Love... it's grand, isn't it? But what's love if it isn't the real deal? Many people think that real love is unconditional — that is, limitless. We spoke with relationship experts Karen Anderson and Lori Beth Bisbey to help answer an important question: how will I know?
To start, Anderson explains, you'll have to define what unconditional love really is: "First, let's examine unconditional love from the inside out. Allow yourself to experience what it might feel like personally to receive unconditional love and then challenge yourself: can you provide this experience to another? What does that even look like? Here's an example: one day while gently meandering through routine moments, you experience a strong and overwhelming desire to share a part of yourself; a part that has delicate threads of shame and vulnerability woven throughout. Maybe in conversation with your lover or partner, or pillow talk, the moment seems right. You know, those delicates moments that immediately after you may want to dive under the bed and hide. It's scary, but it's a universal feeling if we've been brave enough to share."
Bisbey continues, explaining that, as we grow older, our image and idea of love might change: "As an adult, unconditional love can be an elusive beacon that we spend much of our lives chasing." Unconditional love provides us with a safe space where are accepted fully; a relationship in which we can be our authentic selves and be loved empathically receiving empathy and appreciation. When we are loved unconditionally, we grow toward our full potential. When someone sees us clearly and gives us open acceptance, we find it easier to accept our own issues and to move past self-imposed limitations. When we love unconditionally, we offer empathy and support to those we love. We support and inspire the subjects of our love to be as authentic as they can be. We love them through the most difficulty of times as well as through times of joy and ease."
Of course, as Anderson explains, opening ourselves up to the possibility of real, unconditional love can be terrifying — but it's entirely worth it: "So now that you've generated that shameful feeling in your body (after sharing your deepest, truest self), you may find your muscles tightening, your heart racing — you may even want to cry or yell. But then your partner reaches out, looks at you and says, 'Thanks for sharing that.' Maybe they just smile and in that moment the darkest part that felt so flawed doesn't seem quite so dark anymore. You feel loved, you feel truly seen inside and out, and you feel known. It's that inexplicable moment in time when you get that sense that you are understood and not alone in the world."
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