Humans crave connections. However, the routes they choose to obtain these connections can differ. Oftentimes, it largely depends on the ways they learned through their early years e.g. their relationship with parents, family, friends, etc. Before we can get into the emotional attachment v/s love debate, let’s first discuss what each term means.

Emotional Attachment V/S Love – Are You Really in Love Or…

Love is complicated. It is easy for people to use love and emotional attachment as interchangeable terms but can they really be used in place of each other?

Humans crave connections. However, the routes they choose to obtain these connections can differ. Oftentimes, it largely depends on the ways they learned through their early years e.g. their relationship with parents, family, friends, etc. Before we can get into the emotional attachment v/s love debate, let’s first discuss what each term means.

emotional attachment

What is Emotional Attachment?

Emotional attachment refers to the psychological bond that can be formed between two or more people.

John Bowlby laid the foundation of the attachment theory when he observed children who spent time away from their parents. He was able to set some clear guidelines on what attachment is and how it can affect our future relationships. This theory explains that all individuals need to develop close ties; physical and emotional, with other people. Having strong emotional attachments with people can also provide a sense of stability and security.

It is also possible for people to build emotional attachments with objects, hobbies, beliefs, dates, places, animals, and memories. Anything that comforts you or provides tranquility typically comes under attachment.

The depth of an emotional attachment depends on three main factors:

  • How do you behave in a relationship?
  • What are your expectations from people?
  • How do you interpret relationships?

What is Love?

Love is a strong affection for another person. It can be in several forms. From sexual, platonic, parental, and partnered, to kinship. It can occur at all stages in life and reflects the desire for someone special.

Love means to be aware of how your words and actions can affect another person. It leads to having a relationship that encourages commitment, communication, and affection. People from all stages of life can fall in love. It doesn’t have to be physical or sexual. The warmth a parent has for their children is the ultimate form of love. Similarly, where the meanings of love may be different for each relationship, the fundamental feelings remain the same.

Now that we have cleared the air by defining each term, we can now build a better understanding of how love and emotional attachment can be distinguishable.

Love V/S Emotional Attachment – The difference explained!

Healthy relationships rely on lasting love and positive attachment. But love and attachment aren’t exactly the same. A relationship requires a balance of love and attachment. When either one goes missing, the relationship suffers. It can either lose its charm or become toxic.

The key differences between these two complicated and confusing terms lie in their driving factors.

1. Love is selfless; Emotional attachment is self-centered

The first major difference between love and emotional attachment is how they make you feel. Love is feelings directed towards the other person. Whereas, emotional attachment is a feeling based on your needs.

When you are in love, you are most likely to put your partner’s needs ahead of yours. Your focus is to make your loved one happy and content. The relationship is not forced and merely depends on the affection the people have for one another. There are no scoreboards, manipulation, or domination required.

When it’s an emotional attachment, you act out based on your needs without much consideration or attention to your partner’s needs. Your focus is always on the ways your partner can make you happy. The dependency takes the lead and rather than self-reflect, you use your partner to improve your self-esteem. The fear of abandonment also plays an important role in making emotional attachment extremely self-centered.

2. Love is empathetic; Emotional attachment is apathetic

Empathy is the heart of any healthy relationship. It fuels the relationship with compassion as it bridges the gap between two different individuals. It is love when people can feel the same or similar to what their partner is going through. They develop a strong bond that helps them to tackle any hardship together as well as celebrate happy times together.

This might not always be the case with emotional attachment. The moment a person gets concerned about their feelings before their partner’s, it becomes apathy. Therefore, emotional attachment can be apathetic when you don’t feel attached to your partner emotionally. You don’t feel their feelings. It is like being indifferent and catering to your own needs.

People who are emotionally attached to other people come across as unconcern, dispassionate, and detached. They are not interested in your life, ambitions, goals, or interpersonal relationship. When you ask them to perform a daily life task, you will notice a dip in their energy. Their vibe is passive and cold most of the time. Someone who is just emotionally attached lacks the desire to improve their life in any shape, way, or form.

3. Love is liberating, Emotional Attachment is possessive

The feeling of love is one of the most liberating feelings. It is freeing, empowering, and entrusting. You don’t need to worry about assuring your partner that you love them every other second. It is easier to be yourself, do your thing, and maintain a healthy relationship with your partner.

In the case of emotional attachment, you are not sure about your partner’s feelings. You worry when they are not there with you. Although you have plenty of things to do on your own, your mind is constantly thinking about that person. You feel uneasy and out of place.

Love is about knowing that your partner truly loves you and cares for you even when they are not around. Emotional attachment is like a constant battle for love and affection. Where love is trusting your partner, toxic emotional attachment can result in jealousy, anxiety, and self-sabotaging behaviors.

4. Love is lasting, Emotional Attachment is transient

Love is one of nature’s greatest highs. Being in love takes intense emotions to progress into a long-term relationship. While there can be ups and downs in a perfectly healthy relationship, the emotions never fizzle out. True love can last a lifetime and lead to a happier, healthier relationship.

Love becomes lasting because it’s unwavering. It is all about strong, devoted, and fondled feelings towards a person. Relationships with love as the center last, because they required each person to go through the muck to succeed. Whereas when emotional attachment takes the center stage, the feelings become transient.

