What Is Unconditional Love? How To Know If You’ve Found It

Unconditional love: the often-elusive holy grail of relationships.

But what is it? And how do you know if you’ve found it?

Some argue that “unconditional love” is simply what we should know as love. It doesn’t get bought. It doesn’t owe you anything. It doesn’t have to be proven. It’s not selfish or at the mercy of circumstance.

Unconditional love is the active choice to love someone no matter what may come your way. Echoing those traditional wedding vows, it remains “in sickness and in health” and doesn’t waver when life gets tough.

In unconditional love, satisfaction comes from putting someone else first and prioritizing their health and happiness with no expectation of reward for yourself. Experts agree that this is only possible if you first practice unconditional love with yourself: if you know you’re worthy of love and see value in yourself, you won’t be dependent on your partner for your sense of self-worth.

Note: “Unconditional love” is not and should not be an excuse to stay in an unhealthy relationship. Even when you love someone wholeheartedly and accept them for who they are, healthy boundaries are essential. Unconditional love means that you love someone regardless of circumstance, but not regardless of how they treat you. Sometimes loving someone also requires making tough decisions and letting them go.

Here are 32 ways to know you’ve found unconditional love:

1. When you admit your failings, your partner doesn’t shame or judge you.

2. When you get vulnerable, your partner responds with empathy and encouragement and tries to allay your fears.

3. You can tell each other the truth — even when it’s uncomfortable.

4. When you wrong each other, you actively pursue restitution and the rebuilding of trust.

5. You can forgive each other freely.

6. You don’t pick fights about petty things or hold grudges. Even when arguing, you respect each other and aim for a healthy resolution.

7. You don’t feel like you have to prove yourself (or your love) to your partner.

8. Your partner genuinely puts your needs first without the expectation of getting anything in return.

9. Your partner’s selflessness inspires your own — and vice versa.

10. You can let down your guard and be completely yourself in front of your partner.

11. Your partner can let down his guard in front of you. (He might not cry or admit embarrassment in front of anyone else.)

12. Your partner encourages and inspires you to be the best version of yourself.

13. You both see each other’s full potential — and are each other’s greatest cheerleaders.

14. You celebrate each other’s successes and get through hard times as a team.

15. You feel deep empathy for your partner.

16. Even on bad days, you trust that your partner loves and accepts you for who you are.

17. You sense that your partner wants you to pursue the things you’re passionate about. You can take risks and know they’re in your corner.

18. You feel safe. You feel “at home” when you’re with your partner.

19. Your partner doesn’t just listen when you talk about your anxieties, he encourages you to do so.

20. You are both fully yourselves when you’re together.

21. You bring out the best in each other.

22. You are not codependent. Neither depends on the other for their sense of self-esteem, nor do you enable unhealthy habits or thought patterns.

23. You respect each other — especially when you disagree or let each other down.

24. You both value communication and consider the relationship’s health a priority.

25. When you make compromises in the relationship, you’re still respecting your own values and boundaries.

26. Neither of you plays games. You don’t withhold love or affection to get what you want.

27. You want to demonstrate your love for your partner with both words and actions throughout the day. (Even on a bad day, you might still buy them a coffee or text them a word of encouragement before their big meeting.)

28. You extend patience and compassion to your partner when they’re going through a rough time — and know not to take their temporary bad mood personally.

29. You find satisfaction in the act of loving her, no strings attached.

30. You don’t try to shield your partner from pain. Instead, you support him and share in it with him.

31. You’re proud of each other. When you’re not together, you only speak kindly of each other.

32. You know you’re both in it for the long haul. You want to grow old with your partner, and are ready to do life together — no matter what the future holds.

How did you know you found unconditional love?