How Detachment can Improve Your Life and Relationships

How Detachment can Improve Your Life and Relationships

What are the qualities that can help you have more rewarding and fulfilling relationships? Emotional awareness, clarity in communication, empathy are probably some of the things that come to your mind. But there is another, often overlooked ingredient: detachment. You might be surprised to hear that detachment is an important quality for relationships. But in fact, it is much more than that. Detachment is a highly beneficial state of mind in all the fields of life, and in our relationship with objects, people, even our own physical body.

Detachment is not Indifference

When hearing about detachment in relationships, you might translate it internally as “indifference” – hardly one of the best qualities in any kind of relationship. You might think that a detached person is one that has no human relationships at all, or if he does, then they must be cold and superficial. It’s important to clarify this confusion: detachment has nothing to do with indifference, although sometimes even dictionaries will fall into the trap of confusing them. Indifference means a lack of interest and sympathy towards a person or object. Detachment, on the other hand, refers to the state of mind of being objective and not clinging, and it springs from a deep consideration of the conditions of human existence. I will illustrate this through an example.

Imagine that you go on a package trip with a group of people that you don’t know. The journey will last for two weeks and the participants are coming from all over the world; you are probably not going to see them again after the holiday is over and everyone goes back home. Now, imagine that in this group there is a person that you find amazingly attractive and interesting. You know well that you will share only a short time, and you accept this reality; nevertheless, or actually because of that, you intend to make the most out of the few days that you can spend together. There is no trace of indifference here, but the conditions of your encounter with that person force you, in a certain sense, to be detached.

This too Shall Pass

You might object that this example covers a very special case, and that our close relationships are not developed under those conditions. But is that really the case? After all, we human beings always share a finite lapse of time together, just like people that meet on a package trip. The major difference is that, in real life, you don’t have any clue about when your shared time with another person is going to come to an end. The circumstances of life, the frailty of the human condition, the instability of emotions; all of these factors make relationships much less predictable than we usually believe. If you meditate deeply upon the impermanence of life, detachment will be the inevitable consequence. But just as in the example of a package trip, detachment in real life does not mean indifference: on the contrary, it will empower you to live every relationship with love and intensity, knowing that it could end at any moment.

Detachment is a state of mind that will help you both in times of joy and sorrow. We all know that life is a mixture of pleasure and pain, of comfort and hardship. Probably, you tend to cling to pleasure, hoping that it will never leave you, and you are overwhelmed by pain, fearing that it will never end. But when you start practicing detachment, you will be able to endure difficult moments with even a certain sense of humor, knowing that – as a wise saying goes – this too shall pass. In the same way, you will enjoy the beautiful moments of life without being tainted by the fear that they will end – as they undoubtedly will.

All this doesn’t mean that you need to live in constant insecurity, fearing that everything you rely upon could crumble at any given moment. Quite the opposite, being detached from success and failure, from pleasure and pain, will bring you back into connection with the only thing that is invariably present, stable, and safe: your center of pure awareness and pure love. Detachment is necessary to reach a state of equanimity, and to be able to live fully in the present moment, without worries or regrets.

Towards Unconditional Love

What happens when you start practicing detachment in your love relationships? You have then found the path that leads to unconditional love. Only a detached person can love unconditionally, that is, without expecting anything in return. Being attached to someone means that you love them because of their proximity, which makes you feel good. But what will happen when your loved one does something that upsets you, or simply decides to leave? All too often, attached love then turns into bitterness, anger and resentment.

When you love with detachment, you are not concerned with the results of your loving, which emanates from you just like perfume from a flower. The flower won’t stop spreading its delicious smell when we walk away from it; in the same way, you can love out of a genuine overflow of energy from the heart, without any conditions or limitations. If attached love expresses itself by the words “I love you because…”, pointing to some external condition as being the cause of love, detached love just says “I love you”, without any conditions. You can go even one step further and realize that pure, unconditional love, is best expressed by the words “I love”. As Osho beautifully said: “Love is not a relationship, it is a state of being”.

Love is an Overflowing

Unconditional love is, in a certain sense, independent of the object of love. Although in a particular moment of your life your unconditional love might be focused on one specific person, it does not depend on them. If that person disappeared from your life, the unconditional love would still be there, overflowing from the heart, ready to focus on another wonderful human being when the time comes. Thus, detachment brings to your loving a quality of universality, in which the object of love is not anymore the cause of it. The source of any form of love is inside you, and you don’t depend on anyone to be able to express it.

This is one of the most liberating shifts that a human being can do. Perhaps, you have always believed that another person is responsible for bringing you into the wonderful state of being that you call “love”. But this erroneous conception is the reason why you cling to others, you are afraid of their departure, and you put upon them the burden of making you happy. Once you understand that love springs from within you and that no one else is responsible for it, you can continue loving others, but the fear and the clinging disappear. You will realize that no event in life, not even the death of your loved one, can take this state of being away from you.

