Entertainment Love and Romance Saying "I Do" Isn't a Promise Of Unconditional Love Share PINTEREST Email Print Moment/Joe Regan/Getty Images Love and Romance Divorce Relationships Sexuality Teens LGBTQ Friendship By Cathy Meyer University of Florida Cathy Meyer is a certified divorce coach, marriage educator, freelance writer, and founding editor of DivorcedMoms.com. As a divorce mediator, she provides clients with strategies and resources that enable them to power through a time of adversity. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Cathy Meyer Updated July 14, 2017 Don't Confuse Marital Love With Unconditional Love You’ve said, “I do” and promised to love for “better or for worse,” but did you mean it? Because, saying “I do” isn't a promise of unconditional love. You’re probably shocked that I asked the question. “Of course I meant it. I’m married”, you think. But vows are simply words, nothing more. Vows are said, but vows can be broken. There is no ironclad agreement on this planet that will keep a couple together, forever, whether we like this fact or not. Too often, vows are simply lip service. This isn’t to say that people don’t wholeheartedly mean them when they’re standing there with the person they love in front of their family and friends. This is to say that more often than not as time goes on, people forget their vows. People forget that they promised to love “for better or worse,” when truly unconditional love is hard to come by! And it’s hard to do! A mother or father has unconditional love for his or her children. Meaning that no matter how wonderful or not wonderful a person’s kids are, the love is unwavering and unrelenting. I’m willing to bet that even Charles Manson and Kayne West’s parents love them unconditionally, even if one is a sociopathic murderer and the other an arrogant narcissist. However, finding another adult to love unconditionally is a challenge. It’s not impossible of course, (how damning would that be?) but it’s difficult. If it weren’t a challenge, true love wouldn’t be so special because we would all have such easy access to it that perhaps we might not value it as we do in today’s day. Love Is Hard Work: The fact is, loving someone is a fine craft that must be tailored and adjusted over time. Yes, real love is work—but never hard labor. It’s an effort to love, but should never feel like slave labor. To really love someone unconditionally, over time, means a commitment to continually discover new things about your partner and for your partner to commit to discovering new things about him or herself. The same goes for you! You need to put energy into discovering new things about you and sharing who you are as a person and who you are “growing” into. Accepting the changes in one another and loving each other for who you are and will be is what unconditional love is about: not some marriage license or ring on your finger. Not some cliché “for better or worse” phrase. Bottom line? Vows mean zilch on their own. Vows don’t come to life until you live them and not simply for the first few years of marriage, but continuously, every single day. Sometimes though, loving someone for all he or she is, is the absolute worst thing you could do! How so, you ask? Loving someone unconditionally is toxic when the person you love is an addict, cheater, or an abuser. Loving someone no matter how he or she treats you for better or worse is not what love is supposed to be about. It’s not love at all actually: it’s dependence. Parents can love their children even if they’re a sociopath like I said before. But if you’ve said your vows with a man or woman whose behaviors range from cheating to using drugs, it’s time to reconsider those vows. It’s time to say, “Maybe not, for better or for worse.” If you’ve solemnly sworn to die with your partner and his or her way of showing you love is by cheating, abusing, lying or any other toxic behavior, it’s time to break those vows and the notion they mean unconditional love. Love Can Be Destructive: No matter what you say or swear, no one should be married to destruction. No one should willingly raise his or her hand and say, “I married this person, so now I need to stay in this ugly toxic situation for life.” Remember, marital vows mean nothing until you’re living them and if you’re married to someone who is married to bad behaviors, then it is time to divorce yourself from that person and their toxic behaviors. Vows are only as good as the two people who say and live them. Never feel guilty for leaving someone and not loving someone unconditionally who is toxic or abusive. Too many people feel stuck by the legal or religious commitment they made and the connotations that those marital vows have to leave a bad apple when they should. No one is holding you hostage to this person. Not even the law. There is a way out and if you love yourself, unconditionally, then you should set yourself free. And that’s the real moral of the story: the person you must love unconditionally is you first and foremost, otherwise what kind of a partner will you be? You can stand up in front of the whole town and promise to love someone for eternity but if you don’t love yourself, the words are just air.