Humans view love from many angles, as something they desire or wish to possess, as something they require and need for comfort and survival, and least of all as concern for another. Where in theory, the latter is understood to be what is meant by the concept of loving another, in reality the first two motives fit the picture most often. Why is this so? Why would humans say one thing when the opposite is the case? Why not simply say, I desire X, rather than I love X. Why not say, I need X, rather than I love X. We slide away from the truth, and cast the warm glow of the concepts engendered by the word love over all.
The reason truth suffers in this matter is due to the desire to excuse the self from failure. In our hearts we aspire to true love, to caring for the other as much as we care for ourselves, and this is our announced and inner intent. When we miss the mark, and the feelings are more self-serving, we hope no one notices. Then why do we have problems with the concept of unconditional love? Having problems already in practicing what we preach, we dread having the expectations ramped up into a higher realm. Does this mean that self-concern should be eliminated? Are we to focus only on the other? Are we not to feel resentment when the other disappoints us, or perhaps even brutalizes us? As we fail to miss the mark so often already, how are we to incorporate higher standards? The practical application of these ideals falters. We feel a bit lost.
This confusion is due not to our attempts to reach an ideal, but in the understanding of the ideal itself. Unconditional love does not mean to love another regardless of their behavior. It does not mean to accept any behavior from the other, without defending the self or, as you say, making a stink. It does not mean to look the other way when competition for a resource that the self either desires or needs places the self at a disadvantage. Unconditional love, in other words, does not mean that the self should stop striving and wanting and aggressively going after what it wants and needs. Unconditional love means, simply, that you do not abandon the other because there is a competition or disagreement. We will explain with a couple of examples.
Conditional love: A mother loves her children, and this is for many reasons. They are an extension of herself, and their achievements reflect on her upbringing and genes. They promise to grow up and take care of her in her old age. They assist with the household chores, and can be relied upon in emergencies. They liven up her life, bringing friends into the house and news and jokes and always the unexpected. Life is not dull. The mother feeding and clothing her children is considered automatically to be a loving mother. What happens when the child refuses to fit into one of these expectations. Perhaps one of the children is uncommonly independent, and refuses companionship to the mother when she desires this. The child has his reasons, but the mother only sees this as rejection. She feels much resentment, and finds she is reluctant to do the special things formerly done for the child. She has stopped loving this child, as her love is conditional on his meeting her expectations.
Unconditional love: In this same situation, where the mother finds one of her children to be a disappointment, the mother does not stop meeting the child's needs, as formerly. This does not mean that she does not feel disappointment, or even air her grievances to the child or others. This does mean that the loving support she gives to this child continues, whether or not the child has disappointed her in some way.
Conditional love is therefore seen as a lever, to force another to cooperate, and unconditional love allows the issue to be dealt with squarely, as the only issue, and not be clouded by other issues. For instance, in the above example, the mother can loudly complain about lack of companionship, and this issue dealt with openly. In conditional love the companionship matter may be dealt with, openly or not, but in any case other issues have arisen, such as failure to feed and clothe or pass messages along or whatever the mother formerly did for the child. This in fact prevents the issue from being dealt with as a single issue, as it becomes weighed in the mother's favor. The issue is clouded by secondary issues. The mother, by applying conditional love, is being in fact dictatorial.