Unconditional Love: Being A Doormat Or The Purest Form Of Love?

Unconditional Love - Getting The Definition Right

What Is Unconditional Love?

Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, it can also be love without conditions. This term is sometimes associated with other terms such as true altruism, or complete love.

We need to understand that what is considered as love is generally a mutual benefit scheme. “You give me this and I give you that. If you don’t give me this, I don’t give you that.” This is not said but it is done.

Platonic Versus Romantic Unconditional Love?

We’ve all heard what unconditional love means when it comes to platonic love – like the feeling that a mother has for her baby or what a puppy has for its owner… their love is not qualified by the qualities of the other, they just love them.

Unconditional Love - Platonic Versus Romantic Unconditional Love

But what about romantic love? Can unconditional love as a concept be applied to love in the romantic sense? One might argue that romantic love at its very heart is selfish – we are in love because we find the other person beautiful or they provide for us, or even that they make us feel whole – fulfilling a selfish need.

[Read More: What Is The Difference Between Love And Like?]

A Not-So-Selfish Species

Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.
– Richard Dawkins

On the other hand, we as humans like to think that we do not love for purely selfish reasons. In fact, we do many things every day that prove this idea. We make sacrifices like not picking the movie or food we want, instead choosing to go with the picks of our partners because it makes them happy. Here, our love does not depend on them agreeing with us or choosing our favourite things, we just
want them to be happy, ergo, we love them unconditionally.

It may seem trivial, but the point does stand. But the question here is, is unconditional love the right way to love or will it lead to us getting “used” as is so often the case? Let’s find out.

Unconditional Love: Sadhguru’s Take

We have a culture here in India where by choice, people name themselves as slaves. You know Tulsidas, Krishnadas, or any other kind of “das”? They openly say, “I’m a slave.” They are not afraid of being used as a doormat.
  – Sadhguru

“Instead of making ugly transactions in the sense of ‘You give me this, I give you that,’ we bring some aesthetics and beauty to it by coating it with a certain amount of sweetness of emotion which we call a love affair.”

Those are the words of Sadhguru who goes on to clarify that while relationships are a mutual-benefit scheme – both anthropologically and culturally – we raise children, set up support systems, make sure to not grow old alone and fulfil a longing for a bond, but we also like to do it the “right way.”

Unconditional Love - A Not-So-Selfish Species

He compares it to eating food with both hands – it gets the job done but it’s crude and no culture likes to eat that way. So Sadhguru argues that while we form bonds to fulfill certain basic human needs, we like to do it in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to us.

While Sadhguru calls these “arrangements” a “fact of life,” he also points out that not all are ready or even have the capacity to carry out such an association – that of forging two lives into one and setting up an “ultimate union” and a family.

Reaching The Stage Of Unconditional Love..

When someone else’s happiness is your happiness, that is love.
 – Lana Del Rey

Sadhguru says that while most, if not all relationships, begin with the stage of mutual benefit, many transform into those of unconditional love, where at least one of the partners is willing to do anything for the other, and “isn’t worried about being used as a doormat at all.” He clarifies that if anyone wished to reach the higher plane in their relationship, they have to let go of the idea of being used. In fact, they openly admit that they’re a slave for the other and embrace such a fact willingly.

Unconditional Love - Reaching The Stage Of Unconditional Love

Hence, if one is not afraid of being humiliated, one does not consider such a thing shameful or to be avoided, then they cannot be hurt by “being used.” To them, such a concept doesn’t even exist. He says that those looking for the ultimate union need not think about “If you don’t give me this, I don’t give you that” because it causes resentment, competition and keeping count, all of which will be the end of the relationship much before any accusations of being used will.

“Without being vulnerable, there is no love affair. You have to fall,” clarifies Sadhguru. When you fall, “someone might raise you or walk over you.” Food for thought indeed.

[Read More: What Is Immature Love? ]

What Actually Matters In A Relationship.

“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
 – Epicurus

To understand Sadhguru’s take on a relationship, you have to understand the core principle he is talking about here – that of the experience of falling. Those who embrace unconditional love let themselves go to the feeling of love and not in the dream that they’ll get something beautiful from it in return – like a family, sexual relief, companionship etc.

What they are actually concerned with is the fact that they love this person so much they’re willing to let go of any inhibitions for them and surrender themselves completely to that feeling – not what the other does for them or how they treat them.

Unconditional Love - What Actually Matters In A Relationship

According to Sadhguru, that is taking the power out of your own hands and putting it in the hands of the other, giving them power over your life, even though it seems to be the opposite (which is why we do it).

