How To Detach With Love: 12 Ways To Love With Detachment
If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, even if you’re in recovery yourself, it can be hard to distance yourself, it can be hard to detach with love. You may often find yourself plagued with worries about their wellbeing. You may do everything in your power to help and protect them. However, you find yourself constantly depleted while they continue to struggle. Practising love with detachment may be the respite you’re looking for.
Read on to learn what it means to detach with love and what detachment is not. Learn how to practise healthy detaching to give yourself and your loved one the freedom you both deserve.
What it means to detach with love
Loving someone with detachment allows you to release the codependent ties that may be entangling your emotions with their problems.
When you detach from someone with love, you don't allow their problems to affect you emotionally. You allow them to experience the consequences of their choices without intervening, or feeling like you must “protect” them.
Detaching with love helps you become more grounded, and secure in your own thoughts and emotions. You can view situations from a place of clarity rather than a place of franticness and worry.
Detachment to release control of your love one
Detaching with love helps you release the need to control the outcomes of your loved ones' life. You release expectations for how you think they should behave, or choices you think they should make. You allow them to live autonomously, even if that means they may stumble along the way.
Additionally, loving with detachment allows others to experience the consequences of their choices and mistakes. Experiencing these challenges is often what's necessary to prompt someone to grow.
Detachment and acceptance to combat codependency
Practising love with detachment offers you peace because it’s rooted in acceptance.
When you have codependent tendencies, you may often experience a great deal of anxiety and discomfort. These emotions may stem from the disconnection between how you think things should be versus how they really are. Your resistance to acceptance causes you more pain than the circumstances themselves, many times.
By detaching from someone with love, you can garner more peace of mind with whatever outcomes come about.
Why it’s important to combat codependency
When you're codependent, your mood becomes fully dependent upon how the person you love is doing. Their actions and behaviours dictate your emotions. Additionally, living in a place of codependency can leave you feeling constantly drained, tired, tense, anxious, and disappointed.
If you don’t learn how to detach with love, you may have trouble sleeping, eating, and focusing on yourself and your own goals. You may have trouble taking care of yourself because you’re so emotionally and mentally entangled with the person you love.
Caring more about your loved one’s struggles than they do
If you struggle with codependency and attachment, you may find yourself seemingly caring more about your loved one's well-being than they care about it. It is incredibly difficult to be in this place.
Chances are, you constantly find yourself doing everything you can to “fix” your loved one’s problems for them. Perhaps you pour a great deal of energy into getting them to change for the better. You may see their full potential and hold them to a standard of the expectation you envision for what they could be.
Detaching from someone with love is about truly accepting the current circumstances and not trying to change them. It is about accepting the current version of your loved one and not holding them to expectations that they do not even hold for themselves. It is incredibly draining to continue to expect someone to change while watching them self-destruct, but it is even more painful to live in a place of arguing, worrying, nagging, controlling, fixing as much as you can, and still not seeing anything change.
Learning how to detach with love allows you to continue loving that person without having their problems affect your state of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Loving with detachment helps you gain perspective on your peace and puts you back in the driver's seat of your own life.
What detachment with love isn’t
The word detachment may have a negative connotation to some, but it is the opposite of harmful.
Practising detaching from someone with love doesn’t mean that you’re ignoring or neglecting your loved one. It doesn’t mean that you’re shutting them out emotionally, or that you’re choosing to stop loving them.
Detaching with love doesn’t mean physically leaving someone, or to even put physical distance between you. You can be thousands of miles away from someone and still struggle with attachment.
Practising love with detachment doesn’t mean that you no longer care about your loved one’s life, well-being, and problems.
It doesn’t mean you’re selfish.
On the contrary, loving someone so deeply that you allow their life to unfold can be seen as the greatest act of selflessness, especially if you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction.
When you continuously try to protect someone, you end up enabling their use without even realising it. Detaching with love allows you to let the natural consequences of their use unfold, so they can find their own internal motivations to seek change and get help.
The Benefits of Detaching with Love
There are many benefits of practising detaching with love, granted to both you and the person you care for.
- learn how to truly love someone
- become more grounded
- protect your mental and emotional wellbeing
- release controlling behaviours
- have more peace of mind rooted in acceptance
Your loved one learns...
- how to make decisions on their own
- from their mistakes
- how to problem solve through experience
- to develop their own sense of self
- how to grow from their struggles
12 examples on how to detach with love
To detach with love is a practice that helps you stay focused on your well-being and what you can actually control. Learning how to love with detachment isn’t something that happens overnight, and will take consistent, conscious effort.
When it feels difficult to practice detachment, remember that your wellbeing matters, too. You can't be there for anyone if you aren’t grounded mentally and emotionally.
Also, remember that detachment is a service to your loved one, and it doesn’t mean you’re no longer available to be there for them or listen to their problems. It simply means you’re taking back control of your own emotions, and not allowing them to be compromised by the behaviours and problems of your loved one.
