Releasing our Attachments in Relationships

The first big love relationship of my life was one that was never going to last. It’s not that this love wasn’t unrequited; it was just with a man who was unavailable, a man who was already committed to another woman.

The relationship took me to the depths of feeling like a woman on spiritual, emotional and physical levels. When it ended, I swore I’d never find someone I was that sympatico with.  

I believed that I was destined to have a Soul Mate in this life who I ultimately couldn’t be in partnership with. I was certain that I’d be single and lonely forever…

Last month and over ten years later, I completed a romantic relationship with another Soul Mate. He was the first man I ever lived with. This man and I have been bonded for the past two years in a sacred contract that was written in the stars long before we both knew that “Time” existed.

We did not choose each other to be a couple forever. We chose each other to learn…

At one point in our splitting up process I sat in meditation and burst into tears when I realized how much being in relationship with this man has expanded my capacity to CARE. Nothing can change the intimacy that he and I have shared or the powerful lessons I’ve learned about Attachment from being together. Even though the relationship was not meant to last forever, this will forever be sacred and special and ours...

Someone once told me that Jewish spiritual folklore says we have 7 Soul Mates throughout a single lifetime. Since my first spiritual awakening, I’ve been blessed to be in relationship with multiple Soul Mates, each connection and attachment being completely transformative and wonderful (or tragic) in its own special way. Each relationship allowed me to know myself and what I want on a deeper level than before. And no matter how painful it is to look, each relationship has been a mirror reflected back to how I see myself in the world.

It wasn't until halfway between these two relationships that I really began to understand what Attachment is as a Spiritual principle as well as a theoretical framework for human connection.

My favorite class in graduate school as I was obtaining my Masters in Social Work was Attachment Theory. Even though my head was spinning throughout the entire semester and the information was very overwhelming, something inside of me knew how important the information was for me and my Life. Finally I felt able to organize and contextualize all the patterns I experienced within my closest relationships.

Around the same time I was processing what I learned in class, a woman who had become my first “official” Spiritual teacher taught me about Attachment by leaving our relationship and cutting off all communication with me. It was a devastating loss to me, and one that lasted for months. I sat on my couch and cried for hours at a time. The pain was so great that I would have to get up from my desk at work and go cry in the bathroom during several times throughout the day.

Because with Attachment, always comes loss.

Attachment comes from the yearning to return home to pure Oneness (a.k.a  Love, God, Source, Spirit). While everything IS God, we currently live in a reality full of separation and duality, which allows us to stray from experiencing true Love.

When we were born into this lifetime, we encountered our initial separation from Source. Yet on some level, we remember what this Oneness feels like. We may experience it in “doses” throughout our life. It may come through orgasm, through a moment of Spiritual Awakening, or in a moments of deep connection with others, nature or ourselves.

We yearn to go back to the blissful feeling that came with unending Oneness and Love. As a result, we attempt to re-create the experience of Oneness by clinging to those things in life that feel good and resisting things that don’t. This is why we live in a reality full of duality. We crave the sensations that feel good (and avoid the sensations that don’t) in an attempt to return to Source. This repeated craving creates attachment.

The things that feel good that become our attachments could be people, food, behavior/actions, or outcomes.

Many Spiritual teachings show us that the path to Enlightenment means a certain non-reaction to things that we crave (or avoid).

Yet, I believe there’s a big misconception in the “Spiritual culture” right now that the answer to living a non-attached life is to avoid any relationship where an attachment exists.

I’ve tried this myself. While it makes life easier, it is like treading on the surface of a lake. It may be pleasant to keep your head above the water, but you can’t ignore that all of the mud and muck still lies deep within the lake. There is no growth in going around the obstacle like the “Tragic Protagonist”. To grow, you must go through it.

Baba Ram Dass tells a delightful story of trying to avoid a person in need of his love because he was afraid of his attachment to them. Maharaj-ji (his Guru) tells him that being non-attached doesn’t mean cutting yourself off to love. It means loving fully, learning and then moving on when the loss comes.

To truly know ourselves we must engage with the muck, dig up all of our old emotional wounds and gain the awareness of how we re-enact them over and over again until that awareness naturally shifts us into a state where can relate beyond our old dynamics and style of Attachment in the psychological sense and we can also learn release our attachments in the Spiritual sense.