Love is such a strong emotion. When we experience a deep, fulfilling love, we often feel as though it is a destiny – something that will withstand the tests of time. We even say that in our vows: until death do us part. The implication has always been that you’ve fallen into a love that is full and unconditional.
But as couples counselors, one of the things we try to emphasize is that romantic relationships are not and cannot be a form of unconditional love. That’s not a bad thing, but it is something that both partners need to remember as they figure out how to live and grow together.
Your Partner is Not Your Parent
Our parents can have unconditional love. After all, they brought us into this world. We are, in some ways, an extension of them. Our DNA is quite literally linked to them directly, and they have a biological connection to us that is present in their psychology.
That’s not to say that all parents are able to love their child the way their child needs to be loved, but parents typically are able to have this unconditional love because that love is a part of their biology. It’s a part of being human.
But romantic love is a choice. Your partner does not have to be with you, nor do you have to be with your partner. Marriage is a certificate. Your parents will always be your parents because no one can change biology. But your marriage is a decision that you made to enter into a contract with each other, and its existence depends on both partners choosing to maintain that contract.
That means that romantic love isn’t unconditional. But that’s a good thing:
- Both partners need to know that they have to change and grow with their partner for their marriage to work.
- Both partners need to understand that love, care, and the work that goes into marriage has to be reciprocal.
- Both partners have to know that, if someone is wronged, they need to apologize and make it right. They can’t assume that love has to stay.
Your marriage also has to be a complementary fit. As couples counselors, we are believers that two partners that were in love once can still learn to grow and change together. Yet, if a marriage between two people no longer makes sense, and they have irreparably grown apart, the marriage can still end. That should be fuel for both partners to make it work, and if – in the end – they realize it does not, then they can go their separate ways.
Relationships are complicated. But when a relationship is fulfilling, it doesn’t have to be unconditional love, because the conditions are being met. Learning to treat love like something you create together rather than something you’re owed is what will help make for very long lasting relationships.
If you’d like to learn more about couples counseling in Roslyn Heights, Garden City, or Rockville Centre, contact Long Island Psychology, today.