August 15, 2017

Letting Go with Love: how Detachment Improves Relationships.

Detachment has revolutionized my relationships and taken them to the next level.

Crazy, right? When I claim that detachment transcends love, some people laugh at me. It’s insane—how can I love someone, yet be detached from them?

I’ve been there more than once, therefore, I know that detachment is the most imperative element to achieve a profound and successful union. I can’t put enough stress on the importance of taking detachment to heart.

However, we must really understand what detachment means, because as I’ve come to notice, “detach” is a word that terrifies a whole lot of people.

Instead of saying “detachment,” we oftentimes like to use the term “healthy attachment.” From my own experience, I can tell you no such thing exists. There is no healthy attachment, but there’s certainly something called a healthy detachment.

Attachment is never healthy. Whether we’re attached to a person, a drug, an idea, a place, or a thing, attachment only makes us miserable and dependent.

Attachment is a form of addiction. The most dangerous form of addiction in life is the one that includes people. Being addicted to someone is a double-edged sword that hurts you and your counterpart. It leads to anxiety, depression, agitation, anger, and frustration—especially when your source of addiction is not available.

To start off, I will explain what detachment is not, in hopes of eradicating any false notions we have about this.

>> Detachment doesn’t mean becoming aloof or closed off. It has nothing to do with selfishness, impertinence, or indifference.

>> It doesn’t mean to stop being vulnerable or passionate.

>> It doesn’t mean to cut off intimacy with our partner or to not move mountains for the person we love.

>> It doesn’t mean we become less than who we are, and it certainly doesn’t mean we jeopardize our relationship with the other person.

We think detachment is a wall that we build—but, the fact is, it’s a bridge that leads to a deeper, more intimate love.

We usually work on emotionally detaching from someone after a breakup. Nonetheless, emotional detachment is essential in all our present relationships—and I’m not only referring to the romantic ones; attachment also exists among family members and friends.

So then, what is detachment?

When we detach from someone, almost everything stays the same. You still love them and care about them, but there’s no more dependency and expectations.

Detachment means shifting our focus from the other person to ourselves. It’s a space that we create that allows us to be at peace with who the other person is and with what they do.

I recently bought a self-inflatable mattress, and the way it works is pretty akin to the notion of detachment. To use the mattress, I have to open the valve and leave the mattress alone for five minutes to inflate itself. Then, I lock it and use it afterward. Without opening the valve for a few minutes, there’s no way for the mattress to inflate itself.

People in relationships are like self-inflatable mattresses. If we don’t give them space every once in a while to recharge or to be themselves, we can’t be with them properly.

Detachment is beneficial for both individuals, because it allows us to become more aware and less needy. We start observing the relationship objectively and can then make wise choices when we must.

You become more you and less like your partner.

You worry less.

You experience love on the level of your being, rather than on the level of the mind. The mind is associated with jealousy, anger, greed, blame, and judgment. If you experience those feelings in your relationships, then your love is based on attachment. You most likely maintain an image of your partner in your mind and want them to fulfill it. Whenever they don’t, your mind presides over the situation. However, through detachment, our love becomes authentic and unconditional.

Now, how can we detach yet still be in love, stay passionate, and be vulnerable?

As a start, we need to find ways to make ourselves happy being alone. Besides the activities that we share with our partner, we must cultivate our own. Be happy with your partner, but don’t turn him or her into your essential source of happiness.

I always remind myself that people and circumstances will change. I can’t turn people into my main source of joy, because if they decide to leave, I’m the only one who suffers the consequences.

We must also understand that we cannot control others. Relinquish your control. Trying to change people we love (or “fix” them) is to no avail. We can help when they ask for help, or stand by them when they go through difficult times, but we have to give up the thought of molding them into what we think they should be.

The next step is to figure out what might be keeping us attached. Are they filling a void within us that we need to work on? Do we need their love because we haven’t yet truly loved ourselves? Fill your empty cup with your own bottle—don’t use anyone else’s.

Another essential point is to know that we shouldn’t hurt who we love. If we truly love someone, we don’t suffocate them. We have to give them space to be themselves and love them just as they are.

When we detach from the person we love, we no longer expect them to make us happy or to fill the empty spaces in our life. The bond between us and them strengthens, because it’s no longer built on expectations and dependency. We become more vulnerable, more passionate, and more ourselves.

We don’t seek completeness; we only share it. This is the true essence of love.

