Unconditional love is a love without limitation. When you love someone unconditionally, you love them no matter what life may throw your way. You love them even through the struggles the two of you endure, the temptations that test you both, and the mistakes either of you may make along the way. It may sound simple, but can be a truly treacherous road as well as a beautiful example of true love.

It’s important not to let the bounds of unconditional love become obscured, as it often can in unhealthy relationships. Many abusive partners fill their significant others who are threatening to leave with guilt by reminding them of this “unconditional love” they promised each other. The relationship may have started as a comfortable, joyous, wonderful love—but turned into an all-consuming, unhealthy, abusive one, whether it be physically or emotionally cruel. And if that’s the case, it’s important for the victim to take notice and gain the strength to get out. Unfortunately, it’s not always so easy for these victims to recognize the difference between a devoted love and a love gone wrong. But there is a difference between, “I’ll stick by your side for better or for worse” and “I’ll stick by your side no matter how much you hurt me.” Here are some examples:

Examples of What Unconditional Love Is

  • You and your significant other have just been evicted from your apartment, after a long month of trying to pay the bills. You stand by each other and make other arrangements until you can afford to pay for a place again. You don’t place blame on each other, but do your best to comfort and lift each other up.
  • You’ve found out that you got the job promotion you’ve been vying for—the only thing is it now demands a move across the country. You tell your girlfriend and she is nothing but supportive. She knew how much you wanted this position and promises that you’ll stay strong in a long-distance relationship until you’re able to live on the same coast again.
  • Over the past few months, you haven’t been able to gain control over your weight gain. This week you step on the scale and you’re 10 more pounds than you were last month. Your boyfriend tells you that he doesn’t care how much you weigh—you’re beautiful no matter what. He says he’ll support you whether you want to lose the weight or not, as long as you stay healthy.
  • Your girlfriend has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. This was always a fear of hers, as it runs in her family and her aunt was recently diagnosed. You vow to go with her to every treatment. To love her even without hair or strength. And you stick to those promises because you love her unconditionally.

Examples of What Unconditional Love Isn’t

  • You haven’t had time to go to the gym lately because all your time has been consumed by your new job. Your body’s noticeably losing tone and you’ve felt a little pudgy lately. Your boyfriend tells you that you look horrible and he won’t go out with you in public until you get back to the gym and lose a few pounds. Although his comments sting, you do your best to brush them off your shoulder—you love him no matter what.
  • You realize that you haven’t spent any time with your friends lately because you’ve been caught up in your new relationship. You miss them greatly and make plans to visit them for the weekend. But when you tell your girlfriend she becomes angry and tells you she doesn’t want you to go, she doesn’t trust you. This becomes routine and suddenly you feel trapped in a world without anyone but your girlfriend—you’ve abandoned your friends and barely speak to your family at her request.
  • You and your significant other have gotten into the habit of fighting over every little thing. Sometimes the fights end in him throwing things around the house and threatening to hurt you. You’re scared, but you’re more scared of losing him—and you promised you would never leave him or let anything come between you.
  • It’s been about a year now since you’ve been dating your new girlfriend. Everything’s great until something you do upsets her—whether it be forgetting to start the dishwasher, or getting home from work a little late. She responds by punishing you with the silent treatment, and throwing every insult she can think of at you. You know it’s gotten to be too hurtful, but you can’t help but love her.

The Truth About Love

Love is never cruel or abusive. Although a relationship may face jealousy, anger, resentment, and sadness, abuse is never the answer. And once it enters into a relationship, no matter how flawless the relationship may have been at one point, it’s time to stop and get help. Nobody deserves to be treated with intentional harm where a beautiful love is meant to be—so make sure you know the difference between unconditional love and an unsafe, impure one. And don’t hesitate to leave it behind.