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- 1:59 What is ‘unconditional love’?
- 6:10 What’s the difference between Indiscriminate Love vs. Unconditional Love?
- 10:05 What are the main different types of love?
- 15:59 Is “unconditional love” love without expectations?
- 19:43 Why younger men struggle with unconditional love in relationships
- 23:35 What does unconditional love truly feel like?
- 27:31 Why achievers especially struggle with unconditional love
- 31:55 The role of self-acceptance when it comes to love
- 35:06 Why you need to attend to your inner child parts if you want unconditional love
- 40:20 The importance of knowing who to whom to give your unconditional love
- 44:59 Can you mitigate the risks in giving unconditional love?
- 49:35 The need to have standards when it comes to love
- 54:20 This happens if you hold back your love
- 59:44 What it feels like to be in a relationship of unconditional love
Dr. David Tian: Hey, I’m David Tian and welcome to the Man Up Show. In this episode, we discuss how to know if your partner will love you unconditionally. Welcome to the Man Up Show!
Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I’m David Tian PhD and this is Man Up!
Dr. David Tian: Welcome, alright. I’m David Tian PhD and I’m joined on this podcast by a good friend, Georgios. Georgios, how you doing?
Georgios Katsiouras: I’m good, man. How are you?
Dr. David Tian: Good. We’re on different sides of the world. I’m currently in Taiwan, and Georgios, you are in Melbourne, Australia.
Georgios Katsiouras: That is correct, yes. I’m back home.
Dr. David Tian: Not too far apart in terms of time, but far apart for flying. We’re going to be talking about unconditional love. This has been a question that’s voted inside the Man Up Facebook group and in your group as well. What’s the name of your group again, George?
Georgios Katsiouras: The Integral Alpha. The actual group is called The Integrated Men’s Society.
Dr. David Tian: Awesome. So, we posed the question and we’re going to be addressing the top-voted question on unconditional love. How do I recognize that my partner will love me unconditionally? And just before we dive in, in case you don’t know us, I’m David Tian. And for over the past 13 years, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness in life and love. Georgios, why don’t you introduce yourself?
Georgios Katsiouras: Sure. I’m George Kats and I’m the founder of The Integral Alpha. And for the last 10 years, I’ve been working with men across the globe as well, helping them with their dating, their relationships, particularly the psychology behind it. And much like David, on a bit of a mission to change the way men and women relate to each other.
Dr. David Tian: Excellent. We’ve been in touch for quite a while. Had a good meeting in Melbourne, looking forward to getting back there some time soon. One of the first things we want to do is to define unconditional love. I suppose it’s a unique view, I didn’t think it was, but when I posted about it, people were shocked and thought I was putting out some really strange view. But I think it’s quite obvious once you understand it. I’ll put mine out there and then see what you think.
Georgios Katsiouras: Sure.
Dr. David Tian: There are many different types of love in history. In fact, somebody helpfully posted inside the poll that we posted in the Man Up group a list of eight different definitions for love in history. I’ll just rattle off some of these. The first is eros. You can probably guess what that is, like erotic love. Philia, this is like the love between brothers or affection. Storge, and this is the love between children and parents. Ludus, which is more like lust or the playfulness. Another one is called mania or obsessive love, and the one is pragma or enduring love. This is love between married couples who’ve been together for a long time, and philautia or self-love, and then agape or selfless love.
You can see, considering mania is also considered obsessive love, these are all different Greek words. And this is just the Greek. We didn’t canvas other languages here, but eight different words that are translated as love in the Greek language. I don’t know if that says the Greeks are really into love, just like that joke about the Eskimos, or the Inuit, how they have 25 different words for snow or something. What we’re looking at here is, you could call these love, but if you were to define it or translate it properly, it would be something else and then love.
Eros is erotic plus love, so therefore erotic love. Philia is brotherly love. What is it that they all have in common? At the base of it is, what is love? If there was love that was not conditional, then it wouldn’t be love. Let me just run through some quick thought experiments with you. Imagine that somebody said “I love you, but if you take my soup, I won’t love you anymore.” That’s not love, man. In what sense is that love? That’s not really love. That’s something else. It could be liking or affection or something else, but it’s not love.
Love, as we use it, separate from these other terms of liking, affection, and so on, has to be where there are no conditions to it, hence unconditional. And as I say that, one thing I have to make clear here is, there was a lot of rancor on Facebook when I posted about, multiple posts about what I mean by unconditional love. They thought that was indiscriminate. In fact, in the poll, there was the question there that people had suggested. And it only makes sense if they don’t understand what the word “unconditional” means.
If I love unconditionally, does that mean I cannot choose whom I love? Does that mean I have to love anyone or everyone? That actually is indiscriminate love. So, don’t get indiscriminate and unconditional confused. Indiscriminate would be like if you had to love anyone and everyone. So, imagine the local whore goes out in the street, and now, she has to have indiscriminate sex with any man who wants her, right? That would be just ridiculous if you had to unconditionally love in that sense, and unconditional doesn’t mean indiscriminate.
Let’s just get that clear, but it was like more than half the comments, especially some of them, the ones that got really heated — I’m in Asia time and people seem to forget that, so I’ll post something before I go to bed. And I wake up eight hours later and just see all these ridiculous comments. Like, why aren’t you responding to me? Dude, I’m asleep. That’s why I’m not going to respond.
Anyway, some of those were about just them not knowing the difference between indiscriminate and unconditional. We don’t mean indiscriminate. We don’t mean if you want unconditional love, you have to love everyone. That would be like a mother’s unconditional love for her daughter or her son, means that she loves everyone. Obviously not. It doesn’t mean indiscriminate. Let’s just make that fucking clear. Unconditional love does not mean indiscriminately loving people.
Unconditional love means, when you love somebody, you love them no matter what they end up doing. If the mother unconditionally loves her daughter, that means that even if her daughter turns out to be a murderer or does something horrible, that daughter, she could give up that daughter to the law and have the punishment meted out and so on, but she can continue to love the daughter. This is actually Illustrated in many ancient texts.
