's understandable, when you've hurt them, that it might be difficult for them not to want to try to protect themselves, but if that empathy disappears, it might be an indication that that unconditional love isn't there.
"Self-protection can sometimes take precedence over the loyalty some expect, and sometimes it’s understandable," Allen adds.
7. They Won't Let You In
In an interview with Bustle, Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, a licensed clinical professional counselor, said that if your partner is closed off from you and won't let you into their life (and doesn't feel like they have to get overly involved in yours), except when you spend time alone, that too might be a sign that they don't love you unconditionally.
Though thinking that your partner might not love you unconditionally can be difficult, particularly if you previously thought they did or have long-held beliefs about what unconditional love should look like in a relationship, Stanizai says that she believes all couples have "the potential to stay a couple." So if this is something that you're dealing with in your own relationship and it's tough to handle, raising the subject with your partner or seeking the help of a couples therapist might be worth it.