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#248029 - 09/03/08 06:34 PM Unconditional Love
Supporter1 Offline

Registered: 09/03/08
Posts: 7
Loc: Canada
I've been thinking a great deal about unconditional love lately. Is it possible? Am I capable of really loving someone without any expectation of reciprocation, without any need for validation, without claiming a standard of behaviour from them in return?

Does anyone else who cares about a CSA survivor worry that they won't be able to fulfill his need for total acceptance? I'd like to talk about love in dimensions that aren't necessarily romantic in nature. I know I could benefit from others' insights.

#248045 - 09/03/08 08:04 PM Re: Unconditional Love [Re: Supporter1]
Junefriday Offline

Registered: 06/06/08
Posts: 113
Loc: Canada
This is a tough question. The problem is that it is human nature to want something in return...hopefully unconditional love.

I think sometimes where this issue gets tripped up is in the fact that we as partners give love without conditions in the sense that we say we will love our survivors inspite of the CSA, despite low self-esteem, even if a physical relationship isn't possible, regardless if they cannot say they love us, etc. But then we turn around tell them that they need to work toward recovery. By definition, it could be argued that if we loved unconditionally, the survivor wouldn't need to change a darn thing.

So, I don't know if it is possible to love unconditionally without establishing boundaries around how we expect to be treated in return and the level of respect that we deserve for loving unconditionally. Establishing boundaries is like establishing conditions.

I think what we are all saying when we say that we love our survivors unconditionally is that we loved them before we learned of the CSA and we love them now. The CSA was an EVENT and though it shapes the survivor to an extent, we see the survivor as being so much more than "a guy who was abused". The EVENT does not define who they are.

Not sure if that makes any sense....

"Love comes to those who still hope even though they've been disappointed, to those who still believe even though they've been betrayed, to those who still love even though they've been hurt before.

#248077 - 09/04/08 12:25 AM Re: Unconditional Love [Re: Junefriday]
Supporter1 Offline

Registered: 09/03/08
Posts: 7
Loc: Canada
Excellent point. I do believe healthy boundaries are necessary in any relationship. I also think being able to set those healthy boundaries is a natural consequence of having a strong sense of self. If you don't have that keen understanding of who you are, it can be easy to become purely reactive to the sometimes volatile emotional states that CSA survivors experience.

I also agree whole heartedly that the event or series of events (years in this case) doesn't define who they are. Nevertheless it displaced his ability to develop a knowledge of his authentic self. All he remembers from years of his childhood is a relentless, desperate need to do anything to survive the trauma.

I suppose that in using the term "unconditional love", I was thinking of the ability to love someone enough to completely support their decisions and their autonomy and to love them enough to forego "interpeting" their emotional reactions in the same way I would "read" people who had relatively safe childhoods.

Perhaps I need another term that supports 1) a healthy state of boundaries (I'm not looking to be a martyr); 2) the abilility to keep emotional perspective (put aside hurt feelings, etc); and 3) a generosity of spirit that's borne of acceptance. I have to believe that he gives me the best he possibly can at any given time. Sometimes that's not much. Is it that "not much" that gets me thinking about what loving him means? Probably.


#248101 - 09/04/08 03:17 AM Re: Unconditional Love [Re: Supporter1]
mogigo Offline

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 1331
Loc: Colorado
wow, that is such a question Supporter, a question that makes us run, but so very very justified in a partner asking of us.

My Mother had condition's, these have so much resulted in my view of the world, they have resulted in how I will define love and happiness and "what is safe".

Combine this with what is a "normal" perspective and the 2 together seem almost unworkable.

UGH!!! Going to stop here Supporter because you've asked a question that I can;t seem to answer. I started this response with not knowing where I was going.

So, the question comes down to safety. What will make us feel safe? We talk alot about condition's, but what exactly are those conditions? They almost boil down to not having the same ccondition's that our abuser's did. So really it's not condition's it's expectations that we could not possibly live up to.

I guess in the end "can we meet what you expect of us" I guess we start to freak out when we feel we're not going to meet those expectations.

So the question comes back that, are we still lovable if we feel we can't meet those expectations

Not good or right to define us, but can you accept this

we grew up with a past that defines us, can you accept this? OR DO YOU NEED to move on

only you have the answer Supporter

We're a mess, yes we are. Can you handle that?

Stay strong

Just me processing Supporter, take it or leave it, okay.


#248110 - 09/04/08 05:24 AM Re: Unconditional Love [Re: mogigo]
Supporter1 Offline

Registered: 09/03/08
Posts: 7
Loc: Canada
Thanks, Mike. That was a generous answer and I appreciate it. I think you're right, the question becomes - for those of us trying to be of meaningful support - can we love like that? Can we be safe for our loved one? Can we accept the volatile, dynamic, confusing, (but also awe-inspiring)exercise in pure courage that pursuing recovery is for the survivor?

