Let’s set a distinction first between feelings and behavior.
Loving unconditionally means you have deep feelings for someone no matter what. You don’t put conditions, boundaries, limits, or contingencies on how you feel about them. Nothing can change your love for them.
• You still love your parents even though they voted for Donald Trump and continue to defend his politics
• You still love your teenaged son even though he is failing Algebra
• You still love your sister even though she has never repaid you the $500 she owes you
• You still love your cousin even though he is a hardcore meth addict and has stolen from you as well as everyone else he knows
You can love someone unconditionally for who they are, regardless of
1) differences between you in attitudes and values
2) their life decisions and choices
3) flaws and failures and
4) habits, addictions, illnesses, and shortcomings.
However, just because you love someone unconditionally doesn’t mean you have to tolerate repeated bad behavior from them, especially when such treatment violates your dignity and self-worth.
Relationships involve mutual commitment and communication. They are a cooperative exchange, not a grab-n-go where one person is the consistent beneficiary, and the other is repeatedly taken advantage of.
Relationships typically need conditions, boundaries, contingencies, and limits between partners to be healthy. (I’m sure that there are probably relationship deal-breakers in even the closest of your relationships.)
Thus, to revisit the above examples of unconditional love,
• You can set limits with your Trump-loving parents about acceptable topics of conversation. You still love them unconditionally; behaviorally, you are setting limits about what you’re willing to discuss.
• You can get your son a tutor and limit his computer and phone, allowing him to earn back his privileges with electronics with better grades. You still love him unconditionally; behaviorally, you have to set some contingencies regarding his grades and electronics.
• You can set boundaries with your sister by telling her you that you’re canceling her debt, but you will no longer lend money to family. You still love her unconditionally; behaviorally, you re-establish expectations about acceptable behavior.
• You explain to your meth addict cousin that you cannot have any relationship with him until he is clean and sober. You still love him unconditionally; behaviorally, you are setting a boundary or minimal requirements for what is required to be active in your life.