It may not be easy to identify with such a position, but it is the most rewarding according to the revered guru. He says that the time you knew you were ready to be the dust at another’s feet – a most powerful feeling – is the greatest of them all, not when they said this or that about you, and not when they bought you nice things or anything of the sort.

Why Love Is Never Purely Selfish?

A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbour’s.
 – Richard Whately

When we fall in love, we are transformed and we are vulnerable. The very act of letting someone else know that they have power over us means that we have let some control of ourselves go and opened ourselves up for hurt.

Still, we hold some power over ourselves and there is some semblance of sanity in the madness of love, there is a chance for “recovery” so to speak. If that’s hard to understand, consider this.
When you fall in love with someone, you are vulnerable and you love them even if they hurt you – a little bit unconditionally by its very definition.

Unconditional Love - Why Love Is Never Purely Selfish

Which is why it hurts so much to let go of someone even if they were (according to you, of course) someone who treated you badly and didn’t behave in the way that is to be expected of a romantic partner (there were no returns for you).

If love was a purely selfish act then it would never hurt letting go of people who aren’t “right” for us, we have nothing to gain from that association after all! But still, for most people in this world, letting go of even a “bad” relationship is one of the hardest things to do because we love the other person, regardless of how they behaved with us.

And still, for most relationships, there’s a chance of recovery.

Being In Love Versus Being A Devotee

To be wholly devoted to some exercise is to have succeeded in life.
  – Robert Louis Stevenson

“The madness of devotion” as Sadhguru likes to call it is when there is no sanity left and you cannot recover. The spiritual guru is quick to claim that you cannot just become a devotee because you have taken it upon yourself or ascribed to yourself a particular system of beliefs – like the fact that you unconditionally love someone – you are just drawn to it.

It is here that Sadhguru draws the main difference between normal love and unconditional love – but we’ll come back to that in a minute. First, let us see what being a devotee means exactly.

“A devotee is not somebody’s devotee. Devotion is a quality.” Which means that you cannot just become a devotee of the person of your choosing, no matter whether it is a spiritual guru like Sadhguru himself, or your chosen God, or even your beloved spouse.

It is a quality, a feeling, a state of being that comes from within. You are drawn to such a thing so much that you are lost within it, caring little for anything else, caring little even for what will become of you.

Normal And Unconditional Love: The Difference

“Of course love is never earned. It is a grace we give one another. Anything we need to earn is only approval.”
  – Rachel Naomi Remen

Some, like Rachel Naomi Remen, as evidenced by that particular excerpt from her book Kitchen Table Wisdom believe that “unconditional love” is a redundant term, for if one is being loved on the condition that we get good grades, perform our household duties or provide for the household throughout our lives without a single blip, then what we’re getting is not love but merely approval which is much less important in the grand scheme of things.

Others, like Sadhguru, have a more nuanced view of unconditional love, and it comes from something we visited in a previous section of this article – that unconditional love does not require a guaranteed, favourable outcome.

Meaning one who loves because her husband protects or provides or one who enjoys the companionship and mothering care his wife provides (both to him and their children) are still experiencing love – but it is conditional in nature. It is very likely – as evidenced by thousands of examples in history – that if the nature of their relationship were to change for some reason, their feelings would very likely change as well.

Unconditional Love - Normal And Unconditional Love: The Difference

To call such a love selfish or untrue, or not even worthy of being called love might seem harsh by some. After all, why would anyone love someone when they didn’t get love (or sex, or safety or security, or…) in return?

And the answer to that is where unconditional love comes in. Unconditional love is when you’re so drawn towards that which you revere, that which you love, that you’re the least bit concerned about the final outcome – you’re merely devoted to someone – and “you don’t think about whether you become a doormat or a crown on someone’s head.”

                                                                            [Read More: Definitions Of Love ]

It is a different and higher plane of existence and should not even be attempted by someone looking for a “domestic level of love affair” according to Sadhguru.

The question of being a doormat isn’t relevant here because it doesn’t even arise. It is of no importance. The only thing that is important is being near your love.

Hence, Sadhguru leaves us with a stern warning – unconditional love is not for those looking for marital happiness. As he says:

“This kind of love is for ultimate union and not just for domestic purposes. If you are looking for ultimate union, love is a different affair. If you are looking for a way to conduct domestic affairs, then you must manage with dignity “who gets what.”

Images: Istock