Is it love or attachment? Many of my clients want to stay in their relationships because they can’t imagine life without the other. Or their spouse says they want to stay married but my clients don’t feel safe or loved by their spouse. This can lead to a lot of confusion for everyone involved.
If you wonder if you are truly in love with your spouse or just the idea of him, this episode is for you. Or if you wonder if your spouse is attached to the idea of you or of being married, but may not necessarily love you, don’t miss this episode.
You’ll hear real examples of partnerships where both elements are present, and gain some awareness on where your relationship stands, as well as how to proceed.
I’m Andrea Giles and you’re listening to the Heal From Infidelity podcast,
Episode number 62, Love Or Attachment.
Hello and welcome to the Heal From Infidelity podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouses’ betrayal but to become the
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Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello everybody. I’m back at it today with Episode number 62. I hope you
are doing well. I hope that you are learning from this podcast, that it’s
helping you, that it’s helping give some clarity, that it’s helping you to
have some more understanding of what’s going on in your life, in your
relationships with yourself, with your partner or whoever is involved in
Today, I have an episode for you where I’m going to teach you the
difference between love and attachment. Okay? So this is something I see
confused often, in my coaching practice, and I thought maybe it’s affecting
some of you and your relationships as well. So I thought I would tackle
this today. Okay? I’m going to go over the characteristics of each, what
they feel like, and give real examples of what it looks like in
Now, I want to just say that several episodes back, I talk about attachment
styles and that’s not exactly what I’m talking about today. It’s different
than that. So I talked a while back about there is secure attachment, there
is anxious attachment, and avoidant where we kind of block people out. This
is different than what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about holding onto relationships for various reasons other than
because we love the person and want to stay with them and I’m going to
explore some of the reasons why we stay in relationships from an attachment
place, not for love, and what that looks like. Okay? So I’m going to talk
about it, give examples, help you to know how to tell the difference and
what to do about it. Okay? Okay.
So how many of you had some kind of special blankey growing up or a special
stuffed animal? These things probably brought you a measure of safety and
security. Then we grow up and we probably mature out of needing these items
to feel safe. What attachment in a relationship looks like, however, is
clinging to another person, much like you would your Teddy bear, because
they bring a measure of safety and security. They may feel comfortable.
Love feels very different than attachment. Okay. It feels very different.
So what does this have to do with infidelity? I’m going to give some
examples. Okay. Here’s the situation. You’re in a marriage. Maybe you’ve
been married a long time, several years. It may be that you came together
from a place where you did not want to be alone. Maybe there are common
interests. Maybe it felt easy but over the years it may be that you just
are comfortable with each other assuming that the other person will be
there but not necessarily feeling a lot of love for that person. Okay.
Then, one partner is unfaithful. They decide for various reasons to get
involved with someone outside the marriage union. The person who had the
affair ends the relationship with the other person outside the marriage but
is not willing to work on him or herself. They would rather just not talk
about it and wish she would just get over it and move on already.
You wonder why they want to be with you when they don’t seem very
interested in truly healing the relationship or themselves. When you talk
about the possibility of ending the relationship, they say they don’t want
it, yet they aren’t really willing to change how they show up in the
marriage. They may even say that they love you but they aren’t really
willing to hold a mirror to themselves to see how they ended up doing the
things, taking the actions that they did in the first place.
This is not love. This is attachment. So we are programmed to be with other
people. Our brains don’t like being alone. We often make it mean we are
unlovable or that we have been abandoned or that we’ll just die out in the
wilderness all alone. So when the threat comes up of being alone, our
brains often freak out and cling to the person that gives us security of
not being alone. It may be confused with love but coming from that primal
place of survival, it is attachment, not love.
Now I want to backtrack just a little bit. Okay. The example I just gave, I
said it’s probably attachment, not love. Now, there may be some love in
there. Okay. This person might genuinely love you but they’re taking
actions from a place of attachment. That’s the driving force. Okay. There
may be love there but they are acting from a place of fear rather than from
a place of love and I’ll tell you a little later how to tell the
difference. Okay? So love can still be present where attachment is also
Okay. Another example. Okay? Someone that I know and care a lot about made
some pretty big mistakes in his life. He got involved in some things he
wasn’t proud of and he knew that he put his marriage in jeopardy. Even
though he knew that he could potentially lose his marriage, he went to his
wife and he told her he had done some things. He had said I need to tell
you all of it. He knew that it would be hard for her to hear but he
couldn’t live with it anymore. He couldn’t live with himself. He told her
that he knew she may end the marriage and that he would understand if she
did but that he hoped she wouldn’t. He then stepped away and gave her a lot
of time and space to think, to work things through, without pressuring to
know what she was going to do.
