Love isn’t love when you add qualifiers, expectations, and ownership to it.
If we want to truly love people, we have to learn how to love without attachment.
That’s often easier said than done. In this article, I’ll take you through 10 important steps to loving without attachment.
1) Respecting yourself
Loving without attachment, or loving unconditionally, isn’t about forsaking all of your personal boundaries in an effort to love someone no matter what.
At that point, it isn’t love at all. It’s something unhealthy, unbalanced, and far from unconditional. In many ways, it’s a selfish form of love.
Because when you disrespect yourself, sacrificing your well-being for the love of another, it stops becoming about them and becomes about you. In many ways, it becomes a self-sabotaging crusade. Which is, in essence, the opposite of unconditional love.
In that way, then, loving without attachment starts with respecting yourself, understanding the ways you love, and giving that love to others in a way that benefits you, enriches your well-being, and doesn’t wear you down.
It sounds difficult, but all it really takes is a bit of mindfulness, awareness, and practice.
Granted, learning to respect yourself and the love you give others may prove to be more difficult depending on the circumstances you’re currently in.
If you’ve found yourself in an unhealthy, one-sided, or even manipulative relationship, it can be really difficult to determine how to love without attachment and make healthy choices.
That’s why this step is first on the list. You have to understand yourself, the way you love, and your inherent worth first. Then you have to respect who you are, taking decisive actions in line with that respect and value you understand you have.
You’ll start to see what doesn’t add up in your life. You’ll find the relationships that aren’t healthy, that are toxic, and that degrade your value.
Loving without attachment begins with creating respect for yourself, and removing any toxic attachments.
If you struggle with relationship anxiety, here’s a great article that goes further in-depth about how to break out of it.
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2) Being honest
Loving without attachment is in many ways loving with honesty.
In other words, there’s no deceit, no denial, only complete acceptance of the love, its manner, and its forms of expression.
Being honest when it comes to love is a multifaceted art. You have to be honest with yourself, honest with your limitations, and honest with the object of your affection.
It takes a lot of introspection, mindfulness, and awareness.
Let’s talk about some methods to being honest in the way that you love.
First, like I talked about in the first point, you have to be honest with yourself. You have to understand your boundaries, your love languages, and the limits of your love. What is the motive behind your affection?
When you reach the healthy limits of your love’s expression, you need to be honest with yourself about it. That way you can always be truthful, genuine, and love with absolute freedom.
When you analyze the patterns and behaviors you exhibit while in love, what do you notice? Do you notice tendencies of possession, ownership, or attachment? If so, it’s important to be honest with yourself.
Remember, love is not ownership, nor is it possession.
Love is given and received freely, without obligation. The more of it there is, the more capable we are of loving.
I think of the quote from Griffin McElroy:
“Our capacity for love increases with each person we cross paths with throughout our lives, and with each moment we spend with those people.”
Being honest with yourself will allow you to separate out the negative and positive aspects of your style of love.
Understanding your limitations will allow you to stay healthy, happy, and capable of loving as much as possible.
When you recognize these things inside yourself, about your love, you’ll be able to communicate honestly with your partner, or whoever the object of your affection is. You can be honest with them about the nature of your love, your boundaries, and what you can offer them.
Indeed, being honest is one of the best ways to love without attachment.
People listen when you speak with honesty. Here are several more great tips about how to speak so people will listen.
3) Being vulnerable
So much of intimacy revolves around our ability to be vulnerable.
Indeed, what is there for our significant other to fall in love with and feel close to if we never open up to them?
Being vulnerable is a key way to achieve intimacy with the person we love most. It’s also an integral element of loving without attachment.
Here are a few reasons why:
First, vulnerability allows those we love to understand us better. When we can open ourselves up, let them see our injuries, our weaknesses, our battle scars, they can better be there for us.
Loving without attachment is a two-way street. When those we love can see us when we’re weak, it gives them an opportunity to express their love in return.
That way, when it comes to understanding our love, we won’t feel unloved, needy, or always undervalued.
These feelings of inadequacy, as well as any feelings of insecurity, could lead to loving with too much attachment. It can lead to unhealthy thought patterns around why we love, and around why we care about the people closest to us.
To put it another way, practicing vulnerability will foster and create a safe place for love to grow—without attachment.
Embracing vulnerability will give you the ability to strengthen your relationships. It will allow you to be honest, straightforward, and clear. The more vulnerable you are, the less likely unhealthy forms of attachment will crop up.
And the second reason is that vulnerability eradicates fear.
