conditional love
By Lowri Smith

Conditional love – love that is only given if you meet a certain criteria or set of rules or demands placed on you.

“Wow I’m so proud of you that you got all As!”

And that was it.  That was all you got and you never knew when you were going to get that love again.

So here I go again… working my ass off, doing everything I can to please you, even if it wasn’t what I wanted.  Just so I can get those five seconds of love again, only to be ignored or dismissed for all the time after that.  Sound familiar?

“I’ll love you and show you attention for as long as you’re keeping up with my requirements”

What does conditional love teach you?


This type of “love” is damaging because it tells your brain that nobody could love you just for who you are as a person… away from the grades, extra activities, employment etc.  Your brain becomes wired into thinking that you constantly have to overachieve and be perfect, even to the point where it becomes damaging.  Funny that isn’t it?

You try to be so “perfect” that it actually does the complete opposite and damages you.  Eating disorders for example.

“I want to be thin. I want to be perfect”

But in your strive for perfection you end up damaging what was probably completely fine to start with.

And the worst part of conditional love is that you never know when it will come next.  This makes you anxious without even realising it, and doing everything within your power to try and attain this love which will only seem to last for a few seconds.  Never knowing when you will get love next is perhaps the most damaging part of conditional love.  It’s unnerving.

But is this love, if there are conditions on how to get it?  I don’t think so.

The most important thing you can learn or get to know is that love should be given unsparingly.  Love should not come only when you get the right grades or a new job.  It should be there because of who you are, not because of what you have achieved.  If you are unknowingly stuck in a cycle of trying to attain this type of love, the first thing I would tell you to do is to STOP IT.  Live for you.  Nobody else.

Whose life is this, anyway?!

If they really love you then they will STILL love you without the amazing grades or the hot new job.  And if they don’t?  Well that’s up to you.  But trying to attain love that has conditions placed on it will only ever lead you to one place… feeling unloved.

I live with BPD, and everything that comes with that!  And PTSD.  One of the factors that is known to influence whether you get BPD or not is invalidation whilst you are developing.  Things like,

“Stop crying, you’re being so over-dramatic!”

“Why are you angry? Normal people wouldn’t be angry about that”

Conditional love and invalidation go hand in hand

I feel conditional love and invalidation go hand in hand.  In that you believe someone can only love you if you perform/react/act/feel/think in a way that meet the care giver’s standards.  Both are equally as damaging.  But YOU CAN retrain your brain.  That’s the good news.

So do your thing.  Live for you.  Do what you want to do.  Say what you need to say.  And those people who really love you will stand by your side and cheer you on.  Surround yourself with cheerleaders.  If you try and live your life constantly trying to please others just to get some love you will almost definitely end up hating yourself, demeaning small achievements and wondering why you are such a “bad” person.

So in the words of Frank Sinatra
“I did it my way”
Do it your way. However you like. But most definitely do it your way.



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