In the meantime, he worked on himself very hard and continues to work on
himself. This, my friends, is love. It is not clingy. Yes. You may desire
someone, miss them, love being around them, but there’s space in it, room
to each develop and grow, and bring that growth into the marriage and have
it be mutually beneficial.
Another example. I often see, in my clients, the desire to make their
marriages work and they say to me, I don’t know if I love him anymore but
they still want to hold on because they are attached to their spouse even
if they know that it is not helping them grow. They might even know that
they are kind of shrinking. They often feel very stuck and this can go on
All right. Last example. Some of you have had your spouse say they love
their affair partner. They don’t want to end it. In reality, it very well
may be that they enjoy the attention, the validation, the high they get
from the newness of it, and the feeling of doing something a little bit
edgy and rebellious. But in reality, most of the time it is not love. It’s
So let’s break down the differences between love and attachment. In
preparing for this episode, I went and did research, as I often do, and
found some things that I do agree with and some things that I don’t. Some
describe love in a very prescriptive way like unless you are serving your
partner in this way or they’re serving you in this way, then it’s not love
and unless you feel a certain way all the time, it’s not love and I
I don’t think that love means we just need to feel just wonderful all the
time. Okay. That’s not true. But I will tell you some things about love and
some things about attachment that you will feel and things that you won’t
feel. And with this, I want you to pay attention and notice how you feel
when I’m telling you these things. It may feel a little bit scary. You
might recognize it. It may hit a little closer to home than you want. It’s
okay. All right. It’s just for awareness. It’s just for understanding and
ultimately, the more we learn, the more awareness we have, the more freedom
we have to choose with our eyes wide open. Okay. This is just to have some
So love feels abundant. When I think of love, I think of space to be, to
grow, to take up space, to allow those in our space to take up space, to
have autonomy and to come together on things that are important to you
both. Love is not needy or clingy. Love is also not so fiercely independent
that there is no room for another person so it goes both ways. It’s not
super clingy and it’s not super independent. Okay? Clear on the other side.
Love is geared towards someone else. We feel love for them and desire to be
with them, do things for them, et cetera, because it feels good to us to
love them. Attachment is very me-based. It’s very self-centered. We may do
some of the same things as a loving relationship but it is coming from a
very different place internally. We may believe that we have to do those
things to keep them happy or because we want something back in return or
because we think it’s like an insurance policy that if I do these things,
they won’t leave us. It does not feel free. It is very ego-based,
safety-based. We like how we get to feel when we’re around them and I’m
going to tap into that a little bit more here in a minute, what I mean by
Love is more altruistic. We may not always like how we feel around them
because with love, we are often showing deeper and more vulnerable parts of
ourselves that maybe downright uncomfortable. If there was some clingyness
or things like that at the beginning of the relationship and being all
things to each other and thinking that your partner hung the moon, with
love something real and more long-lasting is present. We see each other and
we allow ourselves to be seen. There’s vulnerability here.
With attachment, we’re often using someone else to help us manage our
thoughts about ourselves. We want them to say and do the right things, look
the part, make us look good because it helps prop up our own shaky view of
ourselves. If we don’t have a solid sense of who we are alone, we depend on
this person to do that work for us, to prop us up, make me feel good about
With attachment, you have a need to be with them and hear from them all the
time because they are the reason you are feeling good and okay in the world
and you can count on them to boost your shaky sense of self so you want to
be around them all the time. With love, it’s less about me. We do miss them
when they are not around because we genuinely enjoy their presence but not
so much, not as much because of what they can do for us to make us feel a
Attachment can feel controlling. If someone is attached to you, they may
want to know where you are at all times, who you are with, et cetera,
because they can’t tolerate the insecurity of not having you around and not
responding to them. If they feel the threat of losing you, they may double
down and come on even stronger which often has the opposite effect of what
they’re actually trying to accomplish.
People who are attached to another and not in love have a hard time
compromising. There is no meeting in the middle because this relationship
stems from self-centeredness and a need for that person to prop them up. It
makes sense that if somebody would not be wanting to compromise because it
feels like a threat to them. They don’t want to meet in the middle. They
might feel a loss of power.
