How to know if you love someone or just feel attached

So you are wondering if it’s the real deal or if you are simply attached to someone?

Well, today, we help you answer this. 

In short, love is a profound, trusting, and caring affection towards someone, while unhealthy attachment most often involves insecurity, a lack of vulnerability, and a fear of being alone.  

Before we dive deeper, it’s important to note that not all attachments are bad. As Healthline notes, “Lasting love relies on healthy attachment to flourish.” 

The real question is, “Is your attachment healthy or unhealthy?”

Answering this can be tricky, but it’s crucial for understanding the depth and potential of a relationship. 

If you are truly in love and have a healthy attachment to your partner, you will likely relate to the below signs. 

If not, well, you may have some work to do. 

1) You can truly open up to each other

What are you comfortable telling your partner? Can you tell him or her about your deepest fears? What about those embarrassing moments from your past?

True openness in a relationship extends beyond mere communication. It involves a deep-seated willingness to share one’s innermost thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities without fear of judgment. 

This level of honesty is a powerful indicator of healthy attachment and love

In contrast, relationships characterized by superficial interactions or a reluctance to share personal experiences might suggest an unhealthy attachment.

As WebMD tells us, an inability to open up can often stem from what’s known as an anxious-avoidant attachment style—a fear-based approach to relationships where individuals keep emotional distance to avoid potential hurt. 

The point is, while it can be frightening, real vulnerability is essential for building strong, loving relationships.

Dr. Brené Brown, a renowned researcher, and author, has underscored the value of such openness by stating, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.” 

The same goes for relationships. 

2) You love your partner for who they are (and they do the same)

It’s easy to fall for someone’s best traits, but the real test of love comes in embracing the less-than-perfect aspects without the urge to change them. 

True love, as opposed to mere attachment, involves the acceptance of your partner as they are—flaws, quirks, and all. 

This kind of acceptance fosters a deep emotional connection that transcends superficial attractions or momentary passions. 

And the experts agree. As noted by psychologist David Tzall, this mutual acceptance is a sign of unconditional love. 

It’s not just about appreciating the good but also tolerating the inevitable disagreements and imperfections without judgment. This unconditional acceptance is crucial for a healthy relationship because it builds a foundation of trust and respect. 

When both partners feel genuinely accepted for who they are, not just who they can become, it nurtures a sense of security and belonging in the relationship. This dynamic ensures that both individuals feel valued and loved, creating a resilient, enduring bond. 

3) You can say “No” without feeling guilty

If your relationship is built on love rather than unhealthy attachment, both you and your partner will have the freedom to express dissent without guilt or fear of retribution. 

This ability to comfortably say “no” is not just about refusal but about asserting boundaries and ensuring mutual respect.

Clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Randi Gunther has noted this. As she explains in a Psychology Today post, successful couples understand the importance of maintaining individual boundaries while being committed to the relationship. 

They can accept each other’s decisions—even when they involve saying “no”—without feeling rejected or taking it personally. They can clearly articulate their needs and limitations without fear of judgment or backlash. 

This contrasts with relationships marked by attachment, where one might comply reluctantly out of fear of upsetting the other person or risking the relationship. 

Do you find that you and your partner can express disagreements or deny requests without guilt and with respect for each other’s viewpoints?

Good for you. It’s a sign of a mature, loving relationship. 

This next one is a big one. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was actually the source of many of my own relationship problems in my twenties. 

4) You aren’t joined at the hip

relationship is unbreakable How to know if you love someone or just feel attached

When we fall in love initially, it can be hard to stay away from special someone. We want to be around them all the time. 

The early days are often filled with what feels like an insatiable desire to share every moment, which can feel intoxicating and deeply bonding. 

I know this firsthand. As a younger man, I often mistook this feeling for love and would cling tightly to my partner. The result? 

Codependency; not a healthy, loving relationship

It wasn’t until I came across the teachings of world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê that I realized how needy I was, and how my behaviors were impacting my relationships. 

In his free video on Love and Intimacy, he explains that healthy relationships are based on love and self-respect – a balanced dynamic where both partners support each other while flourishing independently — not fear, low self-esteem, and projection. 

Other experts, such as Dr. Barton Goldsmith, echo the importance of this balance. He explained in a Psychology Today post: 

“Interdependence is the healthiest way to interact with those close to us. It allows for two strong individuals to be involved with each other without sacrificing their identities or compromising their values.” 

So, how does this look in the real world? 

Well, here are a few examples. If you can say yes to these, you probably have a healthy level of interdependence. 

