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Chris Matthews poses for a photo at the Global Hub in Posvar Hall.
Chris Matthews: Inspiring language learners at home and abroad
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • April 22, 2024
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The Ladybug | Unconditional Love: Does it exist? Should it?

The Ladybug is a blog about adoptees and their experiences.
The+Ladybug+%7C+Unconditional+Love%3A+Does+it+exist%3F+Should+it%3F
Thalia Sifnakis | Senior Staff Illustrator

Unconditional love. First of all, what is it? Let’s be basic and start with the textbook definition. PsychCentral categorizes it as selflessness and without expectation of something in return. Wikipedia breaks it down into the words itself, focusing on a lack of limitations and conditions. 

My first interpretation of unconditional love is that it is the love a mother has for their birth child. As someone who’s adopted, I wouldn’t be able to obtain this type of love according to that definition. And is that even the case? I think it’s tricky. I myself have different definitions. 

Something to consider about my perspective is that my belief in unconditional love could be idealistic because I haven’t met my birth parents to create negative associations. I sometimes have trouble with viewing abandonment. Sometimes I think my birth mother may have loved me, but it was conditional which led her to abandon me. This would explain the hole, or void, in which I would look to fill in my adolescent years. Alternatively, I contemplate whether my birth mother had unconditional love for me, so she put my needs before hers so that I could live a better life. I’m very ambivalent, so I am always contemplating both sides to everything.

Some people are oriented by money, work, family or romance. What I can tell you is that for me, it’s love. I am a die-hard romantic and my ideal relationship embodies unconditional love. I see it as wholly loving someone to the point in which you accept them no matter their flaws. It is loving all of someone, both the good and the bad, and vowing not to leave them when things are difficult. So, that is essentially marriage in my eyes. 

However, I never stopped to think whether this view could be an unhealthy outlook. I had always pictured the fairytale movie sort of love as unconditional and everlasting. It is idealized and a fantasy, which can lead to unrealistic expectations. I romanticized the idea of seeking unconditional love in a romantic relationship because I struggled with the idea of it from the start. 

For this article I sought out perspectives of a few other adoptees as well as nonadoptees. I asked each person whether they believed in unconditional love, whether that be familial or romantic.

My best friend is an adoptee, so I asked her first. Since she is getting her doctorate in psychology, her first response was from a psychological perspective. She specified that for the view of loving someone regardless of flaws and faults, then yes, she believes in it, but with a side note that it shouldn’t necessarily be at the expense of one’s mental wellbeing or compromise of morals.

When I asked about her views from the lens of an adoptee, she responded, “I think being adopted adds to that familiar component, like there’s this idea you’re supposed to just love your family for some arbitrary reason like you share the same blood.” 

She goes on to note how she doesn’t see it applying to the parents that show reckless abandonment with a lack of care for the wellbeing of their child. 

“The people that gave us up for adoption I’d like to think did it because they loved and or cared about us in some way,” she said. “They knew that they couldn’t give us the life we deserved and so they gave us away for the hope that we could have a better life. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t, but still.” 

In the conversation she additionally noted this may differ for children that went into foster care. 

I recently met another adoptee, one who is focusing her graduate studies on Chinese-American adoptees who struggle with the concept of love as well. 

She made similar remarks, sharing “I guess when you have exceptions it isn’t unconditional. But for me I couldn’t love unconditionally if the person I loved gravely harmed someone else. Mentally or physically. I can concede to people’s flaws and humanity, but there are certain acts that I feel don’t merit the classification of humane. I think there is also a big difference between caring for and loving someone. And of course everything is context dependent.”

A nonadoptee friend of mine responded that she doesn’t believe in unconditional love. She noted that people are selfish and that it can lead to being let down, as well as there being transactional elements to the way she sees it. 

My partner is actually my inspiration for this article, as he noted my difficulties with accepting love, which I plan to discuss in my next article. This brought me to the idea of unconditional love and whether it should or shouldn’t exist. His answer is in the same sentiment as the previous.

I asked two other nonadoptees and it was split. There isn’t much consensus from my mini research pool. It is very subjective. Answers are based on how each individual defines the term unconditional. I was curious, however, if there was consensus among adoptees and nonadoptees and there wasn’t a clear answer which solidifies its subjective nature.

When pondering the question of whether unconditional love should or should not exist I feel as though I must note that I use the word “should” in a question to create conversation rather than acting as a moral compass. This is obviously not the end-all-be-all to say whether it exists or not, or whether it is right or wrong, but is intended to contemplate and create conversation. 

I encourage all adoptees and nonadoptees to reflect on unconditional love and what it means to them.

A fellow adoptee is conducting graduate research about Chinese-American adoptees at Pitt and can be reached at [email protected] for those interested in participating or hearing more about the study. 

Abigail writes about adoption and the experiences of adoptees. You can reach her at [email protected] with any further questions or comments.