This passage from The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran, portrays the perfect explanation of detachment:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together, and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.”




Why Non-attachment is one of the Keys to a Happy Life & Relationship.

From Attachment to Detachment: A Buddhist Solution.


Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Unsplash/Allef Vinicius

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron
Social editor: Danielle  Beutell

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Celt Wiccan Feb 3, 2018 12:33am

I agree with you Shane. Detachment translates into a lack of caring when put into practice. There's a lot of good in Buddhism, but the Buddha threw out the baby with the bath water with his teachings on detachment.

Ramsey Appiagyei Jan 2, 2018 11:26pm

I needed the fuck out of this. While I've had snippets of this type of attachment, I never had it validated, and it was actually scary. There's a curve to this detachment, but it's the reality of what true intimacy is built on.

Shane Sterling Aug 25, 2017 4:48am

Detachment or non-attachment is not the way to love and fulfillment. I disagree with this article based on my own experience in healing my marriage and the role as father to my two daughters. I am passionate about this topic which is why I feel compelled to share what I feel is the real truth. Here is an interview with Dr. Sue Johnson where she talks about the importance of attachment in love relationships. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKGy0WShE0k

Shane Sterling Aug 25, 2017 3:59am

A healthy attachment bond is the premise of Dr. Sue Johnson's life work. She is a leading expert psychologist on marriage and family bonds. Even the concept of "attachment parenting" which is different than Sue Johnson's work is widely accepted for how attachment is not only healthy but essential for success in the world. There is overwhelming evidence, testimonials, and science to back up the importance of healthy attachment. I have experience myself with this and I am an advocate and true believer in attachment bonds being the crux of all success we experience in our relationships, our work, our finances and our fulfillment in life. There is overwhelming evidence that the CIA has targeted the family unit over the last 50 years in order to break the attachment bonds between parent and child, which is then perpetuated in our relationships as adults. When we have no attachment bonds in our primary relationships then it is much easier for the mainstream/counter-culture to become a "surrogate family" for those displaced by these broken family bonds. The CIA then has full control over the belief systems of the masses and can steer the public for it's own political agenda, which is exactly why we have seen the culture of America degrade over the last 50 years. It's the old adage, "united we stand, divided we fall." This could never be more true than in the context of attachment bonds in our primary relationships. We must be very careful that we do not fall prey to the social engineering tactics that are perpetrated upon us. Attachment bonds are our hidden super-power!!!

David Dunn Aug 17, 2017 4:20pm

THank you for a great article. I am the poster-child for co-dependency, and have realized what a disaster it was for my marriage. I am also a recovering alcoholic (12 years sober), so the co-dependency thing runs quite deep. It is the hardest thing to grasp--I understand detaching in our relationship, but my mind goes "You are pushing her away." I'm putting a lot of work in on myself these days, which is good. I realize that I have to become a better man and person, because no matter if my marriage survives or not, I need to get better.

Dee Wagner Aug 17, 2017 1:41pm

Beautiful work, as always, Elyane. As I see it "detachment" and "attachment" become word meaning issues. "Detachment" is a healthy form of "attachment" as many people use those words. Attachment theory is the summary of studies on how we relate to one another from birth on. We need to be contained in the protective care of a locomoting being that can get us food, water, and shelter after we are born or we die. That is why attachment theorists use the word attachment. Buddhism warns against attachments and alanon teaches loving detachment because if there was not a good infant/caretaker interaction, we can feel a life-threatening anxiousness about all our important relationships. Studies based on slowing down videos of moments of interactions between people show that we need both matching movements and mismatching movements to calm our nervous systems, but those of us (me included) that did not get that infant containment and who can feel that left-over life-threatening need to attach do need to see that we can live with no attachments (especially to lovers) to then form "healthy attachments" through healthy "detatchment." Does that resonate with you all?

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Elyane Youssef

Elyane S. Youssef is an extraterrestrial who was given birth by Earthlings. While living on planet Earth, she fell in love with art, books, nature, writing, photography, traveling, and…pizza. Elyane finds her joy in backpacking and bonding with locals. To see the faces she interacts with on her travels, you can follow Face of the World on Instagram. Besides getting on and off planes, she is in a serious relationship with words and hopes to inspire as many people as possible through them. Once her mission is accomplished on Earth, she will return to her planet to rejoin her extraterrestrial brothers and sisters. In case you’re wondering, yes, she is still willingly obsessed with Frida Kahlo. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also check out her macrame art on Instagram.