Friday, November 21, 2014

For Better or Worse: How Unconditional Love? by Milou Koenings

My friends and I were discussing this week how we could each work on being less judgmental.  Half-an-hour later, despite my best intentions, all my judgmental attitude came rearing up full-force as I heard someone I know being interviewed on a talk show.

Many years ago, the week after my college graduation, this man gave me my first job interview.  I traveled down to Washington, D.C., and he took me to a nice restaurant for our meeting.  

 It was all very impressive - the D.C. office with the senators casually dropping in, the fancy restaurant - but I decided not to take the job.  It was a wise move; two months later I found out that he had scammed some of my father's friends out of several thousand dollars. 

This seemed to be par for the course for this "gentleman" and years later he was arrested for masterminding one of the biggest frauds of the decade. He pleaded guilty and was imprisoned in a federal facility for many years.  He now has been released.

Why is any of this relevant on a romance blog?  When I heard this man being interviewed on the talk show, unrepentant of his admitted crimes and discussing life after prison, he mentioned his wife.  He was lucky, he said, because his wife had stood by him the entire time.  While all of his partners who had been convicted with him were divorced by the time they left prison, his wife was his biggest supporter.

It made me wonder, how far does love go, when the person we love lets us down?

It's one thing if your spouse forgets to pick up the dry cleaning, chronically doesn't pay bills on time or is always late to pick you up. 

What if you found out he had been scamming people out of their life's savings for decades?

That the Louis Vuitton bag he'd bought you for your birthday was paid with money stolen from a friend who'd scraped together what he had for his kid's college education and entrusted him with to invest it on his behalf? 

My first judgmental thought was to wonder if this man's wife is as equally lacking in morals a he is.  Perhaps she really doesn't care or think he did anything wrong. In that sense, he might have never let her down.

Then I thought she must have done it for the money and her kids.

Still pretty judgmental of me.

Then I wondered if perhaps she stood by him because, in a world where no one could be trusted - not even her own husband - she wanted to show that she, at least, would live up to her promise.

For better or worse.  There are lots of "worse" scenarios a bride might have in mind as she utters those words.  For most brides, though, her husband going jail is probably not one of them.  I'm going to guess it's probably lower on the list of worries than some other common failings.

I felt better, then, finding a noble reason for what seems to me to be an incomprehensible choice. But I don't know why this woman stuck by her husband, or even if she still will now that he's out of jail.  

It isn't really any of my business.

What's pretty clear is that I didn't succeed at not being judgmental about this. Instead, I'm glad to know that there are some things I really wouldn't stand in my partner, much as I adore him. And I'm pretty sure that he wouldn't stick with me if I was secretly bribing politicians or stealing from his friends!   

Maybe that means we do not unconditionally love each other, but that's part of the reason we do love each other.  The same things are important to us.

Don't look for heroes who are criminals in my books.  My heroines are idealists looking for real heroes, not crooks.

Then again, they say one should never judge someone else until they've been in their shoes. So who am I to say?

What are the limits and wisdom of unconditional love? I have no answers on this, just the thought that love and its many permutations remain as mysterious and individual as human beings and snowflakes.

Milou Koenings writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.  

Her novel, Reclaiming Home, A Green Pines Romance, is available at Amazon
You can find her on her website,, on Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.


  1. Very thought-provoking, Milou. I've seen this so many times -- a politician or financial 'wizard' scamming people, admitting to wrongdoing, and their wives standing behind them. I've often wondered what those women are thinking. "I promised for better or worse, so I'll stick by him." or "Yeah, that spot between his shoulder blades, just a little to the left, that's where I should put the butcher knife." Either way, it's their choice and not mine. Thanks for the reminder not to be judgmental.

  2. What an interesting blog. It made me think and I love that. The man's wife might just have loved him and nothing he did could destroy that. There must be love like that. Sometimes you hear of people doing terrible things and their partners stand by them. I know that I would love my kids whatever they did. I know maternal love is different to the love one has for a partner, but this does prove to me that love can endure despite a person's behavior. I don't think continuing to love someone who has done wrong means a lack of morals or a tacit endorsement of the bad behavior. I do believe you can love someone and still disapprove of what they have done. But like you, my heroes are all good, decent men. For me honesty, integrity and good old fashioned decency are heroic qualities.