How To Know If Your Love Is Unconditional Or Codependent (& Why It's So Easy To Confuse Them)

Relationships are a mirror.

Happy couple together outdoors Bo1982 /

Do you feel rejected or unvalued in your relationship and yet terrified of letting go?

Do you feel that despite all the dysfunctional patterns, you know how to love with no conditions? They just haven't learned to appreciate it yet?

All of us are called to grow in love, both giving and receiving it, healing that within ourselves which prevents us from loving unconditionally. In a certain sense, our soul journey is a Ph.D. in love. 


Unconditional love is the highest expression of the divine, of the essence of our own soul.

RELATED: Is Unconditional Love Real — Or Just A Romantic Illusion? 

However, many of us were born into families and environments where love was anything but unconditional. What we saw presented as love in our families, in books and movies, in the poems we read, and in the relationships around us was very often codependency, neediness, control, an attempt to cover up loneliness and brokenness, or simply abuse. Many of us spent our formative years not really knowing what healthy love was.

We long for more but don't quite know what it is.

The patterns of forming a romantic relationship that we inherited from our ancestries and societies are often no longer working. On the cosmic scale, we are undergoing a great transformation, especially in terms of bringing in a greater balance between masculine and feminine energies.


How come we want our souls to sing but end up with another broken guy to fix?

RELATED: 4 Mindfulness Meditations To Break Your Addiction To Codependent Relationships

What is codependency?

Codependency is a pattern of addiction to a relationship to the point where our own needs are put aside. A codependent will cling and grasp to a relationship even if it is dysfunctional, abusive or otherwise not satisfying their needs. Codependent relationships have a pattern of one partner feeling like they have to rescue or heal the other, yet unable to walk out because of fear of loneliness or loss of "love."


The root of this pattern most often lies in our own feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. Rather than giving love to ourselves first, filling our own cup before we pour it into anyone else, we start chasing love, as if attempting to persuade our partner that we are a loving and good person. But the partner will not heal and will not change, because, in the end, they are just mirrors of how we feel about ourselves.

Very often, it is empaths and sensitive souls who have a tendency to get into codependent relationships. Empaths feel the emotions of others deeply as if they were their own. They resonate strongly with unconditional love and compassion. They want to give this unconditionality freely, often not realizing that they project their own ideals onto others, expecting them to return the love. 

Instead, they end up feeling used and depleted. Codependency for an empath is ultimately a projection of unconditional love that they need to learn to give themselves first.

RELATED: Why So Many Amazing Women Give Their Hearts To Unkind Men


Codependency and the role of your wounded self

The unbalanced love of a codependent person comes from the wounded inner child. That child feels she is not good enough. That’s what she learned, and that’s what her universe keeps reflecting back unto her, until she is healed. Her body is not good enough, her education is not good enough, she is never competent enough, and she is not young enough — or old enough.

Whoever she is, whatever she does, is simply not good enough. It is these deep and unprocessed wounds that cause an imbalance in relationships, either over-giving or pushing the partner away.

The key to truly healing the wounded inner child is not to fight the harsh inner critic, nor to numb it with alcohol, food, or over-achievement. Instead, we heal the inner child by accepting her as an integral part of us. That hurt little girl who feels she doesn't cut it the way she is. That girl is a part of me. And she deserves love, acceptance, and a warm embrace. She has the right to stay and she is welcome — she is just not allowed to decide for me. 

The inner child is in fact a part of our subconscious mind. It may act out in ways that perplex us, but it is also a part of us that experiences love and spirituality. Our inner child is also the playful and joyful part of us who wants to sing, dance, and play. We want to have our subconscious on board to be able to build healthy relationships instead of repeating the same trauma over and over again without knowing why. 

RELATED: How To Recognize Signs Of Mutual Abuse In Your Relationship

The distorted love of a codependent rescuer

For many codependents, the relationship is based on trying to heal or fix someone. It may mean staying with someone who says he doesn't love you, tolerating drug abuse, and feeling that you are the only one who gives and contributes. And yet somehow you feel unable to let go of the need to find and rescue "lost puppies" of the world.


The rationale behind this is actually quite simple: I feel inadequate, therefore, I will try to fix you. It will sound even better and more spiritual if I dress this need to fix and rescue as practicing unconditional love. Anything is better than dealing with my own pain.

True unconditional love balances compassion with wisdom. Unconditional love is a divine quality and opens our hearts to the essence of all beings. Unconditional love is based on all-encompassing trust. 

Trust, above all, that everyone has their own capacity to heal and seek healing. And if someone wants to destroy their life rather than take responsibility, trust that this is their choice and we can not change anyone against their will. All you can do is set your own boundaries and do your own inner healing.

In fact, our codependent partner takes on the greatest service of all. They are the good parent who refuses to give us what we think is love. The coldness, the rejection, the taking without giving is doing us the soul-level service — teaching us to love. To really love. To love ourselves, to love our souls, to learn about what love really means. 

RELATED: 4 Things Couples In The Healthiest, Most Secure Relationships Do Differently

As above, so below

Feeling really small and deprived in relation to my partner, so small that I will put up with absolutely anything, is a reflection of a deeper belief about the very nature of reality. 


Somewhere deep within me is a perception of lack — that there isn’t enough of anything in the universe. That there isn’t enough love, enough money, enough jobs, enough partners to go round. My reality is the reflection of what I believe I deserve. A reflection of my unworthiness. And a codependent pattern only reinforces the already existing concept of lack.

Unconditional love is about our connection to the source, not about someone giving love to us.

Unconditional love is us becoming love. If we see love as something outside of ourselves, if we demand love from others, or blame them for not loving us, we are only giving our power away.

While we may understand this intellectually, and even think that we implemented it before in our lives, there are layers of our soul and personality that have not yet integrated this concept. These layers often show up with deeper and stronger connections, the ones we believe are on the soul level, what people often call twin flames or soulmates. 


For some of us, healing the desperation and letting go of control is the hardest thing in the world. 

Ultimately, the journey is about us reconnecting with our souls and healing everything that stands in our way of seeing love as the foundational force of the universe.

RELATED: 17 Signs You're Addicted To Relationships

Inga Nielsen is an intuitive healer, energy worker, and Akashic record reader whose mission is to empower clients to start living from their souls, opening their hearts, rejoicing in their creativity, and following their bliss.