The Difference Between Attachment and Love

Love. It’s a word we use so freely that it’s actual meaning can feel quite devoid. What is Love truly?
Is Love something that we can give to someone, only to ‘take back’ moments later when they’ve disappointed our expectations?
Is Love something we have to earn?
Is Love something we inherently are made of?
These are the questions I am here to unpack today.
In order to anchor this conversation down with something tangible, I will be referencing examples and experiences from my own partnership to illustrate this message.
When I say I love you, what do I really mean?
I will love you, as long as you love me?
I will love you, as long as you don’t hurt me?
I will love you, as long as you’re following our rules?
When I think of Love in such a disposable way, it feels cheap, fraud and devalued in my eyes. Does Love truly exist under such circumstantial preferences?
Many of us express love in the way we were taught to. My generalized observations paint a story that looks like this: I meet you, and a spark ignites in me. Normally I feel rather empty, alone or depressed...but when I’m with you, I feel good, I feel loved, I feel whole. I only feel this good when we are together. That’s how I know I ‘love’ you, because you make me feel good and strip the worry away. You make me feel good, and so I love you. This is the association I make in my head. When being in relationship with you leads me to feeling pain, I question my love. Do I love this person? If I love them, it shouldn’t hurt this bad, right? When it hurts, I am doubtful. When it feels good, I am sure.
And in this generalized rendition of the fleeting experience of Love, my heart weighs heavy. For I know that Love is meant to exist in the absence of conditions. And yet, we’ve been taught that True Love is the human form of the remedy to our impending loneliness.
What if I told you that form of Love that has a condition attached to it, is actually Attachment and not Love at all?
Deepak Choprah outlines the difference so eloquently in his book, The Path to Love:
Love allows my beloved to be different than me. Attachment asks for conformity to my needs, desires and values.
Love does not impose a single demand. Attachment imposes one large, encompassing demand and that is to “make me feel whole.”
Love expands beyond the limitations of two individuals. Attachment tries to exclude everything except for two people.
Recently, my partner and I have been actively opening up the boundaries of our relationship. Both of us have only ever practiced standard, traditional monogamy. In the same breath, we each desire to find a new, freeing way to dance into long-term commitment together, and so here we are.
Important to note: I do not wish to imply or portray that opening up the boundaries of a relationship is for everyone. I don't believe that it is for everyone, and I honor all varying and opposing viewpoints on the practice. I use THIS example today because it is the most recent and real example I have to share from my own life, of working with attachments. Attachments can show up in all sorts of ways that have nothing to do with opening up the relationship (Example: I have an attachment to the idea that if my partner really loved me, he would come right home after work every day and not want to go elsewhere)
He asked me “what’s your ideal, 'limitations-don’t-exist', DREAM situation when you think about opening up our relationship?” and I asked him the same question.
In the revealing of our individual truths, it became clear that what we want for ourselves, does not look the same.
Warren wants the freedom to craft deep and meaningful relationships with beautiful women over the long term (many, many years). He likes to be ‘the rock’ for these women, showing up unquestionably for support or assistance at any time. Sometimes this means showing up for one of these women, instead of showing up for me in that moment. I sometimes joke “Warren has 10 girlfriends, I’m just the one who gets to have sex with him.”
My dream looks a bit different. I want the freedom to connect and spend time with humans as I feel called to. Any and all humans, in any moment, as my heart desires. I want a yummy conversation, to be able to turn into a dance, and then turn into a snuggle! I also want the freedom to act on my desire to share a kiss with another human in any given moment. As a romantic, I have fantasies about me on a beach amidst my travels, meeting a sexy stranger and sharing a single mysterious kiss into the sunset, before he disappears into the night. I want the freedom to act on that desire if the opportunity shows up, without feeling guilty or being judged.
Our visions and desires looks so different, so for a while we struggled to reconcile. “Should we break up and find a partner who wants exactly what we want?” we considered.
