Monday, 24 June 2013

Warts and all

Is there such a thing as uncond-itional love? Is it really possible to love someone warts and all, despite their many infuriating flaws and faults, and not walk away in disgust at one enraging quirk too many? However much we love someone, aren’t we always full of secret ifs and buts and maybes?

I think unconditional love is very possible – unless there’s some serious wrongdoing involved. Most character traits are livable with if you’re sufficiently tolerant and flexible, however weird or annoying they might be. There’s not much that’s genuinely impossible to handle. Unless the other person is a serial rapist, or terrorist, or bank robber, or pathological liar, most personal behaviour can be adjusted to.

There are several people I love to bits, and I think I do love them warts and all, however nasty or vicious they can sometimes be. I can live with their unreliability, bitchiness, amnesia, wild emotion, paranoia, or grumpiness, because I love them as a person and well, those traits are just part of the person so I absorb them along with everything else. I don’t pick and choose what I accept and what I don’t.

Of course I’m probably fooling myself. The people concerned will no doubt say that my love isn’t as all-embracing as I imagine, that there are loads of things I recoil from or get judgmental about, loads of things they keep secret or raise very cautiously in case I throw a wobbly.

I think unconditional love is not that common. Certainly there have been plenty of people in my life who have given the impression of loving me wholeheartedly but in reality their reservations were rampant. Starting with my father, who always maintained he loved me but in practice really wanted me to be just like him.

When it comes down to it, many seemingly tolerant people are actually hideously judgmental and would clearly like to change everything about me if they had the chance. I can see them bristling and steaming at my every utterance. Not many people truly accept me for what I am.

Unconditional love is not easy when we’re all so full of preconceptions and assumptions and fixed ideas, but it’s possible. And when it does happen, it’s a very beautiful thing.

24 comments:

Z said...

I think you can love someone unconditionally and still hope that they might recognise and change their behaviour or character flaws, particularly if they're self-destructive. It's loving them despite those flaws that makes it unconditional, perhaps?

Nick said...

Z: I think that's all true. I agree that loving someone despite their flaws (and not running away) is the essence of unconditional love.

Grannymar said...


Being human we all have flaws. When we are fortunate to love someone unconditionally, the flaws, like scars, heal and fade.

e said...

I ;think unconditional love is very difficult for adults but not so for children. And Nick, I would not change a thing about you.

Wisewebwoman said...

I think we can love children and animals unconditionally. Partners? Friends? Maybe we can overlook some of their defects. I've had difficulty with that. Maybe some defects are just barriers.
XO
WWW

Ursula said...

Difficult, Nick. I agree with WWW that we love children unconditionally (though do recognize that that doesn't appear so in case of your father. Not that it's any comfort, Nick, but it's well known and documented that a father's love tends to be conditional, whereas a mother's usually isn't).

Other than that: I don't believe so much that love between adults whether of the romantic kind, between siblings, friends, is so much unconditional as merely how much tolerance we have for each other. How much, foibles and all, we are prepared to put up with because of deeply felt affection for the other. My threshold, lucky me, is high.

U

Nick said...

Grannymar: I'm not sure the flaws heal and fade. I think we just learn to accommodate them....

e: True, children can often be more accepting than adults who've become habitually judgmental. And thank you for the compliment!

Nick said...

www: I find it quite easy to overlook defects, unless they're really horrible ones. After all, I expect people to overlook mine!

Ursula: I'd never heard that a father's love is more conditional than a mother's - interesting. So what's the difference between unconditional love and tolerance (or acceptance)? Aren't they much the same thing?

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Well, I do think that there is such a thing as unconditional love, and that there is more about than some think. I believe the reason is that unconditional love is all about loving someone no less because you know they have faults. Love doesn't really make you blind, but it does enable you to overlook aspects of someone's character that are less than ideal.

I suppose the key is this: do you love someone despite their flaws, and despite the fact that you know they will never change? Have you tried gently requesting changes and realised that for them, change isn't possible, and yet you still love them?

To me, that IS unconditional. Doesn't mean that you see no flaws, it means that your love is not conditional on that person removing said flaws.

Z said...

Well put, Jay. Though if, as Nick says, one suddenly finds something one had never suspected about a person (serial rapist, terrorist or whatever), even after many years, I don't think it's any reflection on the lover if they find their trust has been shattered and love dies.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Yes, Z, that would be different, I think. Can't say it has ever happened to me, I'm happy to report!

John Gray said...

I agree with Ursula
( I was going to elaborate but I don't think I need to)

Nick said...

Jay: "Do you love someone despite their flaws, and despite the fact that you know they will never change?" Exactly, that's how I would define unconditional love as well. As soon as you expect them to change, you're imposing conditions.

Z: I agree, something that dreadful would shatter my trust for good, I think, however open-hearted I had been before.

Nick said...

John: I do agree tolerance is very dependent on the depth of your affection and love for the other person. And not just tolerance but sympathy and understanding.

Cheerful Monk said...

Do you love yourself unconditionally? The closer we come to that, the easier it is to love and accept other people.

Nick said...

Jean: Yes, I think I do. I have plenty of faults (as regular readers will be aware) but I accept them as part of who I am. I don't go in for self-loathing and beating myself up.

Rummuser said...

The word love itself is interpreted to suit one's convenience. I can unconditionally love bacon and eggs for breakfast but cannot do so my wife of decades? Love in my case came after the marriage which lasted for over forty years. Both of us had warts and all but were able to accept that as part of our togetherness and enjoy that experience as a team. I simply do not understand this unconditionality.

Nick said...

Ramana: Oh well, eating bacon and eggs is not the same at all, as they don't include anything less tasty you have to reconcile yourself to!

I think accepting each other's flaws as part of your togetherness is more or less what I would describe as unconditional love.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think there is a huge difference between unconditional like and unconditional love. I love my children unconditionally - there is nothing they could ever do that would make me not love them. But that doesn't mean I like everything they do, or wish sometimes they'd change things about themselves. I think with partners or dear friends, you love them in spite of whatever flaws they have (as they love you), but there are deal-breakers that can sever that love.

Nick said...

Agent: Not sure I can really distinguish between the two. I don't think unconditional love rules out not liking certain things about the person. It just means you accept them and allow for them as part of the whole person and they're not going to drive you away.

Rummuser said...

"I begin to see what marriage is for. It's to keep people away from each other. Sometimes I think that two people who love each other can be saved from madness only by the things that come between them: children, duties, visits, bores, relations, the things that protect married people from each other." -Edith Wharton

bonsaimum said...

So true that such love is not that common, but when it is found it is truly marvellous. Hmmm wonder how much Hubby's life insurance is?

Bijoux said...

Agent said it for me!

Nick said...

Ramana: What a brilliant quote! I hadn't heard it before. Thanks for passing it on.

Bonsaimum: Well, even it's only $50, I'm sure you love him all the same!

Bijoux: Oy, are you two ganging up on me? Of course even if you are, I still love you regardless!