Ever felt that your parents appreciate you and express their love for you only when you score well in exams or accomplish something?
Or do they promise you outings and gifts if you do the chores?
This is not something that happens only in a parent-child relationship, though it is the most perceptible one. Any relationship can turn out to be conditional – among partners, friends, colleagues.
Often conditional love is so hidden and inconspicuous that even the victims are not aware of it. But at some point in the relationship, they are bound to wake up to the fact and realize what is happening to them.
How will this sudden realization impact the relationship? It depends on numerous factors.
Do you think you are a victim of conditional love? Or do you think you are offering someone love conditionally? Unawares maybe, but still it can cause harm to the other person. If so, you should realize what you are doing and own up. Hopefully, you still have time to make amends.
This article explores the difficult world of relationships and how conditional love can destroy its foundations without you, as the victim or the perpetrator, any the wiser. Find here listed signs of love with conditions attached to help you identify them in your relationship. Besides the signs that apply to all relationships, you will find here some unique ones that are exclusive to a parent-child relationship.
What is conditional love?
As the name suggests, conditional love meaning is defined as the love with conditions attached. This means the person expects the other person in the relationship to satisfy some condition to offer love. In other words, if the person doesn’t meet the conditions expected from them, they won’t receive love from this person.
For a person receiving conditional love, they will feel stranded in their most difficult moments if they are incapable of fulfilling the conditions. Moreover, the other person may hold back love as means to get them to do something or to gain something from them.
On the other hand, unconditional love is love without any strings attached. It is given and received at all times, the best and the worst, irrespective of what is done or being said.
Conditional love can cause serious mental harm to the person receiving it. It can result in low self-esteem and in the worst cases lead to anxiety and depression.
Examples of conditional love
It would be easier to understand the concept of conditional love through examples.
Let’s consider the instances of conditional love among partners.
“You will make me happy and feel loved if you buy that dress/bag/ring for me.”
“Take me on a vacation to the Caribbean to prove that you love me.”
“Come with me as my plus one to my friend’s wedding. Then I will know for sure that you love me.”
“You quit this job or else I am filing for a divorce. I’m out.”
“I love you because you make me happy and accept me for who I am.”
The last instance is the worst of them all. It comes so very well disguised in love and happiness that often the victim fails to identify that they are receiving love conditionally. Accepting someone for who they are, is an ideal scenario. However, making that a condition to offer love is not a good idea.
Here are some more examples.
“I love you only if you make me feel good.”
“I love you only if you are successful.”
“I love you only if you do what I tell you.”
“I love you only if you share my belief.”
“I love you only if you agree with me.”
“I love you only if you behave well.”
“I love you only if you support my bad habits.”
“I love you only if you maintain your good looks.”
“I love you only if you are great in bed.”
“I love you only if you love me.”
Unconditional love vs conditional love
While conditional love is love with strings attached, unconditional love is given without any expectations. In practical terms, this creates a huge difference between whether a person will receive love at all times, no matter what. What they do or don’t do, will not have any bearing on the love received, when it is a case of unconditional love.
A person receiving unconditional love feels safe, secure, and accepted in the relationship. They are confident that even if they do something wrong, they will not lose love or support.
On the other hand, a person receiving love conditionally will always feel insecure. There will be a lack of trust and stability in the relationship. They will feel compelled to play a certain role or fill a certain persona to qualify for love.
Here is a quick look at the two types of love.
|Unconditional love||Conditional love|
|Based on trust||Rooted in ego|
|Offers freedom||Need for control|
|No expectations||Comes with expectations|
|Feels complete||Searches for proof of love to feel complete|
|Unconcerned||Feels intimidated and threatened|
|Wants nothing in return||Needy and clingy|
|Feels secure in self||Envious and possessive|
12 signs of conditional love
If you are at the receiving end of conditional love, you can easily figure it out by looking out for these signs.
Sign 1: You feel that you aren’t good enough.
If you are constantly worrying about what more you can do to demonstrate your love and loyalty, it is a sure sign that you are receiving love conditionally. When you feel that you can never live up to the expectations, again, the love you are receiving is conditional.
If you are receiving love only in certain circumstances or upon satisfying some conditions, then it is conditional love.
Sign 2: You always feel drained.
The pressure to keep up to expectations or satisfy certain conditions can drain your energy both physically and mentally. You will always be thinking about ways to prove yourself. The mere thought of failing to meet the expectations or conditions can make you feel anxious and depressed.
When you are around this person, you can never be yourself and the extra effort of keeping up will be exhausting.
Sign 3: You feel uncomfortable in their presence.
As they drain your energy and make you feel insecure and worthless, you tend to dread their presence. You try your best to avoid being with them, especially alone. Often, they are on their best behavior when there is company.
If you want to avoid this person and feel uneasy and awkward around them, it is a sign of conditional love.
Sign 4: They display different personalities in public and private.
Whenever you have company and are in the presence of others, they are loving and caring towards you. They often exhibit over-the-top affection and attachment to you. However, when the crowd is gone and you are alone with them, their entire behavior undergoes a transformation. They are no longer affable and genial. They go back to their usual grumpy, complaining, and demanding selves.
When they use you to make themselves look good in front of others, it is conditional love.
Sign 5: They are proud of you in public but not in private.
They are ready to sing paeans to your merits, positive features, and achievements to others. However, when you are alone with them, they never say anything nice to you and use every opportunity to berate you and pull you down.
When someone uses you to boost their image in public but fails to appreciate your merits in private, it is a sign of conditional love.
Sign 6: They are jealous of you in your moments of glory.
