As social species, humans are wired to get attached to other humans. We experience strong attachments to our genetic relatives, romantic partners, and friends.
What does attachment mean?
It means being emotionally attuned to, and invested in, someone. When you’re emotionally attuned to someone, you feel a bond with them. Their emotions affect your emotions. When two people are emotionally bonded, they regulate each other’s negative emotions and provide comfort.
The more attachment there is in a relationship, the more love there is. Love is an emotion that lets us stay attached to our loved ones.
The opposite of love is hatred, which stems from pain. When there’s pain in a relationship, we’re motivated to get detached from the source of our pain.
Attaching + detaching forces
Every relationship, especially romantic, has a mix of attaching and detaching forces. People get attached when there’s more love than pain in a relationship. People are detached when there’s more pain than love in a relationship.
Love > Pain = Attachment
Pain > Love = Detachment
If you want to know how to detach from someone you love deeply, you have to first know where you are. You’re essentially in the gap between attachment and detachment.
You’ve consciously decided that the cons outweigh the pros of being in the relationship. There’s more pain than love in the relationship. Yet, you’re unable to detach.
It’s because there’s still enough love in the relationship to hold on to. As a result, you’re torn between wanting to detach and not being able to.
How to detach from someone you love
The above diagram clarifies what needs to happen if you want to detach from someone you still love deeply. There needs to be even more pain in the relationship so that you reach the point of detachment.
Now, this can happen by itself.
If your partner continues to cause you pain, eventually, you’ll reach the point of detachment. They’ll have given you enough reasons to detach. Finally, a reason will become the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.
If that doesn’t happen, you can still close that pain gap by:
- Seeking alternatives
- Projection into the future
1. Seeking alternatives
By seeking alternatives, I mean seeking a better state to be in than your current relationship. That could mean:
- Finding a better partner
- Staying single
If there’s another person you deem worth pursuing, then the pain of being in your current relationship increases. You’ll be highly motivated to detach and end your current relationship.
Similarly, if you conclude that being single is better than being in your current relationship, the pain of being in your current relationship increases.
If this does not happen, you’ll remain stuck in the gap between attachment and detachment. Of course, if love increases and pain decreases, you’ll want to stay attached.
2. Projection into the future
If you feel stuck in the gap, you can also project your current relationship into the future. Right now, the slight pain surplus in the relationship may not be significant.
But if you project your current relationship to months or years into the future, that small pain surplus will add up. Eventually, the overall pain in the relationship will be significantly more than the overall love.
Even just thinking about this scenario can momentarily increase the pain of staying in your current relationship and push you to detach.
You want to detach but not completely
People who’re overly dependent (co-dependent) on their partner for their happiness may come to resent their over-reliance on their partner.
They might want to detach, but not completely.
To move from co-dependence to interdependence, you have to be able to fill your own cup. You have to be able to make yourself happy and then seek additional happiness from your partner.
This is what secure relationships are all about: A healthy balance of independence and dependence.
Things you can do to become more independent:
- Choose a meaningful career or find meaning in your work
- Connect with family and friends
- Pursue your own hobbies and interests
If you want to emotionally detach because you need space, let your partner know you’re not abandoning them. Especially if they have an anxious attachment style.
How to detach from someone you talk to every day?
You can create emotional distance from friends, family members, and co-workers you don’t want to get attached to. To do that, try not to discuss your feelings with them. Keep your conversations superficial and functional. Maintain respectful distance and do the bare minimum to keep the relationship from dissolving.
How to detach from someone without them knowing?
As social species, we’re highly vigilant of our social environment, especially of how others relate to us. If you detach from someone, they’ll surely detect it. It’s impossible to detach from someone without them knowing. If they don’t understand it now, they will sooner or later.