This type of attachment and fear of loss can trigger all manner of unhealthy emotional states, including depression, anger, chronic stress, terror, jealousy and vengeance. It can cause us to do terrible things, from speaking cruel words because we feel hurt to martyring ourselves trying to make our partners stay with us. It is beyond logic, beyond sanity, and requires both vigilance and kindness to transform.
Seeing When It’s Not Love
Discovering and living inside of the difference between love and need requires great self-awareness and surrender. Because loving relationships expose our deepest vulnerabilities, they are the places that we are most likely to fall into unconscious patterns.
If we are not vigilant with our personal growth work, our relationships become the field for our wounds, triggers, and subconscious motivations to play themselves out.
This is how married couples can end up reaching a place where insults and provocations are the only words they exchange, where “I need you to do or be something to feel safe and loved, and I am disappointed because you are not that” becomes the subtext to every conversation. This is a kind of falling asleep, a way that we disengage from our partners and our own personal growth, and let the subconscious run the show.
Another aspect of relationships based only on attachment is the fear of evolution. In healthy relationships based on mutual respect and appreciation, we celebrate each other’s growth.
We understand that healthy human beings evolve over time, and the people our partners were when we met may not be who they are ten years down the road. There may some grieving and adjustment within this shifting, but not clinging. When we are healthy in our relating, we recognize that surprise, change, and loss are part of what we sign up for when we come together.
Staying in a relationship that has lost its heart is soul-killing. Attempting to limit our partners’ evolution is a disservice to those people, and to ourselves.
Fear of what might happen if a relationship ends is an incredibly disempowering and mutually dishonoring reason to stay together.
If you are unable to allow and encourage your partner’s evolution, you are probably attached. If you cannot imagine your relationship, your partner, or even you changing without serious distress and discomfort, you may be creating a prison instead of a partnership.
Learning How to Really Love
The mystical poet Rumi famously stated that our goal is not to seek for love, but rather to seek and find all the barriers within ourselves that block love. He understood, as modern people in healthy relationships come to understand over time, that love is not something we can make, take, or find.
Love is a force that moves through all of us, some would say it is the life force itself. Attachment is one of those barriers to love. It is a profound irony that our very seeking for love if we become attached to the form in which love appears, maybe what keeps us from giving and living it.
Love is a state of being that exists independently of other people. Our partners may inspire love within us, but they are just the doorways. They are the mirrors that let us see the love within ourselves.
No other person can make us feel loved, we allow love to flow when in the presence of people that inspire us and open to us. Love is allowed to flow through connection, vulnerability, trust, affection, attention, appreciation, and showing up for each other. And just as other people cannot make us love, so they cannot not take our ability to feel love away.
The healthiest couples are those where each partner celebrates the autonomy and freedom of the other, within the container they continuously choose to keep creating together.
First, you will need to explore and notice the ways you may be living in attachment and fear. Awareness is always the beginning of healing. Then learn to hold those scared parts of yourself tenderly, as you release the fear by recognizing and acknowledging it. Then begin to make new choices, every time you are triggered.
Transformation is a serious of small choices. Choose to love yourself enough that you do not need to seek external validation to feel love. Choose to cultivate your own worthiness and fullness, one breath at a time. Explore the multitude of self-love practices available on this website and in many other places. Then you can bring that loving fullness to your relationship.