And one of them is in the Old Testament of the Bible, the story about Abraham and Isaac, where he gave up his son on the altar. I can’t remember. Anyway, there’s one Bible story where God asks the dude to give up his son as an offering, and then he stopped it at the last minute and like, “Okay, I can see you really…”
The idea there is that you can continue to love somebody even if the law demands that that person cannot be with you any longer, and that’s unconditional love. That’s an example of that, so just getting clear on what unconditional love is. All other examples of this are not pure love. Pure love on its own, just the unconditional part of it, is agape, is the unconditional love, the self-sacrificial love. That’s the highest level of love, and I think everyone would agree that would have to be the highest level of love. Imagine you had eros but not agape.
That means you’re really turned on by this person when you’re with them. It’s the Song of Solomon all over again. You love her breasts. They’re like mountains or whatever you know that poem is. And then but you know, “But oh, I will not die for her, no. Hell no. She’s got some problems? She’s got cancer now? I’m out.” Would you call that love? Of course not. If there’s no agape, but there are these seven other types of love, then you don’t really have love. You have the other thing.
I’ve been using the example of the first one, eros. If you have eros, but not agape, what you simply have is the eros part of it. You can add, so in a relationship between a man and a woman, when they fall in love, there’s all kinds of things going on. One of them is infatuation, but let’s say it gets past that initial honeymoon stage of infatuation and now they have a more steady love that’s lasting a little longer now. That will move into something greater than just the sexual lust plus infatuation. Now they might think, “Oh, I really love this person. I’m not just in love, but I really love the person.”
But what is that? That would be the unconditional love plus sexual desire, unconditional love plus the emotional connection. You can actually have the unconditional love without any of the other stuff. You could love your little toddler baby with no sexual things at all. You may not even have any emotional connection yet because the baby’s not really even looking at you because the baby can’t see anything more than one feet in front of itself because its eyes are still developing.
But you could still love the fuck out of this baby. That’s unconditional love there. That’s the basis of it all. Without that, it’s not love anymore. It’s just the other things that are left over, the other ingredients. It’s sort of like mixing something into a cocktail or mixing something into a salad. You have your base, and the base is the unconditional love. And then all the other garnishes and ingredients thrown in there make it the other types of what, in the horrible English translations of these Greek terms, will tack on the word “love” to the qualification.
So, erotic love, right? Brotherly love, right? Philia is simply friendship plus the unconditional makes it brotherly love. Eros, lust plus the unconditional, make it the romantic love. Storge, the connection between the parent and the child plus unconditional love make it family love. We can run this through all the other versions of love or the English translations of these Greek terms, where the Greek terms are completely different. There’s no one Greek term here for love, but the English translators have just decided that these were all grouped together and that they should all be considered something something love.
But really, the only thing that is at the bottom of it, the fundamental characteristic of them all, is the unconditionality of it. Without the unconditionality of it, then they’re simply just the leftovers, the lust, the friendship, the affection, the connection. Without the unconditional part, it wouldn’t be love. That’s why there is no love unless it’s unconditional love. There’s no other forms of love that are conditional. Conditional love isn’t love. It’s just a transaction.
That’s how I saw it. I thought it was pretty obvious once you just realize, “Oh, yeah, if you remove the unconditionality of it, it’s not love.” It’s like a tautology. You wouldn’t even bother saying unconditional love. That’s like a single bachelor. You just say love, but so many people don’t realize that.
Georgios Katsiouras: You’ve obviously hit the nail in the head. I just want to kind of add to it and sort of shift directions little bit, and clarifying the idea of love. I think even that word in itself is such an abstraction that people have so many ideas, and those ideas are all these conditional concepts of love. Because we’re so indoctrinated, ingrained with ideas of what love means. As far as I can tell, the idea of love is simple: Do you accept something? Do you accept it for what it is? It becomes conditional when you say, “I’m going to accept this for what it is only if under these circumstances, only if what it is is what I want.” That is the idea that you’re putting forward.
Now, agape, being that I’m Greek, I know exactly what that means. It’s a word my mom uses very often because what it means is like “my baby”, “my love.” All of those words are Greek words that we still use today in different ways that represent friendship and all these things. Now, I tend to look at the concept of love under the triangle theory of love, which is essentially that there are three components to all forms of love. We think of them as being on a spectrum. And depending on how much of each you have is what kind of love you have. And likely, depending on what amounts you have of these three categories, it probably ties in with what I believe are ancient Greek concepts of love, I think maybe even from Aristotle.
Which is basically that you have passion. There’s some form of passion. There’s a degree of passion. There’s a degree of intimacy and there’s a degree of commitment. And it’s the commitment component that I guess most people misunderstand about the idea of love. Because the idea of us having a commitment being a strand of what makes it love in the first place, is the commitment to what we have established that makes it a form of love, especially unconditional love.
But this is where people get really messed up, I think. We have to go back further and realize and clarify something, which is: Your feelings and your thoughts are not your actions. And the reason I say that is because many people think that, “Well, if I’m in a relationship and this person attacks me, does that mean I have to stay in the relationship? Otherwise, I don’t love them?” No. What it means is, the idea of loving that person is a separate matter from what kind of behaviors you’ll put up with.
The idea of loving someone, the feeling that you have towards that person, or this aspect of this person doesn’t change just because they’re now behaving in a way that isn’t how you want them to be. And that’s a really important distinction because people confuse the idea of love, the conditionality and unconditionality, with not having boundaries or not having standards. And you need to clarify that difference. And it happens even in terms of self-love like, “Oh, there’s a part of me that’s weak. I don’t want to be weak.”
You do realize that accepting that there’s a feeling and a bunch of thoughts that you see as a part of you that is weak and accepting it as it is, isn’t the same as tolerating it, isn’t the same as saying, “I can’t do anything about this. I can’t influence this. I can’t act on this.” It’s actually by accepting it that you actually are in a place to adjust that relationship so you can maintain love even if that person’s out of your life.
If I broke up with my partner tomorrow, what makes it unconditional, it’s not because I would stand with her no matter what she does necessarily, but the fact is that I can still accept it for who she is despite what she’s done to me. Would you agree on that?
