Because/In Spite of 101

I thought I’d kick off this blog for real for real with a post on a topic that is at this point one of my trademarks. Consider it an introduction for those of you unfamiliar with it and a refresher course for those of you that are.

Love in the TVD universe can be divided into two categories: Conditional and Unconditional or as I like to call them “Love Because” and “Love In Spite Of”. I especially use these two labels to differentiate between the way that Damon loves people and the way that Stefan loves people.

I should point out before going any further that loving someone because does not mean that there is no aspect of that love that exists in spite of and likewise loving in spite of does not mean that there are no elements of loving because. All forms of love include parts of each. It’s just a matter of what dominates.

Damon Salvatore: King of the Unconditional

Damon’s love is unconditional. It always has been. It is in fact one of the reasons that he does not love often. He’s too loyal and fierce in love to be flaky about it. Now, Damon is a big believer in give and take and in getting what you give. At his core, he has spent eternity searching for someone who will love him unconditionally and that is why when he extends love, he does so without strings.

Damon has, at least in my opinion, a remarkable amount of self awareness. He knows that he has flaws and he knows that he’s made mistakes. This is what allows him to be so forgiving of other people’s flaws. He’s not in a position to judge so he doesn’t. He also understands that if he can’t look past other people’s transgressions, he can’t expect them to look past his. It’s also important to note that he possessed this quality as a human and that as a result it magnified when he turned into a vampire.


Stefan Salvatore: My Heart Is Yours But Watch Out For The Strings

Stefan as a human may have fallen into a trap, ironically because everyone loved him so much. He was the good son, the favorite son. He was the paragon of virtue and it seems possible that he came to believe that those were the only reasons that he was loved and that as a result he also came to believe that only people who are “good” deserve love. He has therefore always been drawn to the good and positive qualities that he sees in people.

But after he turned, that belief presented him with an intense conflict. Suddenly he was confronted with the fact that he was no longer “good” and therefore no longer “deserving” of love. Stefan carries to my mind an incredible and unhealthy amount of self loathing for his vampire self. This means that he struggles to accept himself and struggles to accept that others can accept him.

He is unforgiving of his own flaws and therefore has a very hard time accepting flaws in other people. And see, I’m of the belief that true love can’t exist without total acceptance. So this is where Stefan’s love falls down and becomes conditional to me. He only loves certain things about people and while he doesn’t necessarily or completely turn his back on people who have disappointed him, he allows those disappointments to condition the rest of the relationship in ways that ultimately force it to fall apart.

The Brothers Salvatore

Their relationship exemplifies everything I’ve just said about both of them. Damon professes at regular intervals (less so these days) that he doesn’t care about Stefan or that he hates him. Yet his actions forever speak to the contrary. Stefan is  – has always been – one of the most important people in Damon’s life. Before Katherine, before Elena, before anyone (except possibly his mother) Stefan was the person that Damon loved the most.

Likewise as humans, it’s obvious that Stefan loved his brother in turn.Fast forward 145 years and Stefan still loves Damon but up until Founder’s Day (1×22) he really, really did not want to. The reason being all the things that Damon had said or done to hurt him or disappoint him.

Damon on the other hand – who has been just as hurt or disappointed by Stefan – nevertheless continues trying to protect him, continues to have his back and continues to live around the constant slights and taunts that Stefan aims in his direction.

They love each other but there is significantly more reluctance on Stefan’s part in my opinion than there is on Damon’s. I’m of the firm belief that one of the only reasons Damon won’t actually admit to how much he wants to fix their relationship is because he expects Stefan’s rejection and is trying to protect himself from it.

The Brother Who Loved Too Much, The One Who Didn’t Love Enough And The Evil Slut Vampire Who Only Loved Herself

Here again we have evidence of the difference in Damon and Stefan’s approach to love. Damon was aware of Katherine’s flaws – god knows she has enough of them – but he loved her anyway. He knew that she had other lovers, he knew that she was selfish, he knew that she was a vampire and none of that fazed him. He saw something in her that he considered precious and worth tolerating the rest in order to possess.

