11 Relationship Mistakes Your Partner Might Make If They Don’t Love You Unconditionally
We all want to be with someone who loves us just as we are. Someone who sees our quirks and understands them, someone who knows we aren't perfect and is OK with it, and someone who wants to make a relationship work, even when things aren't 100 percent easy. This is what's known as having "unconditional positive regard" for your partner. When that doesn't exist in a relationship, you might notice patterns that show your partner doesn't love you unconditionally. They might drop hints that they aren't fully invested in the relationship, or show signs that they don't truly appreciate you. And it can make it seem like the relationship isn't going to work out.
But the good news is, positive regard can be improved. "Positive regard and healthy 'conditions' for love and companionship can always be worked on," Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, of Couples Counseling Today, tells Bustle. "Couples do well if they foster an atmosphere of respect and kindness by learning how to see themselves from the outside and see their [significant other] from the inside."
That's why, if your partner keeps making these mistakes, it doesn't necessarily mean the relationship is doomed. It is, however, a good idea to keep an eye on the signs below, since experts say they can reveal the true dynamics of your relationship.
1. They Criticize You All The Time
If your partner is quick to criticize your every move, there may be an underlying reason for that. And more often than not, experts say it's one that doesn't bode well for the future of your relationship.
As Derichs says, if your partner "criticizes you and finds subtle and obvious ways to send you the message that 'you aren't good enough' just the way you are and they'd like you to change," it's likely they don't have that unconditional positive regard mentioned above.
While all couples get on each other's nerves occasionally, constant criticism may be a sign your partner has something negative on their mind or isn't fully invested in the relationship, so it'll be important to talk about it. If you decide to stay together, make a pact that you'll work together to better yourselves. It's possible to make an effort to become a more compatible couple, Derichs says, without trying to change the other person.
2. They Minimize Your Needs
When someone isn't fully invested in their relationship, Derichs says it'll be easier for them to "minimize their partners needs and feelings," possibly because these feelings seem "too intense, too messy, too depressing."
The thing is, when a person loves their partner unconditionally, they will have an easier time weathering life's ups and downs. That's not to say that they can't or shouldn't establish boundaries, when it comes to helping their partner. But they'll be much more likely to.
3. They Sometimes Keep You At Arm's Length
As Derichs says, if "your partner ... keeps you in a 'box' and doesn't integrate you in their life and sees no need to be part of yours, aside from the time you spend alone together," then it may be a sign they don't have unconditional positive regard.
This is something you can work on as a couple, if it's bothering you. Simply talking about it, and letting your partner know how important it is that you be a part of their life, can bring about change. If you talk about it and they still keep you at arm's length, however, it may be a sign they aren't as invested as you'd like them to be.
4. They "Keep Score" During Arguments
The healthiest of long-term relationships stay that way because both partners know how and when to let things slide. They aren't keeping score, or arguing over every little thing. And they value keeping the peace.
That's why, if your partner is one to "keep score" in arguments, it may be a sign feelings are mismatched. "Having a constant reminder from your [significant other] that you are flawed and make too many mistakes is a way to control, shame, and manipulate," Derichs says. "Unconditional positive regard nurtures your strengths. Toxic conditional ones focus on your weaknesses." Again, the best way to address this problem is talk it through together, but if the situation is turning toxic, it may be best to walk away.
5. They Always Put Themselves First
Another important aspect of a healthy, long-term relationship is having the ability — and the desire — to put your partner first. "When someone loves you they will want to think of you not because they have to," but because they want to, licensed therapist and relationship expert Rose Lawrence, LPCC tells Bustle. "While some individuals may suffer from what I call 'me-itis' ... if those individuals are willing to learn that’s a great thing. However, once they are given some time to learn or catch on, if there is zero improvement then that is a sure sign they are not in the love boat with you."
6. They Forget Important Moments Or Events
If your partner forgets that it's your anniversary, it certainly doesn't mean they don't love you, or that your relationship is destined to fail. But if it's becoming a pattern, it may be a mistake worth looking into.
"A partner who is fully invested won’t constantly forget anniversary dates, birthdays, or the time [they are] meeting you at the movies," Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and co-founder of Double Trust Dating and Relationships, tells Bustle. "This also includes remembering to respond to texts. If your partner is always forgetting things that matter to you, it’s a sign you’re not a priority." It could be that there are other things preoccupying your partner's mind, but if it's beginning to frustrate you, bring it up with them to find out why.
7. They Aren't Sure What's Important To You
While it's always possible to learn more about each other, it's important that you both know each other's core values — at the very least. "If you are fully invested in another person, you should know what [they like and value], from core beliefs down to favorite type of wine," says Bennett. "If your partner still doesn’t know this information about you after a long time, [they] probably lack a high level of investment."
It's important not to jump to conclusions, though, since it could just mean they aren't the type of person who remembers such things. If your partner seems to be a bit flaky, you should talk about it. You'll be able to figure out the root cause of their forgetfulness, by simply asking.
8. They Live In The Past
"If your partner dredges up the past for whatever reason, it shows that they don’t let things go," psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "They may hold on to the past and not allow you to change." Or, they may cling to past mistakes you made, and bring them up time and time again.
When someone has unconditional positive regard for their partner, they support them as they grow and change, and make every effort to keep the peace, so you can move past old mistakes together. If your partner can't do either of these things, it may be a red flag.
9. They Bail When You're Sick
Nothing tests a relationship quite like an illness, so it may be a sign your relationship is based on conditions, if your partner is nowhere to be found when you're sick. "If your partner doesn't take care of you when you aren't feeling well or is even grossed out by you being sick," it might be a sign the feelings aren't mutual, therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle.
That's because, when someone isn't "all in" in a relationship, moments like these can easily feel like too much. It's something you might be able to work on, by simply speaking up and letting your partner know that you need support and would like to be taken care of when you're sick. But if they can't do it, or don't want to, it might mean they aren't 100 percent invested.
10. They Turn Against You When You Don't Agree
When someone loves their partner unconditionally, they want to find ways to agree, are interested in hearing their partner's different opinions and ideas, and love them in spite of it all.
So it makes sense that, when your partner's love is based on certain conditions, they might not handle it well if you don't go with the flow and agree with everything they say. As Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of Kurre and Klapow Radio says, it's a sign love is "too conditional" if someone only loves their partner "when they agree with their life direction, their views, and don't challenge them."
Not only can this be a sign of manipulation, but also someone who may not be mature enough to be in a relationship.
11. They Blame You When Things Go Wrong
"When a partner is blaming the other for all the faults of a relationship this usually means they in fact do not respect the partner unconditionally," relationship coaches Diana and Todd Mitchem tell Bustle. "We always say that blaming creates shame in a relationship." This can also go hand-in-hand with wanting to change their partner, which as we know is another sign that someone doesn't love their partner unconditionally.
If you notice your partner making any of these mistakes, speak up. There might be a perfectly reasonable explanation for why they forgot your birthday, or why they keep bringing up the past. And it may be something you can easily start working on together.
If, however, you talk about it and they still won't change, it may be a sign this relationship isn't right for you. It's not healthy to date someone who wants you to change, or fit into a certain mold. After evaluating the cause of your partner's "conditional love," you may decide it's best to move on. And that's more than OK.