I have recently had some debate on this question with some of my San Francisco colleagues so thought it a good topic for further discussion. In my view and orientation of Love Therapy, unconditional love can only be given when one first loves them self.
Unconditional love is not to be confused with allowing the other person to treat you poorly. When one loves themselves unconditionally, they are no longer in a place of wounding. And are thereby freed from the irrational, out of control reactions that cause self-sabotage and an inability to calmly and rationally set boundaries.
Fearless and unconditional love
It is first and foremost about the self. Once you accept yourself for all that you are without fears. Or conditions that society, family, or ego places on you. You are able to accept others without fear or conditions in an agape sense of the word. Wikipedia defines agape as:
“…often translated “unconditional love“, is one of the Koine Greek words translated into English as love… love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one’s fellow man….”
Loving and accepting yourself unconditionally not only gives you the ability to lovingly set boundaries for yourself, but sets up a natural condition for you to start setting boundaries, not only if, but especially because you love someone unconditionally…. case in point, children.
There are times when setting boundaries means a permanent separation or divorce. If you truly love someone, it doesn’t do them any good to accept poor behavior. You either set boundaries (aka “conditions”) from a loving place or from a fear based place. This difference can have profound effects on the relationship even if only one person is practicing it. You can still love someone, even unconditionally (i.e. no matter what they do) even when you don’t want them in your life – this is easier to see in parent / child relationships. The point is, you can set boundaries and have “conditions” within the frame of unconditional love.
This is somewhat of a paradigm shift. The movement is from “you have to change if you love me” to “I have to tell you what makes me feel loved”. Once I’ve told you I can then decide if this relationship is one that makes me happy or not.