How love builds
Although love is hard to define, it is primarily a strong emotional connection and attraction that develops over time. It is formed with intimacy, care, commitment, secure attachment, attraction, closeness and passion. Author Kendra Cherry, MS explains that “Love is a set of emotions and behaviors characterized by intimacy, passion, and commitment. It involves care, closeness, protectiveness, attraction, affection, and trust.” Unlike insecure attachment, it is an intense emotional connection related to strong positive feelings, such as excitement, pleasure, satisfaction and happiness. Although hormones, biological and cultural factors tend to play a crucial role in the development of emotional connection and attraction, it is also shaped by our self-perceptions and conceptions. Moreover, romantic relationships also tend to develop and get stronger with age and relationship length, according to research.
How attachment differs from love
As we easily mistake insecure attachment for genuine connection, it is crucial that we learn to identify the differences between them so that we can detach ourselves from toxic relationships and build stronger bonds. Here are some of the most common differences between attachment and connection you need to look out for –
1. Egocentric vs unconditional
Attachment feeds the ego. Love is selfless. When you share a genuine connection with someone, you care about making them happy without worrying about what you may get in return. You care more about your partner’s happiness as seeing them smile makes you feel happy. You may still argue and fight, but it only strengthens your bond. Attachment, on the other hand, feels more like a transaction where you keep a score of who did what for the other person. The focus is more on how they make you feel and help you keep your difficult emotions at bay.
Motivated by fear, you may try to manipulate or dominate your partner to make sure they don’t leave you. You use your attachment as an escape mechanism to avoid coping with your own insecurities and lack of self-esteem. You hold your partner responsible for your happiness. Insecure attachment is selfish, and there is no room for sacrifices or compromises. Your needs take precedence over their needs. When you are emotionally connected with someone, you want to be with them even if they have nothing to offer in return. Love is selfless.
2. Dominating vs liberating
When you are insecurely attached to your partner, your insecurities and your fear of abandonment fill your head with negative thoughts and emotions that force you to distrust them leading to controlling behavior. You manipulate, gaslight and emotionally blackmail them to keep them away from their family and friends, you repeatedly doubt them, you check on them constantly… simply to make sure they won’t leave you. In a way, you force them to spend time with you regardless of their interests or feelings. But by doing this you are restricting yourself more than your partner.
In love, there is no place for manipulation or domination. It allows you to be free… to be yourself. Both partners encourage each other to pursue their interests and support each other’s growth. They realize that only by being happy individually, they can be happy together. It is built on mutual trust, respect and care. Personal development fuels the relationship to grow stronger over time. Love involves unconditional acceptance and so control doesn’t exist here.
3. Codependency vs support
The very essence of being attached to someone in a toxic relationship is being dependent on them. You rely on them for attention, validation, self-worth and for boosting your ego and self-esteem. You need them to take care of you, to make you feel better about yourself. You feel you are incomplete without them. And due to such negative thought patterns, you become petrified of abandonment. It fuels your insecurities which in turn makes you hold on to your partner even more tightly, even if they may feel suffocated. You feel your life, your very existence depends on them. They give your identity value, meaning and purpose.
But love is not about desperately holding on to that person. A genuine emotional connection with someone stems from self-love. It is only when you are happy and content with yourself and have faith in your capabilities can you truly connect with someone in an unconditional manner and attract such connection from others. As you don’t “need” anyone, your relationship is built on pure attraction, compassion, intimacy and passion. Instead of holding on to them, you let them be as you know they will support you and be there for you, like you are there for them. In love, two people who are individually complete and fully capable, come together to share their happiness and sorrows and support each other through the ups and downs of life, without being held responsible