The True Lesson in Embracing Non-attachment.

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 freedom, girl, self-love

Here’s the true lesson in embracing non-attachment: we won’t break if we just let go.

Let’s look at this with an example relationship in mind…one of mine will do nicely.

In 2010, I met a man who transformed my life.

His tenacious spirit and zest for adventure matched my own. He was charming. He had piercing green eyes. And, he was whip smart.

I loved him from the start.

Together we saw a ton of the world. We climbed many mountains in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We flew over trails on dirt bikes. We skinny dipped in local swimming holes. We wandered through the streets of Istanbul looking at century old textiles and drinking tea. He taught me how to calmly swim through a class-four white water rapid. He taught me how to shoot a compound bow. I showed him what it felt like to be loved without boundaries. I showed him that family meant more than financial security. And I taught him how to make a merengue by hand.

We were a force to be reckoned with…until we weren’t anymore. Until the day I looked up into his eyes as he told me,

“I was unfaithful. I’ve been unfaithful for 3 years. I lied to you.”

For days, weeks, months this unfortunate truth played on a loop in my mind.

He would reach out to hold my hand and my hand would quiver with indecision. Did I want to touch those hands? Yes! No! I don’t know?!

He would lean in to kiss me and I would turn my cheek. Or sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes I would hungrily accept the affection as proof that he was a better man than his mistakes may have portrayed.

I would crawl into his arms at night and hold tight. I’d listen as his heart beat smoothly. I would tell myself I was home. I was safe. I would resolve to forgive—fully, completely—and in that forgiveness, I would resolve to love again.

But the voice inside my head would scream out and call me a liar.

I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel at home. I just felt fear.

We both fought tooth and nail against ending our partnership. I, for one, wondered how I could possibly survive without him by my side. I thought that it would be better staying, even knowing the depth of his betrayal, than it would be to face life without him as my partner.

A future without him seemed to leave me shattered into a million tiny, inconsequential pieces. And, frankly, that scared the shit out of me.

So I stayed. We stayed. We clung to each other with a ferocious and disastrous grip. Instead of being brave and willing to accept that the expiration date on our love was up, we clawed into each other.

That is, until the day I looked at myself in the mirror and was honest. Purely, brutally, no-holds-barred honest.

I wasn’t happy. I was surviving, and only barely. And my motivation for holding on was fear of breaking.

So I let go. 

And I didn’t break.

And you won’t break either. Here’s what will happen instead:

1. You will gain perspective

Being brave enough to let go of something that is no longer serving you will teach you boundless truths about yourself. It will show you that your heart will always guide you on the right path.

I struggled against my own heart. I rationalized and found logic in staying in an unhappy, broken situation because I didn’t have the courage to look outside the box. But my heart pounded for escape, and eventually I couldn’t ignore it.

Now I can look back and see all the glaring red flags I had missed before. Distance and separation are amazing tools for growth and perspective.

2. You will learn about forgiveness

Depending on the situation, you may need to forgive yourself. You may need to forgive someone else.

In my example, it was both. I forgave him for breaking my heart. And I forgave myself for being so slow to act.

More importantly, I learned that forgiveness is not a blanket absolution. I forgave him for his adultery long before I ended our relationship. But I was mistaken in thinking that forgiveness could turn back the hands of time. Sometimes forgiveness is simply just a gift you give yourself.

It is not magic, and it can’t fix everything. But it can be a true and ultimate release.

3. You will find something or someone that serves you better

Who knows what that might be? You won’t know until you venture out and see.

I let go of the idea of a house and a family with a man. And I ended up finding myself.

By allowing myself to not be defined by the goals of the relationship, I was allowed to redefine myself. I ended up wandering the world with a backpack and an open heart.

In letting go of him, I have found myself catapulted in a hundred different directions. I changed my career. I changed my zip code. I even changed my hair color. And I feel more at home than I have ever felt.

4. You will realize that you’ll do more damage holding on than letting go

Let that marinate for a moment.

You’ll do more damage holding on than you will letting go.

I thought I would break into a million, inconsequential pieces if I let go. From where I stand now, I know that holding on would have been what broke me into all those tiny pieces.

Letting go solidified my own strength. Letting go forced me to flex my own muscles, and like a cat, I landed on my feet.

5. You will have brand new adventures

Holding onto something that doesn’t serve you is stifling! It takes energy to hold onto something that is drifting away that you no longer have the strength to branch out and explore.

Adventures require an open heart. They require a creative spirit. And they require you to be whole. All of those things aren’t possible when you are directing your energy into just staying afloat instead of just allowing you the freedom to say “yes” to the exciting opportunities that come your way.

