A discussion over on FMH really got me thinking about some of the choices I've made in the last decade, as well as how relationships and love work. They began talking about unconditional love in conjunction with some discussion on marriage and divorce. Some thoughts came to me which I felt were worth reproducing here.
Everyone’s love is conditional in one sense or other. True unconditional love in the sense that most people mean it—that I can do anything I want and not suffer loss of intimacy—CANNOT exist. That’s one thing I learned from my experiences in my marriage. I stayed with my ex-husband through some pretty scary times over the years because I believed in unconditional love like that.
But true unconditional love does not exist without boundaries or limitations. Conditions on love are different than boundaries. To set a condition on love means, “I will only love you if you do this.” That was something I experienced up close and personal in my marriage. Unconditional love really looks like, “I will always love you, but I’ll not be close to you if you engage in behavior that is destructive.”
I still love my ex, in the sense that I want what is best for him. I would love it if he would repent, become a good father and maybe even a good husband some day to someone else. But to the extent of my power, I will not let him hurt me or the children any more.
So I love him unconditionally, but I will not stay close to him unconditionally.
I think most of us have a pretty twisted sense of what real love is. I imagine this is what makes it hard to understand a God who wouldn’t just forgive all and let us all come back to live with Him no matter what we do. We conflate love and intimacy. I imagine that God will always love us, but we cannot be close to Him if we engage in destructive behaviors.