guest post | randi riggs - why unconditional love & marriage don't mix

I'm so happy to introduce you to Randi Riggs, a friend of mine from high school who is now a blossoming blogger and writer! We've been Facebook friends over the years, but definitely reconnected through our interactions in the blogosphere. She is an even newer newlywed than me, so I thought I'd pick her brain about some of her reflections on marriage. Her post generated a lot of great discussion with my husband and I'm excited to share this challenging and insightful piece with you all! Read on and then let us know what you think!

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I have been married for almost four whole months now. (So, obviously I’m an expert on the topic.) I absolutely adore my husband. He is the only person I’ve ever known who can make me laugh anytime. I can be raging mad or dripping in tears and somehow he can get a smile out of me. He has a tender, kind heart and a patience I admire. I love him with every ounce of my being.

On our wedding day, we exchanged vows. We promised to love, honor, and respect each other; to be faithful, kind, and honest; to work together through tough times and rejoice together in the good. What we did not vow was to love each other unconditionally.

“Unconditional” All Around Us

Pop culture is filled with the phrase “unconditional love” and images of those perfect couples who don’t let anything stand in their way. Often, the most popular love stories, be it in books, movies, or on television, espouse the idea of unconditional love to their devoted fans.

Let’s take a quick look at some of today’s most popular novels being read by the masses, and the love the lead female characters claim to have for their main men:

First, Bella Swan from the Twilight saga describes her love for vampire Edward:
About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn't know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

Now, more recently, in the third book of the explicit, yet incredibly popular, Fifty Shades series, Ana makes these vows to new-husband Christian: “I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals and dreams, to honor and respect you…”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? So, what’s the problem? The problem lies in the use of the word “unconditional;” I fear that taking this idea to heart could be setting the stage for some very unhealthy relationships.

What is Unconditional Love?

Unconditional literally means without conditions or limitations; absolute. Unconditional love is a love that is hard-wired; it cannot be changed, does not require reciprocation. It just is.

Unconditional love is the love we feel for our children. I’d say it’s the love that parents feel, but being an aunt, I can attest to the presence of unconditional love in an auntie’s heart, just as I’m sure it’s present in the heart of anyone with a special bond with a child. My niece does not have to earn my love; she had it the minute my brother-in-law carried her out of the delivery room and said, “She has Randi’s nose!” She is an innocent, precious creation who has my absolute love forever. I did not choose to love her; God chose her for me. 
Romantic Love is Conditional

On the other hand, I choose to love my husband. We both chose, on our wedding day, to make vows to each other that we need to be held accountable to. Those vows are the conditions of our love.

I do not expect my husband to love me no matter what.  I cannot break our wedding vows and assume he will love me anyway. Loyalty, honesty, respect, and faithfulness—without those basic conditions, the love, and in turn the marriage, can’t possibly sustain a healthy existence.

If we go into marriage thinking it is the joining of two lives in an unconditional love, we risk losing sight of what we have vowed to one another. Love and marriage take work, but why make a big effort if it doesn’t really matter what you do? Seems like a slippery slope to me.

In doing research on the topic, I found some online communities sharing articles on how to achieve unconditional love in your marriage. One article in particular stood out to me, and the gist of it was this: love your spouse no matter what they do. They suggested turning a blind eye to things that upset you, saying God wants you to. If you’re hurting, they say you should simply stop feeling hurt. Are you devastated because of a cheating husband? You should love him anyway. It promoted ignoring your own “selfish” feelings to keep the marriage in tact; essentially, don’t rock the boat, even if your spouse has already drilled holes in it.

Marital love isn’t supposed to be unconditional. It is supposed to be a choice, a commitment to do the very best you can to love your partner through thick and thin, for better or worse—as long as that commitment is mutual. Marriage is not a means of having built-in love no matter how much you screw up; it does not give you excuse to hurt your partner and still expect their love in return. In other words, the word “spouse” should never equal “doormat.”
If marital love was truly unconditional, why vow anything at all?  

Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your opinions on this topic! Who do you love unconditionally? How do you feel about the idea of ‘unconditional’ love in marriage?

Randi Riggs is an English teacher and freelance writer with a passion for language, literature, education and travel. She enjoys swimming, biking, camping and, despite her better judgement, the occasional trashy romance novel. She can be found blogging at Delightful Diction and tweeting @randiriggs4. You can read more from Randi at Yahoo! Contributor Network and ModernMom