Dr. David Tian: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I just realized there is a question that was upvoted in the poll that is along these lines: is unconditional love love without expectations? If that is so, when you choose a partner, is it really unconditional love? Of course not. Unconditional love is not love without expectations or without standards or something. The example you gave was great. I was given this example as well of the mother having to give up her child to the state because the child committed some great crime.
There’s a situation there where clearly there are expectations, clearly there are standards. When they’re violated, there’s going to be consequences, but that doesn’t mean that the love has to stop. Unconditional love can still exist even with expectations and standards. I know one of the reasons why men in general have a problem with unconditional love is because they’ve been burned by girls in the past, right? So, some girl cheated on him, or lied to him, or whatever, right?
And he’s like, “If I unconditionally loved her, does that mean she can walk all over me, and abuse me, and all this?” Of course it doesn’t mean that. It’s hard to describe this to somebody who hasn’t really loved. Take me seven years ago. I didn’t really know what unconditional love was. In fact, I would argue that I didn’t understand love. So, it’s great to read about it and to theorize about it. I read all kinds of books about it. A great one called The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis is one I still recommend, but there are tons. One on my bookshelf right now is a nice little one, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm.
There are lots of books about love. But when you’re in your 20s or when I was in my 20s and early 30s, I didn’t even know that I was focused on myself. And when you’re focused on yourself and protecting yourself, you’re acting out of fear. When you get into a relationship, you’re trying not to get hurt. So, when you’re in that stage of trying not to get hurt, your defenses are up despite the fact that you think that they’re not. But as soon as you’re asking that question, I know your defenses are up. And for good reason: You don’t want to get cheated on or whatever, so you got your defenses up.
But when your shield is up, then love can’t get through either. That’s just another thing. I didn’t actually get that until I had the serendipity of meeting my god-daughter, who’s now 8 years old. It was 8 years ago when I first met her. She was just 2 months old and just left in my living room. I had to watch her. The others had to do other stuff and I was like, “What the hell am I going to do with this little thing?” I quickly fell in love with her despite my protestations to get rid of her, get somebody else to take care of her. I’m a party guy, I got to go out later tonight, that kind of thing.
If it weren’t for that, I might, for all I know, still be stuck in the mindset of a single man in his 20s. Single is the wrong word, but the usual immature man who doesn’t know what it’s like to love unconditionally. And I see this when guys who are like, “Love is not an emotion.” I get that. I used to think that too. Love is an action. It’s what my evangelical church told us. Love is an action. You don’t wait until you feel something for the homeless person to love the homeless person and help them with food or whatever it is that they need, the Good Samaritan, the whole parable.
I get that. And as an intellectual, it made sense. “Okay, so even if I don’t have these feelings, I would go ahead and do it.” But then they get into this problem. This is the problem with the single man or the younger man has when it comes to unconditional love in relationship with adult women: He can’t even conceive of it. Because now, it’s about doing and not feeling. If love and unconditional love are primarily about doing and not waiting for the emotion to be there, then he’s thinking when you say you ought to unconditionally love or it’s great to unconditionally love your partner, he’s hearing, “I need to bend over backwards for her, and become her slave, and do whatever she wants me to do.”
And that’s not actually unconditional love. That’s unconditional slavery or something. Returning to the example of the mother and the child, the mother giving the child up to the state because the child committed murder, and still unconditionally-loving the child despite the fact that now, the child is maybe on death row or something, walking the green mile, you can still love this person despite the fact that that person has to pay for his crimes, pay the punishment.
That is hard to imagine if you’re still focused on what you can get out of a relationship with a woman. When you enter a relationship because it’s good for you like, “Oh, she makes me feel this way. That’s why I’m in it” or “I get sex now.” Guaranteed, a lot of dudes wanted to be in a relationship because it was like guaranteed sex. And now, he doesn’t have to go out and try to convince, game a girl to get it. He can just like, “Hey, time to have sex.” That’s the relationship where you’re going to get something out of it.
And in all of those cases, that will block your discovery of unconditional love. I didn’t know how else to lead people to it except through thought experiments, if you don’t actually have a child or if you haven’t fallen in love like I did with a little goddaughter that I had, then I’m not sure how I would have discovered it. But the more I read about, and research, and conduct therapy with men, doing the research on men and therapy, you’ll discover that a lot of men discover love through the love for their children. And then they say to themselves the big epiphany is: Oh, if I can love my daughter like this, where I still have expectations and standards — she better do her homework, what’s good for her, she better eat well, all this stuff — but I still love her even if she doesn’t.
And I really wish she had done her homework because it’s good for her. But if she doesn’t, it’s not like I remove my love. I still love her. Hopefully, just theoretically, you’re still able to follow this. But then the man, really, for real, actually loves his daughter. He has that feeling, the emotions of love for the daughter and can see that, “Oh, no matter what she does, I’m still going to love her.” And then he says to himself, “Oh, so this is what I’m supposed to do towards my wife.” So, you see that in the literature and you’re like, “Oh, so this is the way I should relate to her. That it’s not about if she wins this argument, that I’ve lost the power in the relationship, and now I’m the one down, and now she’s going to roughshod over me like MGTOW, Red Pill guys think.” So much fear.
When you come into the relationship with fear and you armor up, you’re not allowing room for the unconditional love to flow. You’re literally blocking it like a dam. And when the defenses come down and you’re vulnerable, and you say to yourself, “She can’t actually hurt me because I love her.” There can be sadness, sure. But when you have unconditional love flowing out of you and that person does something horrible… I’ve spoken about this with dads, and every dad I know gets it. If you don’t have a child, but I don’t have a child of my own yet, so I’m blessed with this goddaughter. If you don’t have a child, try to just do this as a thought experiment.
But every dad I know understands that there’s this martyrdom fantasy where you will shield your kids from bullets. Like, some gunman comes in the movie theater, you’ll jump on your kids and you get hit but you save your kids. Or you’ll push your kid out of the way of a car and you’ll take the hit. This is part of our masculine energy. This is actually ingrained in our warrior spirit, the self-sacrificial dying for a great cause, dying for something greater than yourself. This is something that goes back thousands of thousands of years and very likely is genetic. That’s part of why this version of our homo sapien heritage has persisted over these hundreds of thousands of years, is this desire to lay down your life for those you love.