Stefan on the other hand had a different set of issues. He loved Katherine because she was fun and full of life. She was beautiful and enchanting and he got completely caught up in her until he realized she was a vampire. All of a sudden, she can’t possibly be the woman he loves; he feared her and more to the point, he rejected her.

She compelled him not to tell that she was a vampire and she compelled him to not be scared. But watch the scene in COTD (I believe it was that episode) carefully and you’ll note that she simply says that his feelings for her won’t change. She never specified what those feelings were. So if he loved her after compulsion it was because he loved her before.

And yet he spent 145 years denying it. He couldn’t – or rather didn’t want to – believe that he could be in love with someone that he essentially considers a monster.

It’s Elena

This brings us neatly into the present.

Stefan rejected Katherine’s vampire nature and so expected Elena to do the same when she found out what he was.

She didn’t.

And I don’t think Stefan truly understands how that is possible or that he completely trusts it. It’s why he was constantly trying to walk away from her at first. It’s why he’s so insecure about her and Damon. I don’t think that he believes that she can truly love him or that he deserves for her to.

The irony here is that Damon understands Elena’s love for his brother perfectly. He knows that it’s possible for a human to truly love a vampire because he was in her shoes 145 years ago. Unlike Stefan, Damon doesn’t believe that he’s undeserving of Elena’s love because he’s a vampire. He believes he’s undeserving because he’s Damon.

And yet his love is unconditional. Damon’s love for Elena isn’t contingent on her loving him back. It’s not based on an idea that he has of her or any similarities she might bear to Katherine. He loves Elena for herself; for her qualities and her imperfections. There is total acceptance in Damon’s love and therefore it is to my mind as true as any love can be.

Stefan loves Elena because of all the ways that doing so keeps him in touch with his humanity and allows him to strive to be something more than just the “monster” inside.

Damon loves Elena in spite of all the ways that doing so breaks his heart and for the moment at least, deprives him of the unconditional love that he’s spent his entire existence searching for.

Twin Flames

Elena has the same capacity for unconditional love that Damon has. Her love for Stefan is actually proof of this as I alluded to before. Her ability to accept people for who they are and not just who she wants them to be stems in part from her extraordinary capacity to sympathize and to empathize.

Elena has already developed a remarkable understanding of Damon and that will continue to grow over time. She’ll be fully aware of what his love for her actually means. Elena loves without restraint and when she realizes that Damon loves her in that same way, she won’t be able to walk away.

Because when it’s real, you never can.



  1. Awesome!! My mom (just recently on board of the DE ship) is so going to read this! She will fully understand what I am trying to explain to her.

    Great to have your work on one website now!

  2. Ciara, what a beautiful and amazing post. :*
    It is so spot on and I hope the writers of TVD start highlighting this more in the episodes to come!

  3. Oh Ciara, you are truly… amazing.

  4. Perfect. There is so much truth in this that I doubt even a Stele a fan could find a valid counter-argument. 🙂

  5. brillant babe… everything i believe and more

  6. Twin flames fits them perfectly. I love that she sees the Damon inside that he tries to hide because he has gotten hurt so much and she understands this about him.

  7. Is your analysis is based on the TV shows (I haven’t read the book yet) ? If yes, it’s quite spot on.

    Stefan reminds me sometimes of a reformed non-smoker. They hate people smoke around them the most because there’s the temptation to fight and so they mush harsher to smokers than people who never smoke before.

    Damon reminds me of Spike in Buffy. No matter how much humiliation and insults hurled his way from Buffy and her gang, he stood by her. He risked his life for her in the end because he and Damon love unconditionally. They have another thing in common is that when they were human, they both were hopeless romantics one-woman man so these magnified more when they become vampires. I so hope Damon has a better ending with Elena.

  8. The reviews, whatever ever written in this blog, rocked. Don’t stop rocking. Your blog and I need these brilliant pieces.

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