The Difference Between Love and Attachment

When it comes to attachment, we have learned that it is a innate process that is with us for a lifetime, and that we can form an attachment style based on the experiences we had with caregivers in our early childhood. But what is the difference between love and attachment? When a relationship is healthy, the answer is very little. Healthy relationships promote reciprocity, providing a secure, safe base to love with intention. It is when a relationship has moved to becoming unhealthy that we really see a difference between love and attachment.

There are times when a client is exploring the sustainability of a relationship and one of the questions I will ask is “Without using the words love or potential, what is it about the relationship that is pulling you to stay?” Very often, without those two words, they have little left to say.

We are a relationship species, dependent on connection. Our attachment system works in us for our lifetime; and very often it is that very system that pulls at us to hang on to a relationship, long after we know that the love is not the same. We think back to what it was like in the beginning and the potential for the relationship to right itself; our attachment system so desires a secure base from that person that we often afford them that capability when their actions tells us a different story.

It becomes important at this point to move towards the process of healthy detachment. A realization that for all its good intentions, the relationship is not working and it is time to let go. It is a painful process; healthy detachment is about grief and loss. It is, however, also a process with a beginning, a middle and an end. Based on personal experience, I am forever reminded and grateful for the Marianne Williamson quote “Every ending is a new beginning. Through the grace of God, we can always begin again.” 

Photo credit: http://Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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