I'm been thinking a lot about these issues and I'm beginning to form the opinion that there are two central pillars of "making life make sense" for those of us whom the suvivor has trusted with his truth. I would be grateful for the group's thoughts and perspectives on these.

First, I believe self-awareness and honest consistency are key. We must not make promises we can't or don't intend to keep. We must say what we mean, but our actions are ultimately more important. And we must have personal integrity if we are to be truly supportive. We must develop a willingness and ability to constantly communicate our internal states and be willing to voice the "mushy" messages (forgive the Disney term) that reinforce how we (as non-survivors) "see" our loved-one progressing in recovery. It's not enough to do the "atta boy" "you're doing great" generic message of support. We have to dig deeper and be specific in our examples of how his progress has been noticed.

I believe supporters and family members must put aside expectations and let the survivor take the lead on the evolution of the relationship. We absolutely must put aside any internal dialogue that goes like this: "he ought to know", "he shouldn't feel...", "he should have told me sooner..."etc. We have to accept that he is not always able (even if he is willing) to articulate the nature of his experience. And sometimes, he is not willing and that is absolutely his choice. My loved one learned early to equate touch with danger, love with pain, friendship with duplicity. Boundaries and safety are all and we must help him establish both by respecting the changing landscape.

Second, we (again, meaning supporters and partners) must constantly remind ourselves and respect the fact that recovery is a dyanmic process. Much like your message (as you said), the survivor might be unsure how that recovery is going to progress. We have to be prepared for days of sheer incredulity ("I can't believe this happened to me"); for disorientation, emotional upheaval, rage, shaking, crying jags, unexpected triggers, defense mechanisms, and profound grief.

He's a mess....true. But I CAN handle it. It's the gig I signed up for. \:\) For all the mess there is such strength, such beauty, such profound understanding of suffering, so many insights and raw courage that my life would be impoverished without his friendship.

Thanks for the processing Mike. \:\) I'll take it any day. \:\)


#248148 - 09/04/08 06:00 PM Re: Unconditional Love [Re: Supporter1]
NY Daisy Offline
New Here

Registered: 02/29/08
Posts: 183
dear All,

Everyone makes very valid points on this. Unconditionally love can be tricky to decipher. The way I look at it is that it most definitely is possible.

I love my children unconditionally. I tell them that they can talk to me about anything. I may not always like what they have to say, or approve of their behavior, but I will always love them. No one is perfect, I tell them, we all make mistakes and sometimes it is not the bad behavior, but how you handled it, that is the bigger problem. If you own up to it, and learned from it, excellent, if you try to pass the buck or lie, whatever, this is not acceptable to me,i will be upset, but I won't stop loving them.

I love my H the same way. I've explained to him my love is real. He makes mistakes and so do I. He does not believe in unconditional love. He says it all has conditions. I think that we can love someone for who they are, but we do not always "LIKE" some of the things they do. When you love someone, you always want the best for them. With our spouses, recovery would make a world of difference in their lives, so I want that for my H.


#248198 - 09/05/08 12:40 AM Re: Unconditional Love [Re: NY Daisy]
Trish4850 Offline
BoD Liaison Emeritus

Registered: 10/15/05
Posts: 3280
Loc: New Jersey
Unconditional love? I understand the concept, but I don't believe it exists between adults, not in the way the romantics believe it anyway. If everything went to hell in a hand basket between me and my b/f would I still love him? Probably. He will always have a piece of my heart that will be tucked away for only him. But would I stay with him? No. I think that's what people with unrealistic expectations of love believe.

Love is powerful, but it's also requires alot of work to sustain it and that means meeting the expectations and needs of each other. Simply having the expectation or desire for unconditional love is a set up for failure and passing the buck on the responsibilities you have to each other and whatever family has been created. The love of another doesn't fall into one's lap. It is earned and must constantly be earned and nurtured to be kept.

That's my belief anyway.

ROCK ON.......Trish

If you fall down 10 times, Stand up 11.

#248363 - 09/06/08 05:26 PM Re: Unconditional Love [Re: Trish4850]
cstjude Offline

Registered: 09/05/08
Posts: 302
Loc: Canada
I believe Trish is right...18th century poets' ideas of martyring ourselves for love isn't realistic. But I do think there is something close to unselfish (if not "unconditional") love that is possible between people in the sense that you can take solace and happiness in seeing your loved one happy and fulfilled even if you are not the partner with which he builds such a life. Tough road to travel, though, that's for sure.

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