  • You still enjoy spending time with friends and family without your partner occasionally.
  • You support your partner’s career and personal goals, even if it means spending time apart.
  • You feel comfortable making some decisions independently.
  • You encourage each other to pursue growth and learning opportunities, even when it involves physical or emotional distance.

If not, you have some relationship  work to do. As I mentioned, a gamechanger for me was Rudá Iandê’s free video on Love and Intimacy. It might also be one for you.

5) You don’t need constant reassurance

We all appreciate a little reassurance now and then, especially from someone special. It’s comforting to feel affirmed and loved.

However, when reassurance becomes a constant need, particularly concerning the stability of the relationship, it may signal an underlying issue.

As licensed marriage therapist Dan Neuharth pointed out in a Psychology Today post, constantly seeking reassurance can be indicative of anxious attachment rather than healthy love. 

He explains that individuals with this attachment style may engage in behaviors such as overloading their partner with texts or voicemails if not promptly responded to, becoming noticeably nervous or upset if their partner appears distant, attempting to interpret hidden meanings in their partner’s comments, or frequently asking for compliments and affirmations.

Sound familiar?

These behaviors often stem not from love but from insecurity and fear.

That being said, if you notice this in yourself or your partner, it might be best to be gentle. 

As acknowledged by Choosing Therapy, such anxieties often originate from early childhood experiences beyond our control, such as inconsistent parenting or emotionally distant caregivers. 

Past influences can shape how we act in relationships, often without us even realizing it. 

6) When you have a conflict, you can resolve it amicably

How do you and your partner handle disagreements? Do they escalate quickly, or are you able to discuss issues calmly and come to a resolution? 

As you might imagine, relationship professionals emphasize the importance of clear communication in nurturing lasting relationships.

Madissyn Fredericks, a licensed clinical professional counselor, perhaps summed it up best when she stated: 

“Without communication, you have no foundation on which to build a healthy relationship. Open communication gives each partner the opportunity to be vulnerable and listen to the other. A healthy relationship allows the space for difficult conversations and disagreements to be had with minimal avoiding or attacking.”

Basically, being able to address conflicts constructively without harming the relationship indicates a deep level of understanding and respect between partners. 

It shows that both individuals are committed to resolving issues and growing together rather than winning arguments or suppressing feelings.

Effective conflict resolution not only strengthens the bond but also reinforces trust and security within the relationship, proving that even during challenging times, you and your partner can rely on each other to handle things with care and respect.

7) You celebrate each other’s successes wholeheartedly

relationship is a perfect example of teamwork How to know if you love someone or just feel attached

Another hallmark of healthy love over mere attachment is how partners react to each other’s successes. 

If you genuinely love someone, you will share in their joy and pride without any underlying jealousy or resentment. 

Basically, un a relationship driven by love, both individuals act as each other’s cheerleaders, offering encouragement and celebrating milestones, no matter how big or small.

On the other hand, in relationships characterized by unhealthy attachment, one partner’s success might trigger insecurity or competition, leading to diminishing support or even sabotage. This can be particularly damaging, as it undermines the fundamental support system that partnerships should provide.

This dynamic of mutual support and celebration contributes significantly to the resilience and satisfaction within a relationship and is essential for maintaining a healthy, loving relationship where both partners can thrive.

8) You maintain a clear sense of self

As you probably gathered, unhealthy attachment often leads individuals to lose their personal identity. 

In such relationships, we often find ourselves changing our habits, preferences, and even personality traits to match those of our partner or what we believe our partners want from us. 

You’ve probably seen this in a friend if you haven’t noticed it in yourself. 

While becoming “one” might sound somewhat romantic, as noted by Healthline, this is actually a sign of unhealthy attachment. 

As they put it, “It’s important to share some things with friends and partners, but it’s just as important to spend some time apart and maintain your own interests.

Do you find that you can still pursue your personal hobbies, enjoy your own friendships, and make decisions based on your values and not just those of your partner?

If so, it’s a strong sign that your relationship is rooted in love, not dependency. 

The bottom line

That’s just about it from me today, folks. 

Determining whether you’re experiencing love or merely attachment in a relationship can profoundly impact how you understand and engage with your partner.

If you find your relationship marked by mutual respect, interdependence, honest communication, and a genuine acceptance of each other’s whole selves—flaws included—you’re likely experiencing true love. 

This kind of relationship allows both partners to thrive individually and together, forming a strong, enduring bond.

On the other hand, if the relationship often leaves you feeling insecure, needing constant reassurance, or struggling to maintain your sense of self, it might be more about attachment than love. 

Recognizing these signs is the first step towards understanding what you truly share with your partner and what steps you might need to take to foster a healthier, more fulfilling connection.

As always, I hope you found some value in this post. 

Until next time. 

Picture of Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business. As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys. In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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