Letting Go of Attachment and Expectation
Though I had full-blown poly relationships when I was in my twenties, after 15 years of monogamy with my husband, this summer I fell hardcore for a woman. She admitted she had problems being emotionally vulnerable and wasnít ďgood at relationships.Ē In return, I confessed that I was no good at casual sex, I get deeply attached. We are also at different stages of life: sheís in her late 20ís, Iím early 40ís. Of course, we ignored these red flags and plunged right in.
At first, my husband was very upset, and my marriage nearly imploded, but luckily, we worked on strengthening our marriage, and the amazing man I married came around to accepting me having a female lover--heíd always known I was bi and struggled with monogamy. However, right about the time hubby stopped threatening to leave me, my lover began to pull away. She said it wasnít me, she was issues with work/her 2 male lovers/family. I tried to be patient, but I was very attached, and I missed her intensity. The more I pushed, the more she started telling me she ďcouldnít give me what I demandedĒ and that I needed to lower my expectations. I had been implicit from the beginning that I didnít want to be just a fuckbuddy, and she insisted I wasnít, but her idea of what a relationship entails is quite more casual than mine. I wanted more time and energy, and she wanted more space and less responsibility. During the last few weeks, she just kept blowing me off, so I broke up with her, as I was feeling hurt, anxious, and rejected by her. She and I were together 5 months total, but werenít intimate during the last two months of that, as we were having trouble working things out and didn't want to cheapen our connection.
I havenít seen her in five weeks, havenít communicated in more than three. Our last few text exchanges were not pretty, lots of blame flying around. Iíve been wondering if and how I could possibly salvage the situation. Sheís the first person who has made me feel this way since my husband, and I feel like we have a lot to teach each other. Iíve been reading about zen and relationships and letting go of attachment, trying to figure out if I can loosen up and just be cool and accept whatever she offers me, even, at this point, if its just platonic friendship.
What Iíd like from you folks, specifically, is twofold: First, Iím looking for tips on letting go, on how to not be attached to the outcome if I approach her again. Also, Iím wondering how to go about contacting her, what to say, how to open the door thatís currently closed between us. She isnít very good with emotions, which is where I live, and Iím not so good at acting like everythingís fine when thatís not how I feel. Perhaps I should just move on and try to find a woman more emotionally compatible, but thatís easier said than done. I really, really dug her. Any advice greatly appreciated.
It's been 20 years since my gf and I broke up. My love hasn't faded. She has a mono life with her wife and is very happy and secure in it.
A couple of years ago I contacted her, because not having her in my life has never stopped hurting.
What makes it possible for us to communicate is my acceptance. It does take a little mental gymnastics if you arent there-to get mind and actions in alignment. But it can be done.
What I do is love HER.
THat means loving her where SHE wants to be (not with me), loving her doing what she wants to do (again not with me).
It means not asking her for more than she can give. In this case, thats a few texts every few months and a written reply to any letter I mail.
Loving her means helping to promote whatever it is that makes her life wonderful TO HER and whatever little things she asks of me that help her be the best version of herself.
It does not mean asking her for the relationship I want. Because I already know its not what sshe wants (loving myself means getting my relationship needs met from someone who DOES want that type of relationship).
It does not mean telling her "i love you" frequently-that makes her uncomfortable. I can think it but BEING loving to her means keeping the thought to myself.
It does mean asking (sincerely) after the welfare of her family and pointedly and purposefully NOT creating havoc in her current relationships.
It means not getting all up in arms if I dont hear from her for a few months-but still sending a "Hope your bday is fantastic" message through the silence.
Bottomline, it meant reminding myself, daily for many years, until it became habit, that loving her meant giving her what she needed (which was distance and space from me with no requests for more in return that what I would deem an acquaintanceship).
In no way does this mean being a doormat. I have romantic needs, but she can't meet them. She doesn't try to act like what she gives me should fulfil the role of a life partner. She acknowledges that it is nothing of the sort and she fully expects me to get my needs taken care of. She asks after my life partners with care and concern.
Sometimes a specific type of relationship would be unhealthy to one or more people because of their differences. Thats ok. If you love them, you foster them finding the life that is healthy FOR THEM. You don't try to alter them into being in that type of relationship with you.
I wish you great luck. My life regained a beautiful North star when she and I began communicating again. Its been wonderful to get to know her again-as the person she is today. I would die for her, and she knows it. Though she can't fully understand it. But she appreciates that I don't have expectations of her based on the fact that I love her so deeply.
I read your OP with interest and was working out how to answer it, but LovingRadiance seems to have said just about everything that needs to be said.
