The early stages of a relationship are known for being fun and carefree. After all, why stress yourself out when you're still getting to know someone? But if things are going well and you're looking to deepen your connection, experts say there are things you can do early on to
establish an unconditional love.
"Unconditional love is a love that has no limits," Jenna Birch, CEO of
Plum dating app and author of tells Bustle. It's not based on The Love Gap, the good or bad days you experience in your relationship, nor is it based on what your partner does or doesn't do for you. It certainly doesn't change when you're going through something in your personal life. "There is no score sheet or check list," Birch says. "It doesn't ebb and flow. It's loving someone in spite of the ups and downs."
This type of love isn't something that just happens right away. In fact, not every couple will have
unconditional love for each other. But having this type of love can help you and your partner overcome anything life throws at you. So here are some things you and your partner can do early on in the relationship to establish an unconditional love, according to experts.
Ask Your Partner How They Define "Love"
Everyone has a different way of defining things like "commitment," "exclusivity," "relationship," and "love." As Birch says, "Some people have told me they’d only want to be in a relationship if two independent people are merging into a relationship. While that’s fine, it’s not unconditional." Some people may have grown up in families where one parent only shows love and affection when the other does something for them. If that's the case, they may not know how to love unconditionally. If you want an unconditional love, Birch says, you'll need to make sure that your partner sees it that way. "Look for someone who can articulate love as unconditional, lifelong, or constant," she says. That's someone who can be there for you through thick and thin.
Keep Your Expectations In Check And Stay Open To The Possibilities
In the same way that everyone defines love differently, everyone has different expectations as to what they want in their relationship. But if you want a love that's unconditional, licensed marriage and family therapist,
Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle, try to limit your expectations. "Find a way to be OK with the messiness of life within your relationship," she says. "If you and your partner are committed to making your relationship last, you'll need to find a way to love and support each other when things are good as well as when they aren’t so good."
Be Open About Your Quirks, Flaws, And Insecurities
"To truly find a stable, unconditional love, you need to determine if you’re compatible with a partner, which means you need to know you can love them in spite of anything," Birch says. This is the type of thing you usually find out over being with someone for a period of time. Usually at the start of a relationship, you want to present the best version of yourself to your partner. But as Birch says, "It’s actually more effective and often quicker to form a bond if you’re open about your flaws, weaknesses and insecurities early on. We want someone to 'get' us and accept us in total." If you know that your partner loves the parts of your that make you feel insecure early on, you know they'll stick around.
Talk Openly About How You're Feeling
Early on in the relationship, it's so common to withhold your feelings in order to prevent rocking the boat in any way. But if you want to establish an unconditional bond, tell yourself that it's OK to be honest. "Talk openly and honestly about how you’re doing without needing your partner to agree with everything you say," McBain says. "Sometimes just being in a supportive environment where you can say what needs to be said is quite simply enough." Besides, if you really are looking to be with them forever, you're going to fight eventually. You might as well learn early on how your partner acts during disagreements.
Be There For Each Other When Times Are Tough
Everything is fun and games in the beginning until life gets in the way. If you want to establish unconditional love, start doing little things for your partner during the bad times. "Deliver a care package if they come down with the flu," Birch says. "If work blows up or they have an 'off' day, offer to reschedule a date night without holding it against them, and put it on the calendar for the next week." When a relationship is super new, the tendency is to peace out if someone isn't responding to our texts right away or having to reschedule plans because things come up. Sure, some people will give excuses when they're starting to fade out. But trust your gut. If things feel off, they probably are. But if you feel that your partner is "it" and they do have legitimate excuses, be understanding. As Birch says, "If you’re looking for unconditional love, stay constant."
Practice Active Listening
If your relationship is going to last, you're going to have to learn how to communicate in a clear and concise way. According to McBain, make it a habit to use "I" statements during arguments (i.e. "I feel hurt that you ignored me the other day") and practice active listening when you're having a conversation. "This way you and your partner both feel heard and understood when you’re leaving a conversation or an argument with one another," she says.
Get Familiar With How Your Partner Feels Love
The way your partner gives and receives love may be different than you. "Many couples break down over the communication of love or what their partner needs to feel safe," Birch says. So make an effort to get to know your partner’s love habits, needs and tendencies. Talk about your
love languages. For instance, if your partner communicates loves through acts of service, and you’re a words of affirmation type of person, Birch says you both may need to shift your mindsets. Being clear about what makes each other feel loved will definitely help when things get tough. It's also a great way to establish an unconditional bond.
Unconditional love isn't something all couples will have. But if you and your partner can make it a point to do these things early on in your relationship, you can have that type of love.