And those you love are very likely somehow genetically related to you, so it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. But that’s actually the feeling of unconditional love. That this kid could come at you, misguided, maybe brainwashed by a cult, and come at you with a knife or a gun or whatever, and you’ll be like, “I’m so sad that you’ve been brainwashed by a cult. But if you have to kill me, then let it happen, but I want you to know, don’t feel guilty. You’re going to eat yourself up over this with later, but I love you.”
And as the kid’s stabbing you, you’re like, “I love you. It’s okay, alright.” You see that in some great movies, too. Now, these single dudes, Red Pill, MGTOW, all that pick-up, they’ll be like, “Are you crazy? Dave’s lost it.” What’s those terms? Blue pill, purple pill, orange pill, or whatever fucking pill, yellow pill, I don’t know, the rainbow pill. He’s eating it. Yeah, and I’ll be like, “Yeah. I feel sad for you because you have not discovered it.” I understand what it’s like because I haven’t had that until 8 years ago.
It didn’t enter my mind until 3 years into that that’s actually what was going on.
Georgios Katsiouras: I think it’s really a sign of tragedy in a sense. Because what it says is it is going to be rough for a lot of people. But what it says is: If you don’t know what unconditional love is, then what was your childhood? What was your childhood if you don’t know what unconditional love is? If you’re confused about it, or if you’re saying that the way that you act don’t lead you to the path that you want, to a healthy relationship with another person, what’s that telling you about your relationship, your childhood? What’s that telling you about what you learned?
And I think the big underlying thing here is most people confuse the idea of love with, “This person makes me feel intrinsic worth. But if I don’t meet their expectations directly or unintentionally somehow don’t meet their expectations, it will be taken from me.” And that’s what most people think is love. Most people think that’s what the condition is. I don’t want to not feel intrinsic value, because that feels really good, because that’s something that’s been missing in my life, it’s feeling like I have intrinsic value. And for whatever reason, with this particular person, I feel that.
But I know that whenever I’ve been given intrinsic value or a sense of intrinsic value in the past, it comes with expectations. And I know every time I haven’t met those expectations, a bit of that intrinsic value gets taken away from me, a bit of that whatever it is that shined the intrinsic value on me.
Dr. David Tian: I totally agree with what you’re saying there. One way to look at it too is to think about it in terms of performance. One common type of person who doesn’t understand unconditional love, like me back then, was an achiever. An achiever type generally will be born out of a childhood where his or her worth was tied up with performance. And it’s what Terry Real calls performance self-esteem or performance esteem. How you feel about yourself is contingent on how well you’ve performed in life, or at work, or school, or whatever. We call that performance esteem, and that’s like really rocky. That’s not real self-esteem. It’s like building a house on sand. It can just get taken away at any point.
And while our parents might have loved us unconditionally, we achievers probably didn’t perceive it as unconditional love. I know I didn’t until very recently, the past couple of years did I realize that my parents loved me unconditionally. Because growing up, they were hard on me. They were really strict. And I felt that if I didn’t get the A… They didn’t care that much about that. It was just more about whether I was guai in Chinese, which is like a good kid, look obedient; whether I was standing up straight, quiet, followed the precepts of the church or whatever, a good kid.
If I was a good kid, then I would be worthy of love. That’s when, at least my little child brain, would perceive that that’s when I got acceptance, and attention, et cetera, when I was a good kid. It was natural that an achiever or a pleaser would form, as a result of perceiving love conditional, conditional on whatever metrics of performance were picked up by the child.
That’s just from parenting. Parenting is tough. It’s like a catch-22. If you allow the kid to do anything, get away with anything, and you just keep saying, “I accept you no matter what.” That’s going to make the kid be lazy as fuck. The kid’s going to be like, “Okay, then I don’t have to go to school. I don’t have to try hard.” It’s this tricky fine line you got to walk between setting these expectations and standards for the child, and letting them know why these are there.
That’s one thing that was missing from a lot of toxic Asian upbringings: not being told the reasons why we’re doing this, why in the long run it will be better, and not engaging with the child rationally, logically on the reasons why. But just saying here, this is how it must be done and you must do this. You have to at least set the standards for the child and then provide some kind of punishments.
But then while the punishment is being needed, you still want to convey the message that this doesn’t mean that I love you less. This is actually good for you because you need to learn this lesson. I mean, one thing that a guy can do without having to have a kid… Because that was the question here somebody posted, maybe because he’s a big fan and he’s heard me talk about how children are the gateway for most men to discover unconditional love.
He wrote, he asked in poll, “What is necessary within one’s self to develop unconditional love? Must I believe in a higher power or have kids?” Do you have to have kids in order to discover unconditional love? It helps a lot, but no. Here’s one way, you could get a pet. A dog has been bred over the hundreds of thousands of years to become companions to the homo sapien, to the human being, and will often, if you raise it right, love you unconditionally.
So that no matter what the owner can do, they will love the owner. Now, up to a certain point. I mean, if you abuse the fuck out of it, it might still love you. But you know, like it’ll be one of those vicious guard dogs. It might still love you, but if you abuse it, I mean, it’s still looking for love. I don’t know enough about abused dogs to know what it will be like at the end of the day, but a dog is a great way to also access that.
But I’m not sure what else to do for the guys besides telling them about it, and turning them to literature, and just telling them about these thought experiments. I haven’t had any other success there.
Georgios Katsiouras: I think the biggest barrier is recognizing that working towards your own self-acceptance will open that perception outwardly. We’ve talked about there’s some really nice presuppositions in IFS, which is internal family systems therapy. They speak to a pathway for self-acceptance. Because you’ve got to come to realize that there’s these parts that you don’t like about yourself, whatever that might be. There’s a part that hesitates, “I have a big nose” or whatever it might be.
If you can learn how to have unconditional love for that part, you’re one step closer to understanding how to give that unconditional love outwardly to people, to the world. Because you have a conditionality within yourself, which is like, “If this nose stops me from getting the girl that I want, then instead of being okay and accepting that part of me, I’m going to shame it. I’m going to banish it. I’m going to banish this.”
Again, I think it’s important to distinguish the idea of what we feel, and what we think which does drive our actions with the action itself. There’s a part of me that’s a sexual man that just wants to fuck things. I can accept that part of me. I remember a client once came to me because a girl called him out on only wanting her for sex. He got into an argument about it.
I said to him, “You’re so full of shit.” He’s like, “What do you mean?” I said, “There is a part of you that just wants to have her for sex.” There is a part that you just want her for being a female that you’re turned on by. But accepting that part isn’t the same as acting on that part. It’s not the same as acting on that part. I have that part in me. It doesn’t mean I’m going to go around and start creeping out women all over the place.
Dr. David Tian: That’s a great point. We actually talked about that before we hit record, this issue about loving yourself, or the lack of unconditional love for themselves, for who he is already, is what’s keeping him from actually being able to do that with other people. The first person to discover unconditional love for ought to be yourself. And one of the best ways to do it is to direct love to your inner child.
It might be difficult for you to love some other adult version of yourself, like the sexual ethereal part of you, and maybe the playboy. It’s very likely if the guy has trouble relating to women, he probably has an under-developed persona in that regard, where it’s more of an obsessive, neurotic drive to lust rather than one that’s in full capacity.
It’d be easier for many of us to love our inner child first. And the tricky part, I think, for many people, is discovering where that inner child is. This is going to open up a whole other can of worms like, “What is the inner child?” I have courses that do this. It goes quite in depth on it, Rock Solid Relationships, Freedom U for instance will do that for you. I also have some exercises to help you encounter your inner child, multiple guided exercises to help you do that. That’s something I did for myself seven, eight years ago.
This is apart from discovering or falling in love with my goddaughter is discovering and falling in love with my own inner child. I have discovered after doing work in IFS, discovering that there are multiple inner childs in me, inner children in me, and appreciating and loving them for all of that. You don’t expect a child to be perfect. You don’t expect a child to perform perfectly, I hope. You ought to be able to accept the child for how it is.
A lot of achievers, when they hear, “Oh, I have to accept my obesity? I mean, that’s the way I am now, but if my obesity is keeping me from being attractive to women, I want to cut out this fat.” The achiever would say, “Hell yeah, go to the gym, diet.” Why would I want to accept that? That’s a harder argument for them to get into. Now, it’s better to come from a place of self-acceptance and then lose the fat, because the part isn’t the fat. The part is eating or behaving in this way to cope with something that’s uncomfortable, and that leads to the fat.
Anyway, it’ll be harder for the achiever to get into that because for decades and decades, they’ve just been really hard on themselves because they’ve internalized the voices of their strict parents and caregivers. But instead to say, “Look, here’s this defenseless, harmless, innocent child who is hurting and sad that’s in you. Go find that person and love on them. Just keep visiting.” And that person is you.
I have multiple guided exercises to do that. I have a lot of achievers in my courses. When they get to that section, it just goes right to the heart of it. Thanks for reminding me of that. That was how I went through it as well. At the same time, I was loving this little baby girl that serendipitously entered into my life. I also did the inner child work and the grief work through that.
If you can love yourself unconditionally, then it will be obvious how you can love others unconditionally if you choose to do so. Let’s get to that. How do I recognize that my partner will love me unconditionally? And part of that, in my opinion, is to recognize, in yourself, what unconditional love is, and then when to give it, who to give it to. And when you give this great gift to somebody else, it’s not something that you willy-nilly give out. And it’s something also that you can’t force, in my opinion.
You could force the actions that hopefully will then lead to the emotion, but the actions on its own, that old Christian view of it, where love is just actions that you do for others, there’s clearly a difference. You could program a robot to do the same fucking actions. Does the robot love you? Right? No, obviously there must be an emotional component there. And if the actions don’t come, don’t flow out of the emotion, then it’s not a loving action. I mean, it could be a supportive action. It could be a caring action. It could be an action of liking. It could be just an action of taking care of you, but it’s not an action of love if it’s not flowing out of love. Then it wouldn’t be a loving actioning.
You’ve got to decide who to direct it to, but also who to allow yourself to feel it for. And when it comes to relationships between adults, especially men and women, and especially when you mix in lust, sex, and all these other components into the salad of modern love between a couple, it gets tricky because she could hurt you in all kinds of ways that are really going to be bad. Whereas your daughter or your little son probably can’t. The most they could do is throw a bitch fit, throw a hissy fit and then they’re grounded into their room. And you know, that’s it.
They’re not going to like steal half your money and the courts are going to allow them to do that, and they’re not going to take out your eye or whatever. Unless you can imagine some horror movie with some demon possessed child. but other than that, there’s no real consequences. But in a love relationship between two adults, there is. So, it’s hard to conclude that you can go there and allow yourself to be vulnerable if you haven’t done it for yourself. Great point there, Georgios.
And if you haven’t experienced it in some kind of safer, more innocent context, like the love for a child, or on a lesser level maybe for your pet dog. And so, if you can identify who to direct and allow yourself to give unconditional love to then you’ll have answered that other question. This is my view. Let’s see what Georgios has to say, but how do I recognize that my partner will love me unconditionally?
You’ll be able to recognize it if you’ve got it yourself. If you are at that position in life, you’ve matured enough, that you can give unconditional love despite being hurt, despite the person hurting you out of their own fear and all that other stuff. You can see through all of that, and you still decide to allow the love to flow out of you instead of cutting it off and guarding up, but allow it to flow out of you with great courage. I mean, the amount of courage it takes, these Red Pill, MGTOW guys don’t have that courage.
But if you allow yourself to have that despite exposing your jugular, so to speak, to the relationship and saying, “You can’t actually hurt me here. I’m going to stay here in the midst of the storm and allow this to happen while I stay present with you, because I know why you’re being like this. Because you’re reacting out of your childhood wounds and your attachment style bullshit that’s happening in you. It’s not really about us, even though you can’t see that right now. I will love you into that realization, and I will try at least, because it’s flowing out of me and there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.”
It’s sort or like one of those X-Men, when the Cyclops guy just takes the glasses off and boom, it’s just coming out of him. Or the Phoenix is just flowing out, “I can’t stop it.” That’s actually how I’m going to show how it feels. It’s like you can’t even hold it back there so much. And when you look at your little baby that you love so much just flowing out, you can’t stop it despite yourself. You kind of wish you couldn’t love so much because it’s distracting you from work. You got to hit the gym right now. You’re still spending some time with this little baby and you want to turn it off like a faucet. You want to dial it back a bit.
You will learn, over time, how to dial it back because you’re going to have to get on with your life. But the fact that you can just open it up and it’s just flowing out of you, that’s an incredible power. The power of that love is like an X-Men superpower in human relationships. When you’ve got it yourself, you can then see it in others. If you don’t have it in yourself, you won’t know how to see it in others. And that’s why there’s this blindness. You don’t have the capacity for unconditional love but you want the other people to love you unconditionally. What’s that called? That’s called neediness, right?
Georgios Katsiouras: Yeah. I mean, I can’t really disagree with what you said. I’m pretty much on the same page. I think there’s a couple things we have to understand: One is, like you said, you have to recognize it in ourselves. That’s really the best way to uncloak it from the world around us because we can’t see in others what we can’t see in ourselves. And there’s even evolutionary reasons for that, around that self-deception and so forth. But another aspect of this is: The most valuable things in life, the things that you are most likely going to be the most rewarded by or find the most meaning in, are going to come with inherent risk, real quite substantial risk.
You run a business, there’s risk. Getting to a relationship, there’s risk. These things are inherently risky because they’re meaningful. There is an inherent more risk to it. The answer, like when I hear someone ask that question, the first thing I know is: One, their love is conditional and that they’re coming from a conditional mindset. Because what they’re basically saying is, how do I make sure that person is that way so that I don’t fall into their trap?
And that already shows that they don’t understand the concept of unconditional love. But here’s the other side of that, which is: There is no security other than the one within yourself. And the one within yourself means that, A) You need to be able to meet your own needs. B) You need to likely work on willingness to assert yourself, to actually set boundaries, to actually be willing to walk away from situations. You need to know internally that if things were really bad, that the feeling or the attachment that you get from this relationship wouldn’t stop you from respecting yourself, in making an informed decision for yourself, which might mean having to leave the relationship.
All these guys who are afraid or who want to know “how I can know my partner is unconditionally going to love me” are people who are saying: “There are these risks that could come up, and I’m not prepared for them. So, how can I mitigate those risks entirely? How can I mitigate the chance of those risks ever being a problem in our relationship?” You can’t.
But what you can do, what is beneficial to that in terms of if they’re single right now or not currently in a relationship is exposure. Because if you do learn to get rejected, if you learn to be vulnerable, and you learn to handle someone and accepting their vulnerability, if you learn these things along the way and you have more exposure to that, because you’ve actually put yourself out there and you’re practicing this in little increments… Obviously, progressively. Don’t be that person who is just vulnerable openly to anyone and everyone.
But you do need to become, as Nassim Taleb would say, anti-fragile. That’s really what it is. It’s not, “How do I make sure that this relationship goes perfectly? That this person loves me unconditionally?”. It’s, “How do I make sure that I’m resilient enough to deal with the potential risk of this thing because it’s quite rewarding?” And that’s the truth of the matter. You’ve got to be willing to face that risk. You’ve got to be willing to be more vulnerable. You’ve got to be willing to face rejection. You’ve got to be willing to say what your needs and what your expectations are, and be willing to face the potential of that not being returned.
Because if you can’t face that now while you’re single or in your life in other avenues where it is safer, if that does show up in your relationship, it’s going to be like a nuclear bomb that you’re basically not going to know how to defuse. You’re not going to know how to handle. And so, I totally agree with everything you’re saying. And at the same time, it’s a sign that you need to learn more resilience as the person asking that question.
You need to learn not just how to put yourself out there in what you think is putting yourself out there, but actually learning to be assertive, saying no, setting boundaries, walking away, having standards for yourself. Because if you can’t do all of that, then you’re always going to be at the mercy of whatever you’re attached to.
Dr. David Tian: As you bring that up, that’s a great point, I would say that for most guys and gals entering love relationships, I would say don’t love unconditionally yet. When you’re first dating, you’re just in a wait and see mode because you do have to wait and see, whether you’re going to let the dam break and open up in this way. I guess when people hear unconditional, they think indiscriminate. So they think, “Oh, as soon as I meet her from hi, now, I’m just going to love her unconditionally. Take all my money. Take everything.”
No, man. Hell-fucking no. You got to wait and see. Here’s an example. An unconditional job offer. Let’s say the company has decided, “You’re going to be the CEO” or whatever position. “We’re going to give you an unconditional offer.” Here’s an example of a unconditional job offer: tenure. As a professor, hopefully you guys know. I’m shocked at how many people don’t know about tenure. The ultimate thing as a professor is to get tenure, usually after six years is on tenure track, which I was on, you come up for tenure review. If you make your tenure review, the only way the university can fire you is if you break a law.
You can literally not even show up to class and they couldn’t really fire you. You’d have to come up with some excuse. They might give you a hard time about it, but you’d have to sexually assault somebody or harass somebody. They’d have to have legal, criminal grounds for firing you. And then from university, there are different conditions and I think they might be trying to dial back or roll back the tenure protections. But generally speaking, the idea is supposed to be because it protects freedom of speech. So when a university, no matter how unpopular your paper or arguments should be or can be, they should not be able to fire you. That’s the tenure protection.
Anyway, so there’s an example: unconditional job offer. Now, they don’t give the unconditional job offer to everyone. That would be stupid. That would be discriminate. It’s like saying you can get into Harvard unconditionally. They’ve accepted you and now you can’t lose your position. You just have to show up. But that’s very different from indiscriminately offering everybody a place at Harvard. Because the moment they do that, Harvard is ruined. The brand is destroyed. A big part of it is keeping the standards up, so you have to know how to keep your standards up and how to evaluate before you allow the unconditional offer.
When you have a job candidate, you put them on probation, standard is three months, maybe give it three years. Three years on a short-term contract. Let’s see how it goes. You might be in a relationship for six months. You don’t really know this person yet. While this is happening, you’re auditioning this person for this role. And once you make that decision, “Yes, I see that this person has enough of these qualities and has shown maturity, has shown growth, has shown these things, and I understand her past and why she’s like this. I understand these things. I get it. And now, I’m going to allow myself to love her unconditionally.”
Once you make that switch, then things change. Then you’re not going to be worried about all this other stuff. Because this whole idea of like, “What do I do to protect myself? How do I recognize my partner will love me unconditionally?” Here’s another context of unconditional love, the parent and the child. Imagine the parent was like, “I don’t want to have a kid if I can’t guarantee that this kid will obey everything I say, this kid will never hurt me.”
“I’m not going to have a kid unless the kid will never hurt me.” That just sounds ridiculous as a parent. The only difference between the unconditional love of a parent and a child, and the unconditional love of a couple is sex in the other, anything approaching that. So, you can drink with each other… I guess an adult child and a parent can also go out drinking. So, all the friendship, all the connection, all the other good stuff, it’s the same with a parent and a child except you’re adding on sexual desire, sexual attraction.
That’s what I was saying earlier, the very first thing I began with, the definition of unconditional love is the basis of all of the other kinds of love including eros, including the erotic, romantic love. Let’s go back to that. Let’s go back to the initial one, the case that everyone can understand: parent and a child. Would you go around saying, “I’m not going to have a kid if that kid could possibly hurt me.” That’s ridiculous, and that would be the same. “I wouldn’t want to get into a relationship if I couldn’t guarantee that she could never hurt me.”
So, the fact though is, once you approach the relationship of the mother and child or the couple with unconditional love, then the other person can’t ever really hurt you. They can make you sad, so in that sense, you could be hurt. But I don’t think sadness is a hurt. You could just be like, “Oh, I wish it weren’t so. I wish you were better in this way. I wish you weren’t feeling this way.” But in terms of hurt, you’ll understand everything. You’ll understand why they are like this.
Even if you don’t understand it conceptually, you’ll be able to have compassion for them. Because if they’re feeling these negative things and they’re going to hurt you anyway, that means they’re in pain. That means they’re in fear, or whatever it is, whatever the context is. That they can’t really ever actually hurt you, and that’s the power of unconditional love. That’s actually the power of it, but it’s so draining.
It’s like all 100% committed. You can’t unconditionally love more than a dozen people. You probably can’t unconditionally love more than half a dozen people in your life at a given moment. Because at the drop of a hat, if they need something, despite even your intense, “I’d rather stay here and work.” There’s going to be that part of your brain that’s going to be like, “Oh, I hope that person is okay.” If your mother suddenly collapses and goes to the hospital, are you going to be able to walk in that meeting and just ignore that fact? Fuck no, right? Because you unconditionally love.
This example is hypothetical. You unconditionally love your mother. You’d be a mess. You’d be like, “I can’t go to this meeting. I got to rush to the hospital. I got to go follow the ambulance.” That’s what unconditional love does to you. You don’t want to go willy-nilly, like the first girl you hook up with at a bar, “Oh, I guess David says I have to…” No. You do not enter unconditional love with this person if you know what’s good for you. You go into a wait-and-see pattern until you’ve decided.
And now, if that’s the question, who do I decide to allow the dam to break for? Well, I have a whole masterclass. It’s called “Is She Relationship Material”? It gives us the basic things to look out for, all the green flags and the red flags, for what is required for a relationship. And then beyond that, you have your own individual peccadilloes. Maybe you want a girl who likes bubble tea and you want a girl who’ll be able to meet with you on the sushi bar. I don’t know. That’s all your own stuff, but the basis of what will actually take for a relationship to be successful…
I think you have a masterclass as well on this, right? Like, what to look for, what is required to succeed in a relationship. I think I have five red flags, and then I have five green flags, things to look for. And if she checks all of those, then that’s 80% of it and then just see if you’re compatible on whatever is important to you: your musical taste or whatever it is. And then you reach a point where you decide, “I’m going to go all in.”
Because if you hold back, then you’re never going to actually experience true love. This whole time, you’re just liking each other. You just really, really, really like her. Maybe you have lust and infatuation, but you’re going to hold back until, “Okay, I’m going to allow myself to love her now.” Boom, then the dam breaks and then this incredible force happens. That’s a gift you don’t just willy-nilly give to people.
Georgios Katsiouras: I think the other side of that is, most guys aren’t giving unconditional love. They think they are, but what they’re really giving… Another way to look at this is, if you imagine there’s three positions in life, there’s taker, giver, and receiver. The taker takes because he doesn’t think he’ll get. The taker’s mentality is, “I’m not going to get things so I’m going to take them.” The giver’s mentality is, “I get given things, but if I want to be given more, then I’ve got to give. This person won’t give more if I don’t give.”
And then the receiver is the person in the middle who recognizes that, sometimes, people just want to give you something. It’s not because of you doing anything. It’s not because of anything other than the fact that they are in a place to give. They’re in a place to give you something. I’ve got a coffee shop down the road that I go to all the time. One time, he gave us free coffee. And I noticed a little bit of myself getting guilty. Like, oh man, I got to get him something. Why do I deserve this?
And sure, there’s a certain aspect of reciprocity built into us, but I also recognize that it was also just that there was a part of me that couldn’t just accept the idea, “Hey, this person just wants to give me something, not because of what I’ve done or anything. They just feel like giving it to me.” So when guys are worried about how to know she’s the right one, whether she’s going to love me unconditionally, I think they’re basing that on a lot of history of basically being vulnerable and offering themselves to people, not from a place of being comfortable with themselves, but from a place of wanting to somehow guarantee that they can hold that relationship.
They can keep it in their life, they can make sure it stays in their life because it makes them feel good. So maybe if I’m more vulnerable, maybe if I’m more “loving”, which is actually not loving, it’s conditionality, it’s contractualism, it’s a contract, covert contract as it were, this person will be there for me. The partner says… I see this all the time, guys that are like, “I want to travel, my partner does not want to travel. I don’t want to bring it up with them.” They think that if they say “I love you” to this person, that person is going to return something to them.
When they think about being “loving”, what they’re really saying is, “I’m going to keep gifting you, offering you things.” And if I keep offering you things, then you should be less likely to hurt me and more likely to keep offering me things. Intrinsically, why would you just give me things if I didn’t offer you anything? Why would you give me if I don’t give you a lot more to begin with? So, when guys are asking us that question of, “How do you know that this girl is going to be unconditionally-loving towards me?” That’s not the problem.
The problem is that you are giving off yourself in the hopes of that somehow will increase this person’s love for you. That’s not how it works.
Dr. David Tian: I heard that as a Red Pill rejoinder or something. It’s about how it’s pointing out that in Rollo Tomassi’s book, it was so reeking of Nice Guy Syndrome. A big part of a Nice Guy Syndrome is that you’re only going to be in that relationship as long as she’s meeting your needs. That was another question in the poll. “How do I make sure she’s going to meet all of my needs while loving her unconditionally?”
I can tell you, whoever is asking that… First of all, I know because of the fact that Rollo Tomassi would say, “Oh, but isn’t everyone going to enter the…?” Of course, everyone’s marriage is only contingent. It’s only transactional. It’s only conditional. And I know his marriage sucks. I don’t know man. There’s no unconditional love there. It’s not really a loving marriage.
The unfortunate fact is that almost every guy who has that attitude, which is most guys, they’re going to have shitty marriages in the long run. It’s just toxic, that seesaw, one up, one down kind of dynamic will eat away at your relationship. Because whenever you’re holding back, you’re just going to move farther and farther away. You’re guarding up. You’re holding back, it started out like this, and then over time, it’s just going to be like this, and then the kids come in the middle. It’s just going to get further and further, and then it’s just dead. They might stay together out of convenience but there’s no passion.
Here’s a good illustration of why this is so. In an unconditional love relationship, you’re not worried that the other person won’t love you back. Here’s why. Here’s an example of this. Your kids, and I return to this over and over because this is the best way. The only pure example of the unconditional love for the average guy. Love and sex? It’s all so messy for these guys. But if you just think about it in terms of a child and the parent: Is the parent worried that the child won’t love her back unconditionally?
Is the parent like, “Oh, my eight-year-old child or my teenage kid. I can’t love that kid unless I know for sure this fucking kid is going to love me back unconditionally.” How fucked up is that parent, right? That’s how fucked up we are in these love relationships. So, I would say that for almost everyone listening to this, if you are asking these questions, then you’re actually not ready to love unconditionally. In other words, you’re not capable of it yet.
It’s the potential within you. And you might even have kids. And so, hopefully, as we talk about this, there’s that a-ha click moment where everything clicks into place. The men I read about and worked with in therapy are going to say, “Oh yeah, it’s like how I love my daughter. I can take that attitude towards my wife and I don’t have to be all guarded up. I can actually be open and not need anything from her.”
Because the dad doesn’t need anything from the daughter to love her unconditionally. She could be the most rebellious little bitch ever, and he could still ground her in her room. But he can still, and will if he’s healthy, still love her unconditionally. And that’s how it works. Now, are you ready to do that with an adult woman where there’s sex and all this other stuff mixed in there? Probably not, right? And that’s what I say: holding pattern.
Holding pattern until you love yourself enough that you discover unconditional love in yourself, for your inner child, or for some other parts of you, and hopefully for all of your parts, even the ones that you hate right now or the ones that you want to get rid of right now, and you discover that love for them, then you are in that position where you can go fully with courage, without worrying about getting hurt, without worrying about whether the person will love you back.
Because it won’t matter, actually. Because the love that matters is the love that’s flowing from you. And then the person that you’ve decided to allow this to be directed to… Well, I shouldn’t say this because then you will be like coming at it instrumentally, but it’s such a powerful force that it will break down the barriers in the other, especially if it’s an adult, especially if you’re already in a relationship, right?
In fact, for parenting, that’s the only way you can get across as well. And that’s a big mistake many of our achiever parents made that they didn’t allow themselves to have that dam break and allow the unconditional love to flow out, even though they had it there. Because they were worried that, “Oh, if I love my kid unconditionally, she’s going to become spoiled or he’s going to get lazy because that’s not how I was brought up.”
And what’s the result? We achievers didn’t perceive it. We achiever children did not perceive unconditional love from our parents. And of course, it made us hard on ourselves and we accomplished a lot as a result. Hey, that worked, and it’s worked through generations and generations. But what it hasn’t done is allowed the love relationship to flow. And when you go back into that situation, you have that option whether you now can direct unconditional love and not worry about it coming back. Then you know that you are actually in that place of strength that you can offer unconditional love, that you can offer love unconditionally. That’s truly unconditional love.
These questions are basically saying an oxymoron. “How can I love unconditionally? I can only love unconditionally if I know it’s going to come back.” That’s a conditional love. That’s love with conditions. Unconditional love means that you don’t care. You’re not afraid whether it comes back. It’s still coming out of you. And so, I return to the example of the mother and child as the easiest one. Alright, Giorgio, so where can they find you? Find out more about you?
Georgios Katsiouras: The best place is to join my Facebook community, The Integrated Men’s Society. The easiest way to get there is bit.ly/integralalpha. It’s a pretty active group. I’m always in there. And obviously, if anyone comes from this recording, I’m more than happy to talk to them. Also ,check out the website, theintegralalpha.com.
Dr. David Tian: You can find out more about me at davidtianphd.com. We’ll have all the links wherever this is. Thanks so much, Georgios. Great conversation.
Georgios Katsiouras: Thank you. It’s always a pleasure. I know we can talk forever.
Dr. David Tian: Yeah, it’s great. Alright, thank you so much and thanks for listening.