Although we may not always realise that we are doing it, we normally place conditions on our happiness. We decide that we will be happy when certain conditions are met in our lives - for instance, we might decide that we must live in a particular type of house in a particular location for us to be truly satisfied and happy . Or it might be about a situation that we feel must come about - for example, we decide that we must get a particular job promotion so that we can be content in our work. There is one other big condition that we often set before we think we can find happiness - we must find Mr or Mrs Right. We believe another person in the shape of a partner will make us happy.
Think about all the conditions you have set yourself for happiness - make a list of them. Notice how we can spend our whole life waiting for these things to be fulfilled. Even if we fulfil one, we then create a new one! All of these conditions have one thing in common, and ironically it is a flaw that prevents us ever finding lasting happiness. Each of these conditions is about bringing something from the outside, to make us happy. Each of these conditions is designed to meet a need - to fill an emptiness we have inside. These conditions fail because ultimately we cannot askanybody else or any situation to heal our insecurities and sense of lack - we must do that ourselves.
In the relationship work I do, I often hear people complaining that their partner does not do things right - fails to meet their expectations of a devoted, loving partner. They normally say that they no longer love their partner in the way they did when they first met - they think their partner has changed. This is conditional love - it says that "when you behave in the way I want you to, then I will love you." This places a huge demand on the other person and they feel they are being judged. They might find that they are frozen out and starved of love, unless they behave in the expected way. It is not surprising that this control will damage or destroy a relationship.
The way forward is therefore Unconditional Love, which as it's name suggest, sets absolutely no conditions on the love that we feel for another person. It really does mean that we will love them no matter how they behave or treat us. Of course this can be a real 'stretch' because we will often feel that the other person does not deserve our love. To break-through this resistance we need to look within and see that the every thing we are asking as a condition of our love is something we are not doing ourselves. For instance - we might say that the condition of our love is that our partner must listen to us and understand us as a person. But how well have we listened to and understood them? As all bad behaviour originates from low self-esteem, if they are not behaving in the way we want them to, then we have failed to fully understand why this is. If we could see their inner pain we would know why they are not meeting our conditions and immediately know how to respond with empathy and compassion.
To be able to love somebody unconditionally we need to be able to see through the surface behaviour to the beautiful, innocent, perfect person underneath. If you find this hard to do today - think back to the time you fell in love with them. Those amazing feelings came about because you were loving them unconditionally - faults and all! It was only later those faults became more obvious as you settled down to a longer-term relationship. So think back to those heady times and visualise yourselves back in that situation of falling in love. Re-live those feelings and then take a long, compassionate look at your partner - see their beauty and grace and imagine yourself melting into them. Forgive them for failing your conditions and forgive yourself for doing the same. If you can, tell them how much you appreciate and love them and remind them of those original wonderful times together - those feelings are still available as soon as you stop judging them and placing conditions on your love.
Conditional love is a viscous circle because if we withdraw our love as a form of punishment, our partner does exactly the same to us. Unconditional love has the opposite effect - it reinforces itself because the forgiveness and acceptance is felt as pure love by our partners and they then naturally return it. Practice unconditional love at every opportunity with your partners, family, friends and colleagues - it is the key to sustained happiness.
Peter Granger is an acclaimed relationship counsellor and life coach. He runs relationship and self-development workshops in the UK. For more free relationship advice and information his books, go to http://www.iloveyouloveme.com
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