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Erich Fromm on Conditional Love

TheArtOfLovingApart from the love of our parents, most of the love we receive as adults is conditional. Moreover, in our meritocratic society, we are taught to believe that this is fair, that to expect to receive anything other than what we deserve would be presumptuous.

However, in The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm argues that such love can be debilitating:

"To be loved because of one’s merit, because one deserves it, always leaves doubt; maybe I did not please the person whom I want to love me, maybe this, or that— there is always a fear that love could disappear."

Not only does conditional love breed fear in the loved one, it can lead to resentment:

"Furthermore, “deserved” love easily leaves a bitter feeling that one is not loved for oneself, that one is loved only because one pleases, that one is, in the last analysis, not loved at all but used."

Conditional love suggests a lack of respect:

"If I love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need him to be as an object for my use.

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