7 subtle signs of unconditional love in relationship, according to psychology

Pearl Nash by Pearl Nash | June 16, 2024, 3:10 pm

Let’s be honest with each other for a second.

It’s easy to love someone when they’re doing great. Falling in love with someone who seems to have their life sorted out is pretty amazing – together, you get to create a bubble of positivity that reinforces itself until you both want to burst with happiness.

But successful long-term relationships aren’t based on good vibes. They’re all about loyalty, devotion, and hard work. They’re about overcoming challenges as a team.

And there will be plenty of them. That’s just a fact. Life is full of ups and downs, and romantic relationships are no different.

So, what are the subtle signs of unconditional love in a relationship?

Here’s your answer.

1) You stand by each other through tough times

According to experts, there is innumerable value in receiving support from our closest ones, including our partners, when we’re going through a rough patch.

But let’s be frank – it doesn’t really take an expert to figure that one out. It’s pretty obvious that we rely on others when we struggle, be it for emotional support or practical advice.

And yet plenty of couples have trouble in that department.

Take one of my past relationships, for instance.

When I was doing great, my partner contributed to my happiness, magnifying it and making everything even better.

The moment I struggled, though – I was stressed during exams, fell ill, or had an important friendship fall apart – his lack of support made me feel sadder and more helpless.

I couldn’t rely on him to be there for me when I needed him most. His emotional presence was built upon the condition that I had to be happy in order to receive it.

If you and your partner are the complete opposite of that – if you help each other out no matter what and if you run to one another when all hell breaks loose, knowing you will hold each other through it all – it’s the first sign your love is pure and unconditional.

2) You forgive and let go

“Scientists who study forgiveness have long agreed that it is one of the most important contributors to a healthy relationship,” writes Lisa Firestone Ph.D. “Studies have shown that couples who practice forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer, more satisfying romantic relationships.”

She adds, “Research has even found that people who practice unconditional forgiveness are more likely to enjoy longer lives.”

Pretty cool, huh?

Forgiveness is an integral part of unconditional love. It’s also incredibly hard, I know.

But it’s important to accept that your partner will inevitably make mistakes; that they will sometimes get it wrong; that they’re imperfect humans who live life for the first and last time, just like everybody else.

Here’s how to tell you genuinely forgive your partner and let go after they’ve done something hurtful:

  • You take the time to process your feelings
  • You have a proper conversation with your partner about it, receive a genuine apology, and see that they have committed to change
  • You understand why they did what they did, and although they made a mistake, you get their point of view
  • You slowly find yourself forgiving them and leaving the conflict in the past
  • You don’t bring it up during arguments anymore – you truly let it go

Forgiveness is a messy and long process, but it’s also the only way to move past wrongdoings and mistakes.

Please note: If your partner makes a mistake that you consider to be a deal-breaker, forgiveness isn’t necessarily a requirement – after all, you can always part ways if the wound is too great.

3) You don’t run away from one another’s vulnerability

Healthy romantic relationships are built upon a foundation of vulnerability, trust, and safety.

And that’s not easy. In fact, laying yourself bare is probably one of the scariest things there are. Here you are, opening up to another person about the darkest parts of you, unsure whether they will accept you in your entirety or not.

As Lissa Rankin M.D. says, “To expose our wounds to people we care about – the icky stuff, the ego stuff, the personal growth edges we’re working on that we haven’t yet mastered – is super vulnerable.”

On a positive note, she also writes that “if, instead of judging ourselves and others, we can find compassion for the ugly parts in ourselves and each other, we can start to feel more love and intimacy.”

Compassion is the key word here.

If you and your partner feel compassion for each other’s ugly sides; if you hold space for one another’s darkness and therefore feel safe to open up about your deepest wounds and fears; if you get genuinely vulnerable and still love one another…

It’s another sign your love is unconditional.

4) You accept each other for who you are…

Nobody’s perfect. 

I’ve known that since I first heard Hannah Montana say it on Disney Channel (those were the days, huh?).

And yet.

Yet plenty of people try to mould their partners to their own image, setting up impossible expectations and getting angry when their loved ones don’t meet them.

Yet many of us are so insecure that we must pick on our partners, try to get them to change, and not see them for who they truly are.

Don’t date someone who isn’t a good match for you just because you think you can teach them how to be your perfect soulmate.

It doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

If you love each other unconditionally, you see one another’s authentic self and embrace it, from core values to political opinions, lifestyle, friendship circles, and character traits.

5) …but you also push each other to evolve and thrive

Careful.

There is a difference between accepting someone’s personality and tolerating all their behavior, no matter how disrespectful or hurtful.

What’s more, it’s important to be able to distinguish between when your partner needs to be accepted and when they should be pushed out of their comfort zone and offered critical feedback.

Someone who loves you for you isn’t just going to stand by your side even if they think you’re clearly in the wrong. No, they will tell you the unadulterated truth – not because they want to but because they know it’s what’s best for you.

In fact, a partner who is honest with you even when it puts both of you in an uncomfortable position is someone who obviously loves you to bits because they’re willing to put themselves in the line of fire just to see you grow and thrive.

Both acceptance and criticism are gestures of love.

6) You give one another the benefit of the doubt

One of the reasons many relationships fall apart is that people tend to have impossibly high expectations and inaccurate assumptions about their partners.

Instead of seeing the reality for what it is – an incomplete picture that needs further clarification – they make rash decisions based on insufficient data and firm conditions.

For example, you might think that your partner is unusually quiet because they’re mad at you. Since you expect your significant other to communicate clearly when there’s an issue, you may get upset, thinking that they are acting immature and refusing to talk to you.

If you ask them about it in a respectful and non-confrontational way, however, you might soon find out that they just ran out of social batteries and had quite a rough day at work. Their mood has nothing to do with you.

This is why couples who love unconditionally tend to give each other the benefit of the doubt. They try not to make assumptions and not to hold their partners to impossible expectations.

Instead, they have conversations. They communicate. And they eventually come to an understanding.

7) You love each other as you evolve through time

The person you’re dating right now is very different from the person they’ll be in three or thirty years.

This is quite a scary thought. How can you be sure you’re committing to the right person if you never know who they’ll become?

The truth is, you can’t. And that’s okay. 

As long as you’ve got your partner’s core values and traits nailed down, unconditional love does the rest – it opens up a door to the acceptance of uncertainty, firm loyalty, and devotion stronger than fear.

There is a reason why wedding vows are all about future promises. That is where true unconditional love dwells – in the decision to love all versions of your partner that are to come.