Attachment vs love: understanding the definitions

This article will explain what is the definition of attachment and love. It will also show how detrimental attachment can be to a person, and how one can cope with unhealthy attachment.

Attachment vs love: understanding the definition

There are differences between feeling attachment towards someone or feeling love. Let’s discuss the definition of each of them.

What is love? 

Love is a feeling that often causes a person to feel deep affection for a person. They can feel happy when the person is around them and is always making sure that the person is well. A person that is in love also understands that their words and behaviors can affect the person they love.

It is also important to understand that love can manifest itself in different types of relationships. There is the platonic love, the love you have for a romantic partner, and the love you feel for the people in your family. 

The most thought-about type of love is romantic love. That type of love is known to be able to happen in all stages of a person’s life, and when a person feels they are in love they can have the desire to spend a long time with that person.

Feeling romantic love is what ultimately makes us go on as a species since it is through it that we choose and work on attracting our partners. With the passing of the time of the relationship, a couple that is in love will likely still be extremely affectionate towards one another even if the sexual aspect of the relationship is no longer as present as it was before.

What is attachment?

Attachment is at first the way that a baby will bond with their primary caregivers, be it their mother, father, or replacements of them. The form that we bond with these people is what will create our patterns of attachment, so when we grow up we will connect to other people similarly.

This style of attachment often encapsulates what you expect of the people in your life, how you behave with them, and how you perceive the relationship. Authors have defined that people will connect in one of four attachment styles: anxious, avoidant, disorganized, and secure.

The first three are defined as insecure attachment styles, and each of them, in its way, will bring trouble for the person to connect with others. But it is through the secure attachment style that the person will be able to form a healthy and meaningful bond with another person.

It is important to understand that even though there are attachment styles that are not perceived as healthy ones, it is always possible for a person to change their attachment style through therapy.

When an attachment is unhealthy? 

Attachment can often be seen as unhealthy. When it is like that, it can lead to many situations, let’s discuss what they are.

It leads to codependency  

When you have an unhealthy pattern of attachment it can lead you to develop a codependent relationship. This means that you may often put your partner’s needs ahead of your own to a point you can forget what your needs are. 

In a codependent relationship, it is likely difficult for you to say no, and you can see that you are often making excuses, or lying to protect the person you love. It may also cause you to feel that you need to take the blame for situations to not get into conflict with the person.

It makes you anxious 

An unhealthy attachment style will often make you feel anxious. It will lead you to feel love, and anxiety at pretty much the same level. It causes you to constantly fear you may lose the person you love, and you may do anything in your reach to keep them close.

Some conditions bring the connection between anxiety and attachment as one of its main traits. It is a common situation for people that have separation anxiety, dependent personality disorder, or even people that have an insecure attachment style.

It causes you to look for control

At some point, attachment can be so detrimental that it is not only connected to the fear of losing your partner, but it can be part of a narcissistic situation and lead to a lot of manipulation. 

In these cases, attachment can easily become abusive, and you may realize that your partner is taking over control of pretty much every aspect of your life. They will start to control your finances, how you dress, or even how you behave.

With time you may notice that they are isolating you from your family members, and to do that, they keep taking advantage of your insecurities telling you that no one would want to have you in their life and that they are all you have got. 

It is important to keep in mind that an abusive relationship can show itself in many forms. It can be physical, verbal, or even sexual abuse.

How can I cope with unhealthy attachment? 

If you have come to realize that you are in a relationship that is being run by an unhealthy attachment style, you may need to work on detaching yourself. It is important to notice that this doesn’t mean ending the relationship, but trying to understand if it is possible for you and your partner to stand as individuals, and to have boundaries between one and the other.

To do that, in some cases it may be necessary to go to therapy. It can be an individual process, so you can understand the root of your attachment, and work on that. It is possible that through this process you can change your attachment style to a more secure one, improving the way you connect to people.

Or it can even be couple’s therapy so you and your partner can work on setting a different kind of relationship. But if you feel that even through all the work you and your partner are still not able to create a safe bond, it may be a sign that the two of you are in a toxic relationship, and that may be a type of relationship that you should look to get out of.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What is the definition of attachment and love? 

Is attachment stronger than love?

Attachment and love are different experiences. What one can keep in mind is that attachment will usually have highs and lows that are far more intense than the ones that will happen when you are in love with someone. 

Love is usually a more stable emotion, and even when the two of you hit a conflict in your relationship, you will have a safer structure to deal with it.

In a relationship that is based on attachment, when a conflict is going on, you may begin to experience an intense fear of losing your partner, and that can lead you to act desperately, leading to the highs and lows that are common in an attachment relationship.

Is it possible to love someone and not be attached to them?

Yes, it is common, but also healthy to love someone without being attached to someone. You can be fully committed to the person, and feel that the two of you are emotionally connected. But in your relationship, there is no space to be dependent on the other person.

Each of you has your individuality, and are both able to respect that. You have the desire and wish for your partner to be happy, and even though you are completely in love with them, you know that you would be able to survive if this relationship was ever to end.

That is because your livelihood is not deeply connected to the person you are with. You can get a great sense of joy from the relationship, but it doesn’t define your goals in life, or even your identity, it feels more like a partnership.

What are signs that I am attached to someone?

When you are attached to someone you will likely find it hard to let go of the person, so not being with them, or even not hearing from them can lead you to a lot of anxiety. Being attached can also lead you to feel that you are the person that understands them better than anyone else in the world.

It can also make you absorb their emotions constantly as if there is no separation between who you are, and who they are, and this can often be detrimental to you. When attached to someone you may want to tell the people in your life all you can about them, and you can see yourself taking interest in the same things they enjoy, even if before they all seemed uninteresting to you.

You can also feel like you want to spend as much time as you can with them, which can often impact your other relationships since at times you can put them as a priority in your life.

What are the signs a man is emotionally attached to me?

When a man is emotionally attached to you they can begin to talk to you the whole day. They will also want to show you off, be exclusive, and even act in a physical way towards you that is not necessarily sexual.

He may also behave protectively, and will show you his biggest fears, and vulnerabilities. He will also make the effort for you to know that they are putting you are their priority, and when the two of you reach a conflict, they will make a point of showing you that he understands your differences.

He will often be a person that supports and encourages you to go towards your goals or passions. And will always make his intentions clear to you. So if that is his intention, he may be working towards creating the foundation for a happy marriage.

How can I let go of emotional attachment?

To let go of the emotional attachment you have for someone you should make sure you understand what it means to be in a relationship that is not based on attachment. You can also try to meditate, and let go of the expectations you have of the other person.

Informing yourself about what forms of relationship, and finding things that give you pleasure as an individual can also help. In that, you may alter your relationships, and the world around you, as you begin to invest in more positive relationships.


This article explained the definition of attachment and love. It also showed what signs of unhealthy attachment, are and what you can do to cope with it.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.