According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word attachment can be defined as “the condition of being attached to something or someone in particular. Specifically, having affection, fondness or sympathy for someone.” Based on this definition, the concept of this word “attachment” appears to be pretty simple. However, attachment is anything but simple. Attachment holds complexity, and above all, attachment holds power. It is what evokes our jealousy and insecurity. It is what complicates our sought-after “friends with benefits” relationships. It is what makes goodbyes feel like losses rather than opportunities for gain. Though attachment is a natural response to emotions and interpersonal relationships, it can often lead to negative feelings of fear and unease. Maybe it’s possible that attachment is simply unavoidable and embedded in our biology. But what if it is possible to gain control over this complicated and compelling force that is attachment?

Daily Nexus / Anna Wade

Though we seem to notice it the most in romantic relationships, attachment is something that dates all the way back to our infancy. Our attachment with our parents, specifically our mothers, is what guides our attachment styles in future relationships. There is no doubt that it acts as a natural, guiding force in our lives, allowing us to form bonds and maintain partnerships. Given the relaxed and casual dating culture we have moved toward in the last decade, many people gravitate toward the idea of a “no strings attached” or “hookup buddy” arrangement. It appears easy and fun, possessing the benefits of a relationship yet withholding the complications. However, as showcased in every romantic comedy since 2010, being friends with benefits just doesn’t always work out as smoothly as you think it will. Reasoning this from a scientific perspective is easy. When we cuddle, kiss or have sex, oxytocin is released into our bodies, building those emotions and attachments with or without our cognitive consent. That part of attachment truly is out of our control, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it no matter how hard we try. Rather, our control lies in our response to these emotions and attachment.

The mistake many people make when entering an “unattached” relationship comes from the misconception that they will be impervious to feelings. We often think of ourselves as invincible, possessing the ability to dictate how we feel and when we feel it. Whether we believe they are simply due to hormones or maybe something deeper like fate, we should know by now that this is never true. For some reason, society seems to view emotion as weakness, demanding that we learn to expunge or ignore them. Rather than attempting to acknowledge and understand them, we’re taught that it’s easier to just try casting them away. This idea of running from or hiding what we feel is based on nothing more than fear.  Learning to love unattached means rejecting that fear.  Learning to love unattached means recognizing, accepting and actually embracing the very emotions that attach us.

When we acknowledge and respect our feelings, we are giving ourselves validation and love. We give our minds and hearts a break when we remain honest and true rather than trying to force the reality we wish existed.

First, we have to remember that each person in our lives has in fact, their own life. Whether it’s our mother, father, brother, friend or a person we’re wholeheartedly in love with, each of us is on our own individual journey. Remembering this makes it a lot easier to take away the personal aspects of attachment that make us feel jealous, insecure or doubtful. Second, we have to learn to accept the way we feel without the expectation that our wants and desires will be met. This doesn’t mean caring about the other person more than we care for ourselves; if anything it means the exact opposite. When we acknowledge and respect our feelings, we are giving ourselves validation and love. We give our minds and hearts a break when we remain honest and true rather than trying to force the reality we wish existed. Once we reach this level of truth and openness, the attachment that seems to control us can become more of a bond to be thankful for. Rather than feeling resentful or hurt at the fact that things are not as we wish they were, we can begin to see the reasons as to why they are not.

Loving unattached means we respect ourselves and our emotions as well as those of the ones we find ourselves attached to. It means we recognize and acknowledge where we are in life and where they are in theirs. It means always wanting the best for both ourselves and them, even if that means going down different paths. For some, maintaining unattached love requires maintaining boundaries, some of which may need to be physical. And though sex and affection can make unattached love seem more difficult, I believe always remaining honest and true can only lead to positive outcomes. Though we will never be able to un-attach ourselves from emotions, we can un-attach ourselves from insecurity and jealousy. We can un-attach ourselves from disappointment and regret. Most importantly, we can un-attach ourselves from the fear that detaches us from love.  

Allie Lebos wants you to respect your feelings and set yourself free from insecurity.