Conditional Love Is Verbally Abusive

February 1, 2024 Cheryl Wozny

I consider conditional love to be part of verbal abuse. Not all verbally abusive behaviors are apparent. Instead of demeaning insults or threats, sometimes it involves less obvious actions, like withholding affection. This type of conduct can still be harmful to anyone who is the target of conditional love and verbal abuse from a person they care about. 

Conditional love happens when one person withholds affection from someone to try and alter their behaviors or actions. This passive-aggressive tactic is just as hurtful to the recipient as other verbally abusive strategies. 

Conditional Love In a Verbally Abusive Relationship

Unfortunately, I've been in more than one verbally abusive relationship that involved conditional love. After having someone withhold their love from me, I developed an unhealthy attitude toward myself. Some observations I've made from my past experiences are: 

  • Love is only handed out when you follow the rules or obey orders.
  • If you don't listen or if you fall out of line, you risk losing others' affection.
  • You must work to be loved. 
  • You don't deserve unconditional love and affection.
  • You aren't good enough just as yourself. 

As I matured, I carried these emotions with me into other relationships. Often, I would be terrified that my loved one would leave me if I upset them or didn't meet their expectations. 

Leaving Verbal Abuse and Finding Unconditional Love

With the help of professional therapists, I've managed to leave verbal abuse behind and find unconditional love. This doesn't mean that I am perfect or receive undivided attention all day, every day. I've learned that love is complex and can exist even when you have arguments with your partner or loved ones. 

I never wanted my children to grow up feeling the same way I did. I tried to reinforce my unconditional love with them, even when I was upset.

After an incident with one of my kids, they declared they were stupid and made a dumb mistake. I was quick to correct them. Instead, I told them they were not stupid; everyone makes mistakes, and that's how we learn. I don't want my children to have that negative voice inside them telling them they aren't good enough. I need them to know that no matter what they do, they can always count on their mom to love them unconditionally. 

I'm no longer afraid my spouse will leave me if we disagree on a topic. I can express my feelings without fear of rejection or the threat of verbal abuse. And when I face someone who withholds affection to try and alter my behavior, I know to keep my distance. Those individuals aren't beneficial to my mental health. 

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2024, February 1). Conditional Love Is Verbally Abusive, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

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