On the other hand, in some relationships, one person sets the rules and the
other is expected to do the compromising and that is what makes the
relationship work. But in the end, this is unhealthy and it stifles the
growth of each individual person on their own and them together, their
growth together. While attachment can feel controlling, love encourages
space, freedom, and nurturing and the nurturing of other relationships
outside of your partnership that are fulfilling.
The need is not there to check in constantly because there are security in
the relationship. You know what you mean to each other and don’t need
constant validation and checking in. Attachment tries to change the other
to reflect what the partner wants to see in themselves. It is very hard for
you to detach individual to allow the other person to just be who they are.
They can’t accept who that person is, often, as they are, because they see
everything that the partner does or doesn’t do as a direct reflection of
Love encourages the growth of the other even if fears arise in wondering
where the relationship might go with both of you growing. You sincerely
want what is best for the other. Attachment does not encourage growth. So I
have some clients whose spouses get very nervous that their spouse is
working with me because they can see my clients getting stronger, standing
their ground, practicing boundaries, speaking up, and they don’t like it.
They feel scared. They begin seeing they can not control their spouse and
it can feel like a threat.
This, my friends, is not love. This is attachment. I want to point out
something really important. I mentioned a little bit earlier. I’m going to
mention that again. Both can be present in a relationship because all of us
have insecurities. We all have needs and wants and we all have moments when
we forget how amazing we are and we want somebody else to remind us. That’s
normal. We may have times when we feel a little more clingy or needy.
Now, if you’ve listened for a while to my podcast, you know I’m pretty
transparent about my own experience. I’m going to tell you a little bit.
Okay? I’m going to tell you a little bit about dating my current husband.
When we were dating, when we first met each other, we both had come out of
some pretty painful things. My husband had lost his wife to cancer. She was
sick for a long time. I had come out of a pretty troubled marriage and
shortly after we started dating, my first husband died. We both had a lot
to work through. We both were navigating this new space with not only all
these things, emotions and things that we are still trying to work through
but also this new reality and new identity of being single.
So you know what? I will tell you, honestly, that there was some attachment
in there, that I was anxious, that I wanted to know how things were going
to turn out. I had a lot of anxiety and he did too, in his own way but over
time, love rooted in deeper than the attachment and we fell in love and it
became strong, stronger than the piece of attachment. And the more in love
that we became, the attachment piece became less and less and less and then
we got married. And five years in, I can honestly say that the love piece
is so much more prevalent in our marriage than any kind of attachment. We
both have grown a lot but yes, it was present. There have been times where
both have been there.
I want you to know that if you notice that there’s attachment in your
relationship, it’s okay. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re just doomed. It
means that’s your work. Those are the things to work on, if you choose. If
there is no love, that’s something good to know. Right? If it’s just this
attachment piece and more transactional. What can you do for me? How can
you make me feel? It’s something good to know. Okay?
So what to do with all this information. I want you to look at your own
relationship and try to be as honest as possible. If you are staying in a
marriage because you are attached to the idea of the relationship, I want
you to look at that or are you staying because you genuinely love the
person and want to make it work or is there some of both.
If you are having trouble unattaching yourself from something that you know
is not healthy for you, is it because your spouse is attached to you and
you feel pressure to take care of them, to not leave them. You don’t want
to see what will happen if you leave them. You’re afraid for them. Is that
a good reason to stay? Do you like that reason? Does it work for you? Does
it work for the long-term vision of what it is you want to create for
My friends, I know these are tough questions to answer and probably a
little bit hard to hear but ultimately, I share this with you from a loving
place because I know that the more you understand what is happening, the
more it gives you the tools to be able to go out and change your own life.
Truth sets you free. Awareness sets you free. Awareness is the first step
to change. We cannot change what we cannot see. Okay? We can’t change what
we cannot see.
So take what I said. Look at your own relationship and decide how you want
to move forward. Okay? If you see a lot of attachment there, is there room
for growth together? Is this something that you see your partner willing to
do their own work around so that they are not so attached to you but to
where they can actually grow their ability to love you?
If you feel attached to your spouse and you are staying because you feel
attached and afraid of being alone, I want you to check with yourself and
ask if you like that reason. Is there room in your relationship to develop
love? Is this something you want with this person? Are they capable of
giving it back, if that’s something that you desire, which is something
most of us do desire? We all have this human need to feel loved and to give
love, to belong. Okay.
That’s what I have for you today my friends. Thank you so much for being
here and I will see you on next week’s episode.
Thank you for listening to the Heal From Infidelity podcast. If you would
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I will see you next time.