When you’re in a relationship, how do you know if it’s really love or if it’s simply an attachment? Do those things go hand-in-hand? Yes, but no.
Love is about the other person, whereas attachment is about you. Here are the differences between love and attachment:
The nature of it.
Love is emotional affection and care. It’s fond feelings and actions to match. The nature of love is about deep connection and a sense of warmth, tenderness, and selflessness. Love fosters mutual growth. Love is about appreciating the other person’s qualities. Love is liberating and everlasting.
Attachment, on the other hand, is an emotional bond driven by the need for security and familiarity. It’s deeply rooted in dependency and closeness. The nature of attachment is how you interpret a relationship. It’s what you expect from others and how they can benefit you.
Love is when you can feel safe and secure with and without your partner. It’s about personal growth, freedom, and individual fulfillment, but still feeling deep happiness in their presence.
Attachment is more dependent on the other person. It’s a fear of loss or separation as a means of reassurance and validation. There are 4 attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. Knowing which one you have can help you and your partner understand one another but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will lead to true love. Having an attachment to someone can lead to clinginess or possessiveness.
When you and someone go through a breakup and you feel some kind of resentment, it’s because you have an attachment to them. It’s an attachment of dependency, for longing. You don’t miss this person you have lost, but rather, you have lost the potential of the relationship and of the future. You feel this sense of emptiness — and that’s because you were so dependent on the other person to make you whole.
Selflessness vs. self-interest.
Love is selfless. It’s considering–or maybe even prioritizing–the well-being of your partner without expecting anything in return. You do it out of the kindness and goodness of your heart and for genuine care for them. Love is acts of kindness, support, and sacrifice. It’s a desire to contribute to the happiness and fulfillment of the other person. Love isn’t “they make me happy” but rather “they’re adding to my happiness.” When you’re in love, you’re thoughtfully considering ways in which you can make your partner feel loved and fulfilled.
Attachment, on the other hand, is about the ego. It’s selfish. When you are attached to someone you are more interested in yourself and your personal needs and desires. You seek security, validation, and fulfillment through this person. Attachment can be sex and lust, not intimacy. Attachment can be a desire to control or possess another person. Attachment is the feeling that you can’t be happy without your partner–“they make me happy and if we break up I’m going to be depressed.” Attachment is when you rely on them to solve–or help you forget–your problems.
Love is about emotional depth. It’s more than just feeling passionate and head-over-heels for someone. It’s about feeling joy, compassion, empathy, and even pain. Love is about being vulnerable and deepening your connection through shared experiences and trust.
Attachment also has emotional depth, but a different kind. It’s about familiarity and comfort. It’s more intense. In some cases, it might be a toxic or negative kind of emotional connection. Oftentimes, we get into relationships because it’s a means of filling a void… and you have to be the one to figure out what void it’s filling.
Love has the potential to endure over time, even through hardships. To quote Ursula K. Le Guin, “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” Love is hard work and requires emotional connection, respect, and commitment. Even if circumstances change, love can expand and evolve.
Attachment is more susceptible to changes in circumstances. It’s restrictive. For example, if you get a job that relocates you across the country and you and your partner break up because “you can’t do long distance” then that’s attachment, not love.
It’s important to recognize the differences between love and attachment. Remember, attachment can be selfish, codependent, and restrictive, whereas love is selfless, tender, and free.