Conditions exist in every facet of life. When we leave our overpriced city apartments, we dress for the appropriate weather conditions. There’s conditions when it comes to keeping your job. You gotta show up on time, do the work, all that good stuff.
There are conditions in relationships, too. But it’s not something we talk about enough in our relationships with our family, friends, or significant others.
I’ve had several instances where I’ve felt loved under conditions and when I, too, have loved people conditionally. Whenever I realized this, I knew it was because I wanted to control the outcome. I wanted things to be done my way, I wanted to be right, I wanted to ‘win.’ Over the years, I learned that this thought process was problematic, and I wanted to understand where this mindset stemmed from. I realized that forgiveness, transparency and self-awareness were needed to understand. Were these conditions reasonable and realistic? Or were the conditions set as a means of control?
My introduction to conditions began with my interactions with my parents, as an adult child. If you have strict African parents like mine, you know there will always be reminders that you aren’t doing enough. They keep account of all the times you messed up since the day you were conceived. Around my mid twenties, I had a serious conversation with my Pops about unconditional love.
We had gotten into an argument because he had wanted to put this tracker on my phone. Needless to say, I was adamantly against this and made this known. My dad’s go-to response was to give me the silent treatment for three weeks. It was then that I finally decided to have an honest conversation about his response.
My heart was racing, but I had him on the phone, and decided it was time to really be transparent with him about his communication. I said to him:“If there’s something I can do to make you stop loving me, especially something small, then your love comes with conditions. We can agree to disagree without you shutting me out; that’s not love, and that’s not how we express love. As a parent, you love me unconditionally, regardless of whether you agree with everything I decide to do.”
Needless to say, it was a game changing conversation, and allowed us to really dialogue about where the ‘conditions’ were coming from.
I started to examine my friendships. In my opinion, best friends have an unspoken commitment to working through difficult situations, no matter what because the love is genuine. I’ve been blessed to be able to really fight through some real stuff in order to mend things with those closest to me. It has not been easy; both parties had to forgive and let go in order to move forward. It’s in those moments, that I knew they were in this thing for life.
On that same note, there are friendships and romantic relationships that faded or were downright ruined because of the tally system. It does us no good to keep score of who forgives who the most, or to focus on winning an argument versus coming to a resolution. There are times when I had to take the loss and come to terms with the part I played in the downfall.
When it comes to romantic relationships, I don’t think you can truly love a partner with conditions. The idea is that unless you’re protecting yourself from being harmed physically/emotionally, what are these conditions in place for? I think when we think about long term commitments like marriage, we don’t assume our partners will make mistakes. But we will, because we’re human. In order for us to grow and become more self aware, thoughtful people, we have to trust and hope that our significant other gives us the benefit of the doubt and forgives. Because ultimately, with pre-existing conditions, it doesn’t leave much room for redemption.
The problem with conditional relationships is it sets stipulations on what unconditional love and regard for another person should look like. It posits that forgiveness and the potential to move forward does not exist and never was a possibility between friends, lovers and family members.
There are exceptions to this, of course. It’s important to have boundaries and to advocate for them the moment they are broken. But overall, giving the benefit of the doubt and allowing a potential change to occur shows a sign of emotional maturity.
If you’re keeping receipts, your intentions are never to forgive. It’s to use the gathering of info at the right opportunity. That’s not okay.
You can’t control people, you can only control yourself. You always owe it to yourself to set the tone for how you want to be treated at the beginning. That way there is no confusion. In any relationships, you should know when to call it quits, and when to keep fighting. If this person means everything to you, there are few stipulations that will stop you from mending something that is broken. It’s all about intentions, and something to keep in mind when navigating emotional bonds and communicating with the people that we care for.
Mora Adeyi works full-time as a social worker, assistant professor, as well as a freelance writer. In her spare time, she loves napping, hanging with her girls, and binge watching romantic comedies. Mora has been writing on love for the past 9 years.