A Closer Look at Loving... Unconditionally
By Pamela Reaves
Okay – I admit one of my guilty pleasures is watching the reality show, the Real House Wives of Atlanta. While the high drama sometimes gets to be a bit much for me, I still come back to marvel at the awesome make-up jobs performed on the Georgia peaches, their fierce fashion, exciting hairstyles, not to mention their elegant homes. What can I say – I love beautiful things. So indulge me.
Fans of the current season of the RHOA are getting the details of one husband’s scandalous and illegal business dealings in which he has pled guilty to a number charges including conspiracy to commit fraud and identity theft. As a result, he had been sentenced to eight years in prison. Not only do viewers get to witness first-hand the downward spiraling relationship between Phaedra Parks and her husband, Apollo Nida, we are also privy to seeing the salacious details reported in gossip columns, as well as interviews with other RHOA cast members played out. The arguments and positions cover one end of the spectrum to the other,with some people understanding Phaedra’s decision to distance herself from Apollo’s legal troubles, while others make mention of the “stand by your man” responsibility they seem to think comes with being a wife.
I must admit that I’m “Team Phaedra” on this one. There are those individuals who view her as a cold, calculating, and selfish woman because she elected to shield her children rather than stand by her man. Whether or not you like her, this is a woman who is grounded and knows when to segregate intelligent decision-making from emotions capable of clouding judgment. None of us knows what’s really in her heart, and so much of our opinion of her is based on speculation. Remember, speculation isn’t fact.
Regardless of Phaedra’s feelings for him, she could not and did not dismiss the fact that he is a grown man who made certain decisionsabsent any regard for the well-being of his family. She knows the difference between making a mistake, and the conscious decision to engage in criminal activity over a period of time. This is a woman who is courageous enough to do what a lot of wives would love to do, but are forced (by parties who have their own agendas, but do not bear the brunt of the scandal as she does) to appear as if they still support their husbands, no matter how egregious his acts. She isn’t willing to reward bad behavior with her support, and in this regard she has my support.
So does unconditional love mean standing by your man even when he’s wrong? Does unconditional love mean one should make all decisions based on the heart rather than exercising intelligence when the matter calls for intelligent decision-making? When is it best to step away from your partner’s crimes and/or mess and save yourself, as well as your children?
In a healthy relationship no one has to ask the other person to love them unconditionally. People who know how to love healthy just do it. They’re too busy loving to place such demands on their partners. Have you noticed that in conversations with people who have strong relationships, they rarely, if ever mention loving unconditionally?It is usually the individual who is troubled, confused, or naïve who believes in loving conditionally and demands it no matter what the circumstances or consequences are. Except for a relationship with the Creator, I say love should come with certain conditions.
Here are some conditions for which I make no apologies. Your loving relationship should be conditioned upon honesty. Honesty doesn’t mean mistakes won’t be made. It means the person who makes the mistake will be honest enough to admit to same.
When you give love, there should be a condition that it be returned. This is not a selfish demand, but rather a condition that is necessary in order to sustain both of you. If you are constantly giving and never receiving, at some point you become empty. The person who loves you does not want to deplete you of life, energy, vitality, self-esteem, goodness, etc. He or she derives just as much pleasure from giving as they do from receiving. This is necessary for balance.
Love with adults should be conditioned upon all parties being held accountable for his or her actions. It is offensive and abusive when someone who is guilty of something makes excuses and transfers the blame with the insult that you were supposed to love them unconditionally. Conversely, there is nothing more fulfilling than the mutual commitment to pour into each other.
Love is to be conditioned upon the parties’ warranties not to physically, verbally, mentally, or emotionally abuse those for whom they profess love. If they can’t honor these conditions, you should be walking away as fast as your legs will carry you. The conditions to preserve you physically, mentally, and emotionally are non-negotiable. True lovers want their loved ones in the best shape possible. Good loving takes vigor. The loving person does not glory in the diminution of others.
Never be too shy to articulate the condition that your partner supports your hopes, dreams, and endeavors. They may not understand the vision, or have the knowledge or specialized skill to execute it. However, their interest and willingness to do something no matter how menial means a whole lot.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having conditions when it comes to your loving relationships. You can have high expectations as long as they are reasonable. You’re not being selfish because you are going to give as much as you get.
Rewarding bad behavior is not honorable. It’s a slippery slope on which all parties involved wind up descending into a horrible pit. An honorable man neither expects his woman to stand by him nor support his wrong-doing. Even the man who had made terrible mistakes is capable of doing the honorable thing and releasing his partner from any obligation to stand by and then go down with him. The woman who stands by a man in his wrong-doing is compromising who she is. Her support implies sanction in some form. Many who attempt to “stand by their man” while the spotlight is glaring down upon the offense eventually succumb to the press, humiliation, and shame.It is not uncommon in future conversation to hear that the relationship ended anyway.
When and if the conversation of loving unconditionally comes up, ask for clarity. Be sure you’re on the same page with the terminology “unconditional love”. If ever uncomfortable with the term, then have that conversation by articulating your expectations. All of us have expectations and your love interest deserves, at the very least, to know what you expect of him or her. Unconditional love calls for close scrutiny.