In the year since I let go, I’ve made a million new friends. I have found myself at 3 a.m. on a park bench in Budapest talking to a stranger in broken English about U.S. politics. I have found myself standing on the streets of Amsterdam watching the world cup championship. And I’ve found myself happily hiking mountains alone.

All of those are adventures I would never have had the chance to experience if I were still expending all of my energy on repairing the unrepairable.

6. Become a better version of yourself

Who I am today is a far reach from who I was before.

I credit a lot of it to the fundamental bravery I harnessed when I stepped away, when I demanded more. But a lot of it has to do with the opportunities and experiences I have had since then.

Letting go will change you. Let it. Embrace it. And celebrate your own bravery.


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Author: Jessica Chardoulias

Editor: Emma Ruffin

Photo: Jesus Solana/Flicker

The Elephant Ecosystem

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anonymous Feb 10, 2016 12:22pm

So what if I really love someone? Not being attached means my love is just so so… How boring!

I just want to love someone to the moon and back. That’s attachment in my book.

We want to connect with one another.

What do you think?

anonymous Jan 26, 2016 1:06pm

Extremely great article! I came across this article it by accident and read it. What a great read and so very accurate!! I even had to share it . Thank tou so much for a great thought provoking and clearer mind to see through this world. <3

anonymous Oct 26, 2015 9:35pm

Beautifully worded, thank you, and every one true for me !! Why do we think we will fall apart ? Where does this idea come from ? Hardly matters, now! Today I “let go” of a project that I was really into because others want the credit, to water it down, slow it down. Released. The sun is shining, still breathing, open!! This article totally supported me in that and shortened the gap from realisation to release considerably !!

anonymous Sep 8, 2015 7:25pm

keep an open heart & continue loving my own life until the right one finds me. As of the moment possibly he is stuck in the traffic. (LoL!) Again, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Light & Love, LoVe, LOVE be with us all. God bless! Mabuhay!

anonymous Jul 30, 2015 10:14pm

Thank you for sharing this. Perfect timing.

Light and love to you all <3

anonymous Mar 27, 2015 9:55am

great article! about this time two years ago,i was really struggling with drinking and self esteem and with a very important relationship to me. i don't know what caused it, or how i did it, but i remember how it felt. the click. i was driving home from work and almost home, i realized my life would absolutely be ok without the drinking, without the obsessive worrying if people were looking at me, and without this very important person to me. it wouldn't be easy, but i would live through it and heck maybe even be better for it.

it's been two years since i had a drink, cared what others thought (to the point of anxiety…i mean, i shower and stuff for the sake of others!), and my relationship with this person still gets better and grows to this day. i don't forget that click.

anonymous Jan 23, 2015 7:19am

"It took a while to understand the beauty of just letting go." Went through a similar experience last year. Thanks for being vulnerable enough to share your experience :).

anonymous Jan 22, 2015 4:57pm

Thank You Jessica. I was just about to go to bed after a heavy few weeks ending a relationship against my will. I am glad that I found this. Encouraged and inspired to deal with myself now!!! Found this too – “There is little that can withstand a man who can conquer himself” Louis XIV

    anonymous Jan 23, 2015 8:43am

    So glad you stumbled upon this and that it helped. And keep plugging along. One of the best (and silliest) bits of advice I got during those heavy times was to only listen to happy music. Amazing how healing surrounding yourself with joy can be!

anonymous Jan 22, 2015 4:20pm

Thank you very much for writing this article. It is very nice to know that I am not the only one struggling with this. For the past several months I have been in the exact situation you are describing. Letting go of something that is no longer positive for me but on the other hand terrified of moving on and letting go. Your article gives me the courage to keep going forward and for that I say 'thank you'.

    anonymous Jan 23, 2015 8:41am

    You're welcome! I have very scary vivid memories of where you are — but trust yourself, you've got this! And it is going to be fabulous! Thanks for reading!

anonymous Jan 22, 2015 8:33am

Thanks for the article. As someone who has dealt with similar trauma in life, I feel you have done a great job expressing the healthiest way possible to conceptualize and deal with this sort of situation. At the same time I also feel encouraged and inspired. Thanks.

    anonymous Jan 22, 2015 9:08am

    You're welcome! And let's hope our hearts lead us aware from any repeats of the past, right? Thank you for reading and taking the time to reach out!

anonymous Jan 22, 2015 6:27am

Very nicely written. And I totally agree with “you’ll do more damage holding on than you will letting go.” Blessed be!

    anonymous Jan 22, 2015 9:06am

    Thanks for reading, Beth Anne! Not the easiest lesson to swallow — but a vital one!

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Jessica Chardoulias

Jessica Chardoulias has a penchant for capes and tutus. She is a happy little expat with a home base in a small town in German wine country. There she saves the world by day. And perches happily in warrior pose by night. Life is a delicious treat and she savors every bite. You can catch up with her on Facebook or her blog.