They may try to steal your thunder when you taste success. They may act as if they are magnanimous and are enjoying you being in the spotlight. But in reality, they are jealous and resentful.
They would be seething inside when they are in public because they have to be at their best to maintain their good image. However, in private, they may ignore your achievement or even belittle or criticize you.
Sign 7: You feel gaslighted.
They will question your intelligence, beliefs, and sanity. They will twist your words and use them against you. They will do anything to gain the upper hand in the relationship. The use of the words “never” and “always” is considered prime evidence of being gaslighted.
Every time you try to raise your concerns or have a conversation, they will come back with “You are always blaming me when something goes wrong” or “You never take responsibility for your mistakes”.
Sign 8: They are always judging you.
Do you find them making disparaging comments about others? They always tend to find fault with what others do or who they are. Even if they are not saying anything about you to you in person, they may be talking the same way about you to others. Their judgmental comments about others may actually be intended for you. They may use their oblique comments about others to change your outlook.
Being judgmental is a clear sign that love is conditional.
Sign 9: They are always keeping scores.
“I did this, this, and that for you. Now it is your turn to return the favor”. This is one way of keeping score. Or else they may remind you of all your wrong deeds every time you raise a grievance or point out their mistakes. The worst way this can play out is when you accuse them of something and they turn the tables on you, saying you did the same on multiple occasions in the past.
A person who cannot treat the past as bygones can offer only conditional love.
Sign 10: You always feel the playing field is skewed.
The odds in the relationship are always stacked against you. You need to put in more effort to prove yourself. You need to constantly prove your love, loyalty, and affection, while this rule doesn’t apply to the other person.
You are made to feel inferior to the person. They use manipulation tactics to keep you under control and get what they want from you. You never feel that you are on the same level as them.
Sign 11: You feel that you cannot trust them.
As they switch their personalities in public and private, you are always feeling on the edge, insecure, and unsure of what to expect from them. Sometimes even in private, they put on their good behavior to get something from you or make you do something for them.
Their chameleon-like transformation will make you feel jittery and you find it hard to trust them.
Sign 12: You feel as if you are walking on eggshells.
You are so emotionally traumatized by the manipulative behavior that you always find yourself gauging their moods and emotional ups and downs. You never feel comfortable or confident enough to be yourself in their presence.
If you find yourself watching out for their tempers and dispositions, it is a clear sign of a conditional relationship.
8 signs of conditional love in a parent-child relationship
Instances of conditional relationships are more visible and more common in a parent’s relationship with their child. As the child is minor and dependent on the parent in every sense, there are more chances of this happening.
Here are some signs of conditional love specific to a parent-child relationship.
Sign 13: You are afraid to express yourself in their presence.
Parents often set rules and boundaries for their children. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as they are reasonable and the parents also play by the same rules. Imposing unreasonable restrictions for children and giving harsh punishments for transgressing them can make children scared of speaking out their thoughts and feelings.
Sign 14: They refuse to treat you as an adult.
It must have been alright to treat you like a 5-year-old when you were 5 years old. However, as you grow up, parents need to change their approach towards their children. If they fail to recognize this and continue to treat you as a child, imposing restrictions and conditions, the relationship will develop to be toxic.
This will get worse as the child grows up to an adult and the parent continues to treat them the same way.
Sign 15: You are always trying to be perfect.
Trying to keep up to the demands of your parent can create long-lasting damage to the personality of the child. You are always working harder, improving your behavior, and getting better at everything you attempt to prove to your parents that you are worthy of their love.
All these attempts to be an overachiever or highly successful can turn you into a perfectionist.
Sign 16: You find yourself wondering whether your parents say negative things about you to others.
This is a sign that you are not sure of your parents’ unconditional love. As your parents change their behavior as the situation demands, you feel constantly on the edge. You feel insecure and unsure of their support and love. As you have seen how your parents react to you in private, you can’t stop yourself from wondering whether they talk behind your back.
Sign 17: Their expectations for you are as high as Mount Everest.
As you try to keep up with their demands for perfection from you, their expectations also begin to go up. The more you try to match up to their expectation, the higher it rises. The worst experience is when you fail. The parents tend to come down on you like a ton of bricks, taking you apart and berating you. This will add more pressure on you, which is not a good sign.
Sign 18: They ask you to shut up.
Every time you approach them with your concerns, instead of sitting down for open conversations, they will brush you aside and ask you to shut up. Their reasons can be as varying as ”I don’t want to have this conversation” to “You’re a drama queen. Don’t be ridiculous.”
Sign 19: They belittle your accomplishments.
In fact, in public, they may use your achievements to garner attention and praise. But in private, they will either ignore it altogether or worse still, ridicule or make fun of your triumphs. If they feel that your achievements won’t bring them glory in the public eye, they are more likely to ignore it completely, besides berating you in private.
Sign 20: Your parents have a troubled relationship.
When there is an imbalance in their relationship with each other, it can reflect on their behavior towards you. If they are constantly criticizing each other, gaslighting, manipulating, or condemning each other, it will result in them establishing their own superiority over the other. The turmoil in their life and relationship can be infectious and transfer to their relationship with you.
Under no circumstances conditional love can be justified or is acceptable. Someone offering conditional love has a flawed personality and their defective behavior will destroy their relationship as well as the life of the other person.
If you feel you have been at the receiving end of conditional love, you can do something about it. Setting up healthy boundaries is your best defense against conditional love. It can prevent you from getting too affected by the behavior of the other person. However, for a child, this may not always be a possible choice.
In between all these experiences, you should try not to lose your belief in unconditional love. It does exist in this world. Continue searching for it and you will find it in the most inconceivable and unconventional places.