Below are 12 ways of practising love with detachment:
1. Set healthy boundaries with your loved one.
Set boundaries with your loved one surrounding what you will and will not tolerate. In addition to this, you can also set boundaries around what you’ll allow yourself to mentally and emotionally absorb. This doesn't mean you necessarily need to have a conversation with them about it. You can do this on your own internally.
2. Don’t give advice if it isn’t asked for or is unwarranted.
Constantly offering advice can take away your loved one’s sense of self and autonomy, making it more difficult for them to draw their own conclusions and make their own decisions. When you detach with love even if they make a poor decision, you remember that they’ll be able to learn and grow from it.
3. Allow your own feelings.
It’s important to acknowledge your own feelings without pushing down or dismissing them, and to remember that your feelings are valid, too. If you find yourself constantly compromising your own emotions to spare your loved one, you’re doing them and yourself a disservice. Practising detaching with love means acknowledging and expressing your true feelings.
4. Allow your loved one to experience the natural consequences of their choices.
If your loved one is struggling with active addiction and their use has caused them to miss work, for example, don’t cover for them. If your loved one isn’t keeping up with their responsibilities due to their use, don’t pick up their slack. Although your actions are from a place of love, they also enable your loved one. Practising how to detach with love allows you to release any enabling behaviours. Allowing your loved one to experience the aftermath of their actions will, eventually, helps them realise the consequences and feel pushed enough to seek change.
5. Don’t hold responsibility for fixing your loved one’s problems.
Their problems are their own responsibility to navigate and work through, just as your problems are your own to work through. Continuously solving your loved one’s problems for them will only harm them in the long run.
6. Focus on what you can control.
You may try to control your loved one's actions and choices, as well as the outcomes of their actions and choices. In reality, all you can control is your thoughts, your emotions, and the choices that you make. Deciding to detach with love allows you to focus on what you can control, and practise acceptance towards the rest.
7. Don’t think about the worst possible outcome.
Catastrophising and thinking of the worst-case scenario for your loved one’s problems will leave you in a constant state of anxiety and worry. When you’re in this state, it’s difficult to take care of your own well-being, or to even support your loved one from a grounded place. When you are detaching with love, you stop trying to control outcomes in your mind and find peace within.
8. Practise acceptance.
This doesn’t mean that you agree with the choices that your loved one is making, especially if you feel that they are making poor choices. However, it means accepting that your loved one is responsible for making their own decisions, and they are responsible for dealing with the outcomes of those decisions. It is about accepting that none of that is under your control or is your responsibility.
9. Look at your own motivations.
This going to prompt you to be incredibly vulnerable and honest with yourself, but look at your own motivations regarding your loved one. Do you want them to do better or make certain choices so that you feel better, so that you feel more secure, or so that you won’t have to be alone? For instance, if it’s your significant other who is struggling, at the core of your motivations, do you want them to do better from a place of pure and unconditional love, or is it from a more self-serving place where you want them to do better so that they can be better for you?
Taking some time to observe this from a non-judgmental space may help you gain clarity around the motivations around your expectations for your partner, as well as clarity around what you’re trying to get from them that you aren’t giving to yourself.
10. Practise meditation.
Practising meditation can help ground you. It can help you separate from your thoughts, and help you be less intertwined with another person’s problems. Practising guided meditations can teach you how to detach with love. Meditation also helps you foster patience towards your loved one and others, helps you become less emotionally reactive, and decreases feelings of anxiety.
11. Share your genuine opinions and feelings.
You may default to tiptoeing around someone who’s struggling with something like an addiction, for fear that you may make their problems worse. It’s important to remember that you don’t have the power to do that. They're in control of their actions and you can't anticipate how someone else will respond or what they’ll do. Detaching with love means remembering you can only control yourself. This includes how honest, authentic, and transparent you are with your loved ones.
12. Attend Al-Anon.
If your loved one is struggling with addiction, Al-Anon meetings may prove to be incredibly helpful in learning how to detach with love. These meetings are for the loved ones of those struggling with addiction. You’ll find that some of the attachment and codependent behaviours you may have aren’t unique and that you’re not alone in the challenges you face.
A final word on how to practise detaching with love
Finding support in the form of peers, friends, family, or a therapist can help you navigate and learn detaching with love.
Practising detachment with love can help you break free from codependent behaviours you may not have even realised you had, while also limiting any enabling behaviours you may have been engaging in.
Remember, learning how to practise love with detachment takes a great deal of self-awareness, love for your loved one, and love for yourself.
Author - Thurga
How to help someone with an alcohol addiction
- How and why to detach with love- https://psychcentral.com/blog/imperfect/2020/06/how-and-why-to-detach-with-love#1
- Codependency - letting go with love - https://whatiscodependency.com/detaching-detach-let-go-with-love/
- Detaching With Love Is Good for Everyone: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/conquering-codependency/202301/detaching-with-love-is-good-for-everyone