Unconditional?! Why You Love Your Conditions More Than Your Partner


I dated a woman once who had a refrigerator so stuffed with food that nothing more could be pushed into it. Poke around inside and you’d notice that there were 5 or 6 open containers of the same thing: Five open Kraft French salad dressings, 6 dill pickle jars, 4 cheddar cheese packages, 12 geese a-laying. There was not one of anything—expect milk. A single half gallon container.

Lindsey had two teenage boys. On slow days, they’d go through a gallon of milk. So Lindsey—at least once a day—would drive to the market, a 40 minute round trip, to pick up another half gallon of milk. A half gallon, because there wasn’t room for a full gallon.

Did I think this was crazy?

“If you took 40 minutes to clean out the fridge, you’d save 5 hours of driving a week!”

“There’s still good stuff in those bottles.”

“Stop buying things. How many French Dressings do you need, for Chrissake.”

“It’s my refrigerator.”

“It’s an example of how you can’t manage your own life.”

And then it got really nasty.

An outsider might say, “Heath is right, she would save a ton of hours driving back and forth. He just needs to work on his communication skills.”

Stop right there. It has nothing to do with the state of Lindsey’s fridge. The subject—what it is that you want from your partner—of a condition isn’t the real issue. It’s just a decoy. If I weren’t complaining about the refrigerator, I’d be complaining about something else.

We love our conditions like addicts love their highs. Just like a drug, conditions give us a psychic jolt. We crave this jolt and we’ll choose it even as it’s destroying the love and joy we say we want to bring into our lives. Just like an addict.

It’s the jolt of righteousness: I’m right, you’re wrong.

Or the jolt of power: Do it my way.

Or the jolt of winning: I win, you lose.

Or the jolt of arrogance: I’m better than you.

There are others, but you get the idea. We are conditional because we get a juicy psychological hit when we use our condition against our partner (or parents, or kids, or whomever). We’re like the experimental rat that when given the option of food or cocaine chooses cocaine.

That’s you and me on righteousness. If we’re not conscious, we’ll choose it over love every time.

Next time you’re getting conditional—the next time you want your partner to be different than the way they are—put the reasons and justifications for your condition to the side and feel the jolt you’re getting. Name it. Is it the jolt of winning, righteousness, power?

Finding it can be difficult because up in your cerebral cortex, you've got this well-used, highly polished, sharply honed argument supported with loads of unimpeachable reasons, justifications, and evidence all proving the rightness of your condition. I am right, dammit. Any fair-minded person with half a brain could see it.

Here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter whether you’re right or wrong. Even if God leaned out of the clouds and said, You are so right!, it wouldn’t matter. As long as you hang out in the right/wrong; win/lose, dominate/buckle universe—you aren’t in the unconditional love universe, the feeling love universe.  

The question is not whether you’re right or wrong but whether you want righteousness or love in your life. Do I want to be right about how Lindsey manages her refrigerator or do I want a loving relationship? Would I rather have a single jar of Kraft French Dressing in her fridge or a night of steamy love?

Your next step down the path of unconditional love is understanding in your bones that your “condition” is a drug delivery device. It’s the way you get your jolt. Your reasons for the condition—no matter how real and true they appear to you—is just a rationalization. If you weren’t in it for the jolt, you wouldn’t need the argument.  If you didn’t need to be right (or better than/less than, winner/loser, etc.), you wouldn’t need the condition.

Once you get that, it’s your choice: Righteousness or love.

It's a tough choice. As you walk through your day, notice how often you need to be right. When you get good at noticing it, the frequency will stun you. Then notice how hard it is to give it up. It’s a real bitch.

Let me be clear: giving up conditions doesn’t mean giving up wanting certain things in our lives or creating the relationship we want. The “condition” itself is not the issue—it’s how we relate to the condition. If we are using the condition to protect us from intimacy (last blog) or to get our jolt of righteousness, we are being conditional and our conditions are bringing pain and suffering into our relationships.

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

The task of creating an unconditional relationship will come in future blogs. Don’t miss them. Sign-up at my website and I’ll let you know when the next one comes out. Or, if you want to get started on your unconditionality right away, let’s talk.