The problem with an unconditional marriage

Unconditional love, by definition, is love regardless of conditions. It’s love “no matter what.”

It might sound fantastic in fairy tales, but I’m extremely skeptical of this kind of love in real marriages… to the point of being violently opposed to it. Think about this with me for a few minutes.

Suppose I’m considering marrying Sally, and I think, “Yep, I love Sally unconditionally. I’m going to try to marry Sally.”

Well, if I’m going the unconditional love route, then I want to make sure unconditional love is even possible. To test that, I change up some conditions.

[Bare with me here. This quickly gets brutal.]

Let’s say Sally is exactly the same as normal except… her hair color is different.

Fine. No big deal, right? I can still totally love her unconditionally.

Okay, now let’s say Sally is exactly the same as normal except… her teeth aren’t straight.

Fine. No big deal, right? I can still totally love her unconditionally.

Okay, now let’s say Sally is exactly the same as normal except…

  • She gains 50 pounds… or
  • She loses a hand… or
  • She’s missing a leg… or
  • She’s missing both legs and both arms… or
  • She’s horribly burned from head to toe… or
  • She lies to me about everything… or
  • She cheats on me… or
  • She accuses me of some crazy crime and takes my kids away from me… or
  • She kills my mom…

And so on and so on. This gets so crazy insane it’s almost ridiculous to consider. But really, if I’m going with unconditional love here, then this isn’t that insane. Because after all, I’m just changing up the conditions, and conditions don’t affect unconditional love.

I seriously doubt I would make it through all that, even if I say I would as I sit here in front of my computer before it all hits the fan. But maybe I would.

But let’s throw another twist into the deal, the twist that really nags at me.

Instead of making conditions presumably worse, what if we change Sally’s conditions to appear more like, say, Sue’s?

So now we’re saying Sally is exactly the same as normal except…

  • Her hairstyle is just like Sue’s… or
  • She comes from a different family, Sue’s family… or
  • She has an accent just like Sue… or
  • She enjoys gardening as much as Sue… or
  • Her favorite candy is Sue’s favorite candy… or
  • All of the above and so on until Sally is just like Sue

In each of these cases as the conditions change, I want to be able to say I still love Sally unconditionally. But when it comes down to it, a huge question arises:

If the marriage is really unconditional, I can marry anyone, right?

Because I could just change conditions one at a time until the person I planned to marry, Sally, is a totally different person… perhaps even the exact same as some other person, Sue.

So suddenly, if I’m loving unconditionally, I might as well love everyone, which is fine as long as we’re just talking love, not a monogamous marriage.

See, when we’re talking monogamous marriage, a choice has to be made between the two. Problem is, if we’re setting aside conditions, what’s the difference between Sally and Sue?

And therein lies the problem with an unconditional marriage:

  • I can go down the path of unconditional love, but then it doesn’t matter who I chose to marry.


  • I can give up on unconditional love and base my decision on at least some condition, which means choosing actually makes sense.

In truth, I think most people go the second route. Their marriage is totally conditional.

Okay, fine… we’ve now come full circle back to what some of you might have known from the beginning: unconditional love doesn’t happen in marriages.

But it’s stronger than that. Based on what I’ve just talked about, not only does unconditional love NOT happen in marriages, it should NOT happen. Because if it is unconditional, then the choice is meaningless.

Once you’re willing to admit that love is and should be based on at least some condition – as I am – then you can move on to the next question: what condition(s) are you or should you base it on?