Learning to practice detachment is one of the most important tools to develop unconditional love, a non-clinging attitude towards both things and people, and the capacity to enjoy the present moment with intensity. Accepting the impermanence of life means reshaping all of our assumptions about existence – but thanks to this process, the possibility arises for us to love unreservedly, without conditions, and without fear.

photo credit: trustypics via photopin cc

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Showing 9 comments
  • Elizabeth Baird

    I posted this a few weeks ago on my Facebook page:

    I was discussing what “detachment” means with a friend today. He thought it was practiced by Buddha. Ahhh… no.
    Detachment is the opposite of attachment. They are two sides of the same coin. Duality.
    Un-attachment is the attitude of The Self.
    Attachment is like addiction. You can’t let it go, you pine for it after it has gone, you can’t wait until you have it again, you don’t like what’s going on in the meantime… and you always, always need more. THAT folks, is suffering.
    Detachment is a failure to engage at all. It is a state of dissociation, in an attempt to avoid suffering.
    Un-attachment is fully engaging with whatever is happening at any moment. Anything and everything. Then suffering is just not an issue. It is not a “practice”. If you practice it then you will only ever achieve detachment.
    It is best to realise that you are ALREADY unattached. Then any sort of “practice” becomes unnecessary. In fact, the very idea of it is quite ludicrous.

    I posted this yesterday:

    A quote from “The Enlightened Sex Manual: Sexual Skills for the Superior Lover” by David Deida:
    “Growing up, I was raised to treat boys and girls, men and women, equally. To me, that meant treating them the same. I simply had no idea that in intimacy, sameness is not sexy. It was a while until I learned that magnetic sexual polarity is based on the attractive play between masculine and feminine forces, which are equal in power, but also very different. Sex is the play of their differences, their push and pull, their interpenetration, union, and pleasurable unity. But a mush soup of mushy neutered sameness is not the basis for sexual play.”
    What is the most unattractive thing a man can do? Beg for sex. “Please” is not sexy. Suggest it confidently. Or, use your intuition to judge the right moment and TAKE HER. If you don’t understand how profoundly different this is to rape, then this message is not intended for you.

    And then this:

    The masculine expression of The Divine is disposed towards “the Is-ness of Being”. The feminine loves the dance. So, you fellas shouldn’t be assuming that us gals don’t “get it” just because we’re not focused 24/7 on “the emptiness”. We know about “the emptiness”. It’s just that we prefer to celebrate “the fullness”.

    Namaste __/\__

    • Raffaello Manacorda

      Thank you Elizabeth for your extensive and deep comment! Un-attachment versus detachment, that is an interesting point. I personally give detachment a positive meaning, while I call “indifference” the failure to engage at all. But in the end these are just words, what really matters is the attitude. To stay fully present and deeply engaged in a relationship, accepting that, as everything else, it is a transitory state that will inevitably change. To love someone deeply, knowing that, eventually, we will need to let them go – just as we’ll need to let go of everything else. Cultivating this attitude brings us closer to the beautiful paradox of life, in which change is the only thing that never changes. Thank you once more for bringing awareness to this.

      • Barbara

        To detach for some may seem an easy or hard task depending on the circumstances. But sometimes more than others we just have to let go! I heard someone the other day say I need to go into my happy place. Doing you only and surrounding yourself with positive people and things while detaching appears to help as well. Focusing on Me and what makes me happy felt very selfish! But I know this is what it takes to move ahead!

  • Mary

    Thank you for sharing this insight. After 10 years of marriage, the husband to whom I was devoted left without warning or explanation. Having gone through the stages of shock and resentment, I proposed that we terminate the marriage ( divorce) but said I was open to exploring a new relationship based on friendship. In a few months my “ex” is coming to visit from his country of origen and I am frankly nervous about how I may feel. I will be working with your article to move towards a place of healthy, loving detachment.

    • Raffaello Manacorda

      Thanks to you, for your intimate and deep comment! I feel that your decision to be open for loving detachment comes from a place of love, integrity and courage. I am sure it will work out, one way or another. Thanks for sharing!

  • Matthew

    I really love your article. I am going to use it as a basis for journalling for a while and practice these ideas in my marriage.

    I AM love. I am connected to and intrinsically part of the universe. I look forward to my spirit truly soaring when I set it free.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Raffaello Manacorda

      Thank you Matthew for your deep comment!

  • Juanita Mcgaughnafus

    Detachment is very excellent way to express the love that was instilled in us as human beings.

  • Umar Farooq

    It was really useful for me. It cleared all doubts that I had towards detachment. Thanx to the writer who wrote it. And the example in the starting was awesome.

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