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"Cupboard love" (also known as Dark Love[1]) is an English phrase referring to affection that is given purely to gain a reward.

The term is derives from the way in which a cat will give a cupboard containing its food superficial "love" (which is not normally exhibited) when it wants to be fed. The phrase is most often applied to human activity, for example when a child will say "I love you so much" before or after requesting a treat, for example an ice cream.

Cupboard love is a milder version of conditional love, where love is given solely in response to certain behaviour. Some local authorities class conditional love as a form of emotional abuse.[2]


  1. The relationship between Sociopathy & Autism, Daniel Land, 2009.
  2. "Strange Justice", 2007-08-23. Retrieved on August 25, 2007.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



From cupboard + love


cupboard love


cupboard love (uncountable)

  1. Insincere (and usually fickle) love pretended in the hope of gaining something useful in exchange.
    • 1788, Anna Seward, Letter to Mrs Knowles April 20, 1788 read in Archibald Constable (editor), Letters of Anna Seward: Written Between the Years 1784 and 1807, Archibald Constable & Co, and Longman, etc. (1811) [p. 103],
      This last and long-enduring passion for Mrs Thrale was, however, composed equally perhaps of cupboard-love, Platonic love, and vanity tickled and gratified from morn to night by incessant homage.
    • 1818, Thomas Brown, Bath, a satirical novel, [p.114],
      Besides, Sandy includes a little cupboard love in the detail of his sentiments. Nothing can be a more undeniable proof of the truth of this statement than the trials of Mrs. K—— and Mrs. D——. In both instances the lovers were nice, attentive fatherly men.
    • 2006, Hilary Lloyd, A Necessary Killing, UKA Press, ISBN 1905796005, [p. 30],
      I stump down my field, not the lane past Mike's, and the ewes think it's feeding time. I let them bombard me, grateful for the noisy bleating of their cupboard love.
    • 2006, Neil A. Harris, The Council of Elders: The Halfling Chronicles Book 1, AuthorHouse, ISBN 1425913741, [p. 191],
      You don't owe them anything Stephen, its just cupboard love...suddenly they need said it yourself, they never contacted you before.


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