And that’s when I realized that in breaking up, we would be missing the point entirely.
We were all born completely capable of Real, Pure, Unconditional Love.
Then, we all went through life and growing up. We faced many challenges, scares, worries and pain in our lifetime. All of those experiences accumulated to create a new perception, this perception deeming the way in which we see the world.
Now when we are with a partner, we are given the opportunity to learn how to return back to Real Love. We experience moments of Real Love, followed by moments of a challenged Ego and a crumbling back into closed-ness.
Like the example with Warren & I: we both had an attachment to an idea about what our relationship would look like. We both had attachments to our ideas of how this relationship ‘should’ be.
And those attachments are what is being challenged in this process. Not our Love for each other, or our innate Love-Essence as beings on this planet.
When Warrens dream partnership didn’t look like mine, I had to ask myself: Can I love someone who wants to cultivate various deep, emotional relationships with multiple women?
Warren had to ponder: Can I love someone who wants to share intimate physical touch and kisses with other men?
And what came forward in that pondering, was a clear YES! Yes, of course I can love this man. As long as I’m willing to destroy my attachment to a fantasy I once held as “the only way.”
I was attached to the idea that my soul-partner wouldn’t crave deep, emotional connections with other women. There's even a sprinkle of a fake story that reads: If he's interested in other women, he is no happy with me. I had an idea/fantasy that my partner would be so deeply inthralled, curious and intrigued by me that he wouldn’t desire to understand other women in that way.
Warren was attached to the idea that as his woman, I would only ever want to touch his body. That as my partner, my body belonged to him. He had an attachment to an idea that the only thing thing that made us a couple, was our exclusive physical intimacy.
Once I was able to work on releasing my attachment to the idea I had, I found it really quite easy to love my partner in his preferences and desires (even though they are far different from mine).
You see, my attachment to the idea that any man in a thriving relationship wouldn’t pursue deep, emotional connections outside the relationship made the experience so painful. When Warren did seek intimate, emotional connection outside of us, it forced me to believe that our relationship isn’t thriving (because according to my belief, it couldn’t be because if it was, he wouldn’t seek other connections). That belief, the belief that our relationship wasn’t thriving, THAT is what hurt so bad. Not actually the fact that he wishes to have intimate relationships with other women.
But the truth is, our relationship was and is thriving.
It was only my own limiting belief that tried to convince me otherwise.
If I can “burn” the attachment to that idea, and even write a NEW belief (Empowered couples open up to share intimate, emotional connections with other humans all the time), then this desire of Warren’s doesn’t feel like a personal blow to my self-worth.
It becomes him just connecting with other people. Instead of him connecting with other people, which means we are not thriving, which means he’s unhappy with us, so he’s going to leave me for one of these women and I’ll be alone (the stories of my scared mind).
And when I am able to dissect my attachments from the disguise of Love, I find it quite simple to Love Him.
Even when I’m feeling hurt.
Even when I’m feeling sad.
Even when I’m feeling alone.
If we mistake attachment for love, we can miss the endless opportunities for us to burn our attachments and return to Real, Unconditional Love.
I may leave one partner, because I couldn’t support or honor their desires. And then I will likely attract another partner who will inevitably accentuate my same insecurities through simply being who they are.
Because we came to Earth to Grow and Return to Love. We will continue to attract people and experiences that highlight the same wound again and again, until we rise to heal. Healing emotional wounds, that is challenging internal work. It can feel especially challenging to rise to the occasion, when most of us were taught to measure our value based on the amount of work we do outside of ourselves.
Anytime that LOVE comes with a CONDITION, you can feel secure in knowing that you’ve just uncovered one of your living attachments.
When I am attached to an idea of how things are, I am less able to surrender to the beauty and mystery of this very moment. I am less likely to live Presently in this very moment, right now.
Next time you feel judgmental towards a preference or desire of your partners, I invite you to examine where you might have living attachments, that are ready to burn.
Nikki Sunshine

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