The very base of emotional attachment is self-centered. You don’t care much about the other person. Instead, your focus is on your feelings. Emotional attachment can be intense, but these intense feelings are also quick to waver with time and become dull. It does not get strong with time. Love can survive the test of time, while emotional attachment can change over time.

5. Love is missing the other person, Emotional Attachment is egoistic

Love is about happy feelings. Missing your partner when they are not around, thinking about them and how they might be doing, sending a quick selfie to let them know that you love them. These feelings are comforting and you gravitate toward your partner’s well-being even when they are not around.

True love can also stand the test of miles. If your relationship is based on true love, then distance does not matter. Long-distance relationships can also work as perfectly as any other. When it’s an emotional attachment, it doesn’t work with distance. You miss being around the person not because you want to spend time with them, instead, you miss them for the ego boost you get when they are around you.

Emotional attachment is egoistic at its core. When love is missing your partner and their presence, emotional attachment is about missing your partners because of the way they make you feel better about yourself. Love is independent of malice and self-fish behavior. Whereas emotional attachment is codependent and relies on your partner for an ego fix.

6. Love is compromising, Emotional Attachment is demanding

Love is creating a middle ground. People do believe that if you have to compromise yourself, then it’s not love. I don’t agree with it. If you love someone, you are willing to make a few changes to settle with the person. It requires some meddling to build a cohesive space that caters to each of the partners. And it’s human to have different personalities.

Therefore, love is compromising. Because it understands what is needed to work as a team. On the other hand, emotional attachment is demanding. Instead of respecting the needs of your partner, you tend to demand that your partner should bow to your needs. While the conservations might not be direct, the actions certainly are.

You get iffy if your partner doesn’t go by your way. But you also don’t like mending your ways to comfort your partner. Your behavior is about wanting everything you need from your partner without any regard for their feelings and needs.

7. Love is progressive, Emotional Attachment is regressive

The biggest difference between love and emotional attachment is the state of mind. Love is progressive. You try to be the best version of yourself. You are not afraid to take risks and live your life without worrying about the troubles your partner can make. True love is inspiring. Partners inspire each other to become successful and celebrate their successes.

Emotional attachment is regressive. You depend on your partner in a rather toxic way. You don’t care about building a team with your partner. Instead, your focus is on suiting yourself with whatever you prefer. You become laid back and never introspect to become a better person. For you, you hinge on your partner to do the whole shebang, with your needs in focus.

Emotional attachment deteriorates your progress. It is an uphill battle to become independent and live your life with an open mind. You become overly obsessive with your partners and their attention towards you. Love lets you fly and soar, whereas, emotional attachment cuts your wings.

Are You Really in Love Or…

When you are in a relationship, love and emotional attachment look the same. To my surprise, some people like being emotionally attached to their partners, apparently it shows how much they care and love them. But my dear, that’s hardly the case.

Love shouldn’t be suffocating. Emotional attachment beyond a certain point can make the relationship toxic and emotionally abusive. Here’s how you can different for yourself.

You are emotionally attached if:

  • You get uneasy when your partner is not around
  • You want your partner to spend most of the time with just you
  • Jealousy takes over if you see your partner talking to someone else and spending their time somewhere else
  • Your happiness depends on your partner’s affection toward you
  • Thinking about your partner rails you off your track. You can’t do anything until you get to be with them

It is love if:

  • You trust your partner regardless of where they are and with whom
  • They make you happy, but your happiness does not depend on them
  • You can be yourself as well as care for your partner without getting irritated
  • You plan your future with them
  • Your relationship does not hinder your success

Okay, so you are emotionally attached, now what can you do?

The first towards progress is to realize the difference between love and emotional attachment. Now that you are aware of which side of the court you belong to, you can begin to make a few tweaks to let go of emotional attachment. There are a couple of things I would like to suggest;

1.  Acceptance

The biggest hurdle in growth is not accepting your failures. The moment you begin to accept your failure is the time when you start learning from your mistakes. Introspecting is by far one of the most important factors that can help you to leave emotional dependence behind and become a better person with improved self-esteem.

2. Creating Boundaries

Having healthy boundaries is not only good for you but also plays a vital part in building strong and healthy relationships. If you are on the receiving end of the emotional attachment, then boundaries will help your partner to understand how you would like to be treated in a relationship. Similarly, if you are the one emotionally attached to your partner, then boundaries will help you to control the overflow of feelings.

3. Self-care

Poor self-care is the most common reason for a doomed relationship. If a person cannot take care of themselves, then how do you expect them to take care of the relationship? Self-care is not just about looking pretty and being physically fit. It is also about your emotional health, social health, and spiritual health. You can read about self-care here.


Emotional attachment is not necessarily a bad thing. It is common for partners to have that emotional dependency on each other. The problem begins when it becomes toxic and overly obsessive. Too much of anything can be harmful. The same fact stands true for emotional attachment as well.

An individual needs their space whether in a relationship or not. When a person becomes overly emotionally attached to their partner, it curtails their growth as a couple as well as individuals. Therefore, it is better to stay in a healthy range and not to make your partners a nucleus of your life that your happiness and well-being start depending on that one person. It’s not fair on your partner, neither is justifiable for your own health and contentment.


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