To put it in a nutshell, Love isn't demanding - it's giving. And giving what isn't appreciated isn't comfortable (or healthy) for either of you.
To maintain a loving [NOT = sexual] friendship after a sexual relationship has come to its end is a rare and beautiful gift.
I wish you all the best.
Interestingly to me - this really fits with an ongoing conversation MrS and I have been having (we both have an affinity for secular buddhism type concepts) and a recent lecture I attended on "Compassion Meditation Training for the Promotion of Emotional and Physiological Resilience and Well-Being" . The presenter and his research team are looking at taking lessons from Tibetan Buddhist compassion meditation and developing a secular version called Cognitive-Based Compassion Training which can be taught in 6-8 weeks. Sounds like this could be right up your alley!
If I remember correctly (my copy of the presentation slides is currently trapped in my lost luggage in some airport) the first part has to do with viewing the world as it really is - and this has a lot to do with attachment (which is what you are asking about) - the focus is on trying to decrease attachment to the people/places/things that you like, trying to stop avoiding the people/places/things that you dislike, and trying to stop ignoring the people/places/things that you are indifferent to.
The second part (obviously the first part is something that you work on continuously) has to do with practicing consciously looking at people with intense empathy and compassion - the people you like, the people you are indifferent to, and, finally, the people that you dislike.
I don't have the specifics of how the training is done - most of the links I find are about the research team and the research being done. Hopefully there is more to come!
Amazing answers, you guys. LovingRadience, that brought tears to my eyes. That is the person I want to be, but I'm so far from there right now.
Using the Buddhist reference, grab a book or two by Pema Chodron. I found "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times".
One of the keys she brings up is that wherever you are today is a great place to begin! It's ok that you aren't yet where you want to be. That means you have something to work towards!
Start small with one detail and when you have that mastered, work on another.
I didn't get to where I am with her suddenly today, it took years. But thats the joy of personal growth! You can become the person you want to be! You just have to pick a place to start at. :)
Can you say "12-steps"?
No, this is not snark, nor is it non-sequitir.
This conversation reads exactly like an AA meeting.
"dear higher power, grant me the serenity [...] etc."
What LovingRadiance said.
NovemberRain, a member here, has a great method for handling breakups. She does not talk or communicate in any way with the other person for a full 40 days. (This is true if you are the one who initiated the break up or not.)
I tried it with a recent break up of mine and it helped immensely. There is nothing like time to get one's head on straight and start accepting reality.
Especially if there is blaming going on between the two of you, stop communicating with each other now. The less you say to each other the less you will have to regret later on. Doing this may make LR's scenario of a lifelong connection, even if not what you wanted, possible.
I dislike the idea of letting go of attachments. That part of Buddhist thought bugs me, as well as what I perceive to be disdain for the world. A major reason I am pagan is that many pagan paths love and appreciate the world rather than seek to escape or transcend it. Anyhoo, off topic and your mileage will vary obviously!
One thing that works better for me, at least right now, is to frame relationships (past and present) as what I learned, or can learn. You learned that your marriage can survive something truly threatening and that your husband is willing to work things out with you. That is awesome! Acknowledge the joy in that, even as you grieve the end of your relationship with your girlfriend. Your relationship with her allowed both you and your husband to grow in some unexpected, painful, but powerful ways.
And you learned that when people tell you who they are, what they really want, what they fear - believe them. Believe them especially if their actions match their words. (It is our actions that truly show who we are but words are important clues not to be devalued.) I don't mean to finger waggle 'You should have known!' - that is not my intent. Sometimes one has to zip right past the huge red flag in order to really get why that flag is a-waving. Goddess knows, I've done it enough.
I wish you the best.
I also struggle with the idea that of "letting go of attachments" is a positive thing, but if I shift my perspective a little it goes something like this: We are often "attached" to the "idea" of a person or concept and the "role" that they play in our relationship to them. By "letting go" of our "attachment" to a person AS our friend, or AS our lover we allow ourselves to really SEE someone for THEMSELVES - the whole person - and then appreciate them in a more encompassing way, all of their aspects. We can then take this new-found "global appreciation" and turn it to the REST of the world - the people we don't like or are indifferent to ALSO provide us with opportunities to grow and learn - which we often miss out on if we are focused on the objects of our "attachment". So rather than cultivating a "disdain for the world" we can try to cultivate an "appreciation for the world", which includes ALL of it, not just the slivers and aspects (of the world, of people) that we happen to LIKE.
In the book I am reading (Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins) two of the characters have a conversation about the Buddhist take on desire (which to me is an aspