Conditional love and parenting
Sally emailed me and asked me a question, and I'm just going to right into it.
"Is my marriage over" is the subject line. "My husband has been treating me really cold for a long time, he said the way I treat our child turn him off. I am the main caretaker of our child and not as patient as he is to our child. When our child is not listening I tend to raise my voice, and I don't play with our child as much as my husband does due to all the housework. My husband doesn't do any housework. Other than these, I don't think I did anything wrong to our child. But my husband can't take this, he said if I treat our child nicely he will treat me better. I was so disgusted by his conditional love, this is no different than telling a child that the parents love him only if he listens to his parents. I don't want his conditional love, every time when he treats me better I will think this is the conditional love he mentioned. This makes me sick, I can't get over it, what should I do. Is our relationship over?"
I don't think your relationship is over. I think that there's some challenges in your relationship that I think you're going to need to address. Now let's talk about what conditional love is first. Pretty much everyone knows what unconditional love, it's obviously love with no conditions, a person does something and you still love them even though they do it. So the conditional love is usually where love is earned on the basis of a conscious or unconscious condition, which is what Sally just described. Unconditional love, love is given freely despite what the person is doing.
So I would say that Sally you are stuck in a relationship where it does seem your husband has some kind of conditional love towards you. Now those are just words that were described of him by you. So I don't know, because I don't know either of you, but I'm just going to take you at your word. A lot of times what happens with conditional love, there's this "if ... then ..." it's almost like threats. If you do this thing, then I'm going to do this thing. Or if you don't do this thing, then I'm going to do this thing. If you're in a relationship like that, I'm not going to say give up immediately, but I am going to tell you that's not a relationship that's going to be enjoyable for very long unless you have some serious mental health issues, or addiction issues.
Usually healthy people in good relationships, they want to make life better for the other person. So they're not going to be putting limits on relationships, they're not going to be putting conditions on relationships. They're not going to be threatening people in those relationships as well.
One suggestion I would give you is that parenting in a consistent manner is important, and it sounds like perhaps you’re not parenting in a consistent manner. When you're not parenting in a consistent manner, it affects not only your child, but it affects the person that you're in relationship to usually. In your instance, it sounds like your husband gets protective of your child which then you take offense to. It doesn't sound like you guys are parenting on the same page, it doesn't sound like you're working together to parent your child perhaps at all and so I think that's probably one of the issues that's going on in your relationship.