Fear is one of the biggest reasons any of us hesitate to be vulnerable. We’re afraid of what people will think, we’re afraid people might not understand us. Or, we may even fear that if they know who we really are, they won’t love us.
How untrue that is.
Those who truly love us will always love us, for who we are.
Here’s the bottom line: unhealthy attachment is a fear-based response. When we practice being vulnerable, we eradicate fear. With fear we can eradicate attachment, and better love without it.
Overriding fear is vital on a personal level, as well as on a societal level. This article talks about some practical ways to override fear. We’ll talk more about fear later on in the article, as well.
4) Eradicating ideas of ownership
So many people confuse love with ownership. They think, “Now that this person is in a relationship with me, they’re mine. They’re a part of my narrative now.”
That kind of thinking is unhealthy, but it’s something almost all of us have a tendency towards.
And while, yes, mutual loyalty, obligation, and reasonable expectations are part of a healthy relationship, those things are different from ownership.
Ideas of ownership lead to problems of attachment. For instance: we think that this person owes us something because we love them. We think we can change them, make them better, or string them along through our life without consideration for them.
There are a lot of ways ownership can show itself in a relationship, so keep an eye out for those tendencies and thoughts.
These are the kinds of thoughts that foster unhealthy love, and if you want to love without attachment, it’s important to eradicate any ideas of ownership.
The boundaries, rules, and expectations of a relationship are completely different depending on who’s in the relationship. There’s no set of “rules” that’s inherently free of ownership. It just depends on the people.
However, ownership has no place in loving without attachment.
Recognize that your significant other has just as much agency in their life as you do. In the same way, you don’t want to be hindered or told what to do, the same is true for them. They are free as you are free.
And love given freely is so much more powerful and profound. Love given freely is timeless and limitless.
Here are some powerful signs from the universe that you’ve found a soulmate.
5) Discerning jealousy
Jealousy, much like ownership, often wriggles itself into the way we show love and affection. In fact, jealousy is so often so wound up with feelings of love many don’t even recognize or treat them as different.
Here’s the thing though: they are very much different things.
Discerning that difference and practicing only healthy forms of jealousy will help you learn to love without attachment.
So what are the kinds of jealousy?
There are really only two kinds, actually. There’s healthy jealousy, and unhealthy jealousy.
Healthy jealousy is characterized by a strong sense of loyalty, strong devotion, and protection.
Unhealthy jealousy is similar but it centers more around selfishness. The idea is that you need to keep your significant other from other people, or from certain situations. You don’t want anyone taking them from you, you don’t like them being alone with other people, and so on.
It may be under the guise of protection that unhealthy jealousy reveals itself, however, the truth is that a lack of trust, a lack of respect, and a fear of loss are the true culprit. Unhealthy jealousy involves threats, self-pity, feelings of inadequacy.
Once you can discern jealousy in your relationships–how it’s different from the love and affection you feel, whether or not it’s a healthy sense of jealousy or an unhealthy one–then you’ll better be able to love: freely and without attachment.
Overly jealous people are sometimes narcissists hiding in plain sight. If you’re not sure if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, here are some subtle signs of manipulation.
6) Autonomy and freedom
These two things—autonomy and freedom—are the goal of loving without attachment, so why are they here as steps?
Because, in a similar way to our previous points, these elements of loving without attachment are things we can learn about and practice along the way.
Indeed, autonomy and freedom may be the goal of loving without attachment, however, these aren’t just things that create themselves.
Envisioning autonomy and freedom of love is easy if you’re just looking at it from your own perspective. How nice to be able to love and be loved without worry, without attachment, free to do as you wish when you wish, right? To feel simultaneously free and like you belong to someone in the same moment?
But what if you reverse the perspective? What if your significant other were to exercise that freedom and autonomy in whatever way they pleased?
It might not always line up with your hopes, wishes, and ideas about what the relationship “should” be, or how this person “should” act, or the decision that they “should” make.
The point here is that autonomy and freedom from attachment take practice. It starts by understanding a simple fact: people deserve the same amount of freedom that you wish for yourself.
Start giving it to them and you’ll find yourself becoming an agent of freedom, exactly as you envision.
To take it even further, you’ll find yourself learning to love without attachment.
Freedom of thought can be difficult to attain, however it could be a sign that you’re reaching towards spiritual awakening. Here’s a look at some key signs to look out for.
7) Elimination of fear
I’ve touched on this concept a few times throughout this article. However, it’s such a vital aspect of loving without attachment, and there’s so much to it.
The eradication of fear.
What does that mean? To not be afraid of the dark, or to overcome your fear of heights?
No, not exactly. Remember, we’re talking about relationships here.
We’re talking about fears that might resonate on a deeper level. Emotional fears. Fear of being left, fear of being alone. Fear of abandonment, being hurt, and so on.
These kinds of fears are usually a result of past trauma. In relationships, childhood trauma can often have a noticeable effect. There’s no set definition of what or what does not qualify as trauma. That’s where introspection can be so helpful.
If a past experience was damaging enough to cause you lasting pain, worry, and difficulty establishing new relationships, it’s a form of trauma.
If the kinds of fears and anxiety created by a past encounter—whether it be from parents, bullies in school, or a previous abusive or unhealthy relationship—still have a tangible effect on your happiness and the health of your current relationships, it’s trauma that still needs to be healed.
There are so many ways to heal trauma. Sometimes we are able to do it ourselves, through expression, art, honesty, introspection, meditation, energy healing, and so on. Sometimes, though, we need to seek extra help.
Sometimes it’s the right person at the right time. Many times, trauma requires therapy to help engender healing. It’s the synergistic effect of all these practices that promote growth, as well as healing.
These ingrained fears have a leeching toxic effect on our ability to love without attachment. Fear of losing the one we love, fear of being hurt by them, fear of being betrayed, they all lead to overcompensation.
In other words, our love becomes tainted with attachment.
So, in order to love freely and without attachment, we have to face our inner demons and eliminate our fears.
8) Inner peace, inner power
This point has a lot to do with the core reasons behind loving someone else.
Asking yourself why you love may seem irrelevant, perhaps vague, or inconsequential. Perhaps too philosophical to matter.
But here’s the thing: it does matter. The reason we choose to love sets the tone for every aspect of how we express that love.
For instance: if our love is coming from a place of need or dissatisfaction, that’s going to show itself in various ways. We may feel unhappy even though we’re with the person we love. We may project our insecurities onto them. We may love them, but with conditions, attachment, and obligation.
This isn’t the way to love without attachment. Loving without attachment involves being okay with your inner self.
When you can find inner peace, you will find inner power.
Let me expand on what I mean.
So often we search out other people to fix what hurts inside of us. I know I’ve done it in many past relationships. As a way to ignore the things that bother us the most, we seek companionship, love, and attention.
It’s okay to do this, but it can lead to bigger problems. This path can lead to growth; I’ve found so much wisdom and healing love in relationships that I, looking back, might not have been ready for.
However, it can lead to heartbreak, a lack of growth: it could be used as a crutch to avoid facing problems. This is when it stops being beneficial.
Instead of seeking solutions to our problems in others, we find the solutions ourselves. Then we find inner peace.
And with inner peace comes inner power, and the ability to love with that power. We can love strongly, with clear intent, we love without attachment.
9) Individual expression of love
Every person expresses their love differently than the next. We’re just tapestries and echoes of our own reality. Unique, unalike, and personal.
It’s what makes falling in love so incredible, adventurous, and scary.
Learning how to love without attachment involves recognizing that each person expresses their love differently.
Being able to see how people express their love for you can be difficult. I know I tend to gauge “how much” someone loves me with my own personal love language.
Here’s the thing: that’s not fair. If we want to love without attachment, we have to accept that people will love us back in strange ways, perhaps in ways, we don’t truly understand.
Coming to terms with the fact that all honest and genuine expressions of love are valid, worthy, and special will only help us to love and celebrate the way in which we show our love even more.
10) Seeing, being seen, and understanding
Along the lines of the last point, loving without attachment takes understanding.
To reiterate: it takes understanding on multiple levels.
It takes an understanding of your innermost self. Who you are, why you love, how you love, what fears you have—understanding these things about yourself will lead to stronger, purer, love.
It also takes an understanding of other people. The people you love are so incredibly unique. They have their own fears, their own concerns. They have their own ways of loving, showing love, and appreciating you for who you are. Understanding this will lead to an expansion of your love, and ability to love without attachment.
Allowing yourself to be seen by people can be difficult and scary. But it’s important. Being seen will help you love more fully and honestly—without the need to hide.
Being able to see others for who they are, too, will help them to feel your intentions, your love, and accept it. The better you can understand them and accept them fully, the more able you’ll be to love them without attachment.
Outward expansion of love
Remember that quote from Griffin McElroy?
Our capacity to love really only increases the more we love. When we eradicate the fears and anxieties we have around love, belonging, relationships, and loss, the better equipped we’ll be to love without attachment.
This unconditional love may seem scary at first, especially as we start to really embrace with full honesty ourselves and those around us, but soon you will find that your love really is limitless, always expanding outwards.
You’ll find yourself loving without attachment, as it grows day by day.