This week’s #ChooseLove Broadcast was on the topic of Attachment vs Non Attachment. Jay and I talked about how we get so attached to our stuff and to relationships that those things end up controlling our lives, instead of us being in control of ourselves.
Attachment is a mental construct; something created by the ego. Ego tells us we need all this stuff that we collect and leave lying around the house cluttering and making a mess. We need it because it reminds us of an emotion – and if we don’t have the stuff, ego instructs, we won’t have that memory and the feeling will be lost.
I gave the example of all the ticket stubs from movies and shows that I keep stuck around the mirror on my dresser. Years worth of tickets to concerts, plays, musicals, movies, and high school football games. They mean so much to me – such fun memories of moments in my life. I see them and I feel the joy of the moment recalled in the memory. I keep the tickets so I can keep the memory – and the joy.
Why do we think that we cannot keep the joy without the thing? Why do or think that we will forget how it felt to watch our daughter dance and twirl at half-time on Friday nights? Why do we think we won’t remember the tackles and the speed of our son playing in the football game?
Ego makes us fear that we will lose all of that if we don’t keep the stuff. If we lose the stuff we will lose the memory and without the memory we don’t have the joy and happiness. We must have the stuff so we can remember and feel.
I have actually dragged mementos from my own high school days in moves across the country and even to another country! Boxes of it! Shipped across the Atlantic Ocean – and back again three years later! I must have this stuff even if the clutter creates mess and chaos and stress and dust and poor health in my life!
And I know you feel me on this because you would have done the same!
Well, we have an answer to this problem – check out Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
That book, and her new Netflix show, have helped me begin to become unattached to my stuff. But, being inspired to get rid of clutter doesn’t solve the whole problem – we still have to deal with an ego mind that tells us we can’t live without attachment.
This is where I want to shift from talking about attachment to things and focus on attachment to people and relationships. I talked about being attached to stuff first because it is a good way to illustrate how we are afraid to get rid of things we are emotionally attached to – even if it creates problems in our lives.
It’s not so easy to understand attachment in relationships. See, we mistake attachment in relationships for love. We think it is natural in relationships that we hang on – even when things are not so good or even when they are very bad because we love the person. We can’t give them up because love. We have to change them to please us because love. We have to fight to stay together because love.
“I love you so I must know who texts you.”
“I love you so we have to spend every moment together.”
“I love you so I need to control where you go and who you talk to.”
“I love you so you can’t…”
“I love you but I can’t trust you to treat me with honor and respect in my absence so I will control you.”
“I love you so why would you ever need to do anything without me or have other friends?”
“I love you and that means I am willing to be unhappy and unhealthy so we can stay together.”
That’s not love. That’s attachment. That is being so afraid to not be in a relationship with that person that you will lock them in a prison and live in relationship hell. It’s just like placing a ticket stub on the mirror – only the ticket stub is a person who is stuck and unable to move and breathe in the relationship.
You must love in such a way that the person feels free. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Freedom is our birthright. We are all born with free-will and the ability to make our own choices. (Yes, even infants have a level of choice – they choose not to be uncomfortable and cry to let you know!)
The only person we can ever truly control is ourselves. It is not up to us to control the behavior of or be responsible for the actions of another adult. When you try to control how they behave in your relationship you often find yourself either manipulating them, being dishonest with them, or placing them in a prison-like atmosphere. That is not love That is attachment.
I don’t know who created this quote, but I like it:
Now that’s freedom.
Understand that this isn’t about being cold-hearted or aloof in your relationships. Of course you give your all and commit to one another. Absolutely treat your relationship like it’s the one! But, also know that you don’t have to be miserable. You don’t have to live in a prison. You can be free to be who you are and your partner can be free to be who they are.
How do you do this? How do you foster freedom and not have betrayals, infidelity, abandonment in a relationship?
Well, freedom doesn’t mean “free from consequence”. Freedom doesn’t mean open-relationship (unless you both want that), it also doesn’t mean freedom to dishonor and disrespect relationship boundaries and agreements either.
You have to communicate. You have to talk to your partner and do the work. You negotiate the “rules” or the boundaries of the relationship. You express your desires and your needs in a relationship – and then each of you get to decide if your partner’s needs and desires are compatible with your own. And if they aren’t? Then you have the choice to leave, compromise, change, or be incompatible with your partner. But those are YOUR choices to decide. You are free to choose. You are free to be responsible for your choice. And so is your partner. Give them the freedom to be responsible for themselves and their choices.
And what if you make these “rules” and they are broken by one of the people in the relationship?
That’s your choice.
Leave. Communicate. Renegotiate. Give a second chance. Get relationship help. Say goodbye.
It’s up to you if you stay or go in a relationship. Just as it is up to your partner if they will stay or go. But no one is making you stay where you aren’t happy. You are in control of your happiness and your direction in life. Do not give that power to someone else. Do not take that power away from someone else.
But you think you can’t live without them. You love them so much that they are the only one for you and you cannot let them go. You will stay in the relationship even if it is causing you stress, chaos, overwhelm and messing up your life because you love them. If you let them go then the good times will be for nothing. You have such potential as a couple!
All I can tell you is that you can live without them. You can survive without them. You can love without pain, unhappiness and chaos. You can love yourself enough to be happy. You can love yourself enough to not want to live in an unhealthy relationship. You can love yourself enough to want trust, respect, honor, integrity, and joy in your life. Love yourself and your partner enough that you don’t want either of you living in chaos, mess, anxiety, overwhelm, and stress. No one deserves relationship prison. No one deserves to lose their freedom just because they are in a relationship.
Potential is a fantasy. It’s a “what if”, a “maybe it could be.” It’s not real. The only thing that is real is this moment. This moment is the only truth.
Like the ticket stub collection from above, if you are keeping a relationship because it made you happy in the past, you are not living in the truth or in the present moment. The relationship is the link to happier days, but what if it is doing nothing but creating unhappiness, or pain now? Keeping the ticket stub doesn’t bring back the event that you went to – and clinging to a partner does not bring back the happiness or create the potential you saw for the relationship.
Think about past relationships you’ve had and how they ended. Imagine what those endings would have been like if you or your ex could have said, “I love you enough to want your happiness even if it is not with me.”
Now, imagine your current relationship feeling free. Imagine you don’t have to check text messages. Imagine feeling like you have the power over your life no matter what your partner does. Imagine not clinging to a person, but instead, walking next to them. Imagine being able to breathe and be yourself and follow your dreams and desires.
This Valentine’s Day, instead of buying more things to create physical clutter, maybe consider doing some de-cluttering of your relationship. Communicate your needs, and listen to your partners desires. Give the gift of freedom this year. Live in this moment and live with joy. We all deserve that.
Best wishes in your relationships – I hope they are all full of love and freedom.
♥ Genie & Jay
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