We’ve all had a rough breakup or two, eh?
Ugh. It’s always so damn cliche. The agony of loss. Obsessing over every little detail of the relationship. Feeling like we have lost a part of our souls. The desperate attempts to show the other person that we have changed. The chase to get them back. It has all been played out in every sh*tty rom-com we could possibly find on Netflix.
In my experience, a lot of this is pretty unavoidable in our first couple relationships. Of course we are going to feel attached and freak out when things don’t work out. We are a lot more like children than we are comfortable admitting, and the attachment we feel to a romantic partner reflects the attachment we felt to our parents when we were infants.
I would be super interested to talk to someone who has not had a breakup experience like this, because they are probably from Pluto.
Though, what is avoidable is repeating this pattern over and over again, which so many people end up doing in their romantic lives. What I would like to do is express a simple truth that might be really helpful to people who have fallen victim to this pattern—or perhaps to someone on the other side of the equation, so that they can be more empathetic toward their “crazy ex.”
It goes something like this: It is not that we miss the other person really, it is more that we associate that person with a particular feeling within ourselves that we experienced when we were with them. We are not really getting attached to that person; rather, we have gotten attached to a feeling that likely corresponds to the love and affection that was given to us (or not given to us) in our early childhood.
I know, it’s not the most romantic way to look at it—but it might be the most useful way of approaching our relationships, especially when things get ugly.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with attachment. I really don’t—mostly due to the fact that it happens everywhere we look. We all have this need within us, and to deny this is to deny what makes us human. We all want to be acknowledged, cherished, appreciated, and loved. We are all like children in this way.
Let’s just be a little more mature about all this. If we can recognize that we have this fundamental “need” within us, then we can best navigate through the difficulties in our relationships. Of course we are going to become attached; we’re not the f*cking Buddha. The healthy way of going about this would be to understand that this attachment doesn’t have all that much to do with the other person—and to try and stop projecting our bullsh*t onto them.
If we really love that person, then we can let them go.
I have been to this place of attachment and projection a few times in my life now. Someone will evoke that special feeling in me, and then I will have a difficult time drawing a line between that inner feeling and the reality of the relationship with that person. There have been times when I tried to chase that feeling down by chasing down the other person, and it always descends into utter stupidity. Avoid this at all costs.
There is a difference between attachment and love. Attachment has more to do with this early childhood need, and love is about truly understanding another person across time and space. Love is about seeing the other person—with all of their faults, imperfections, and quirks—and accepting the full package deal. It has more to do with tolerating their weaknesses and honoring their strengths, than it does with trying to change them. Love implies ongoing dialogue and a willingness to give every once in a while if it best serves the relationship.
Let your partner win an argument or two, goddammit. We don’t always have to be right, eh? Try to understand where they are coming from, and they will probably return the favor. To love someone implies truly seeing them—and if we are getting attached, in spite of their desire to move on, then we are obviously not really seeing them.
So, you see—I don’t miss her. I miss how she made me feel. That feeling is not something that is specific to this one person. I am learning that we can actually fulfill this desire in and of ourselves, simply by living in our bodies and listening to ourselves.
The more engaged we are with the present moment, then the less needy we feel. If we are connected with our bodies—perhaps through breathing methods or mindfulness meditation—then that deep-seated desire to cling to whatever makes us feel good comes to slip away for a little while.
As far as listening to ourselves and getting a better understanding of how we feel, try journaling in a free-flowing and non-structured way. Let’s see what happens when we just sit down and write out our thoughts and feelings. This can get us in touch with ourselves more, and it feels great.
Next time we dive head first into the romantic wood chippers, let’s see if we can stop and ask ourselves if we are doing this because we are attached to the feeling of that person, or if we actually love them as an individual human being. If we can answer this honestly, then we will probably save ourselves some trouble.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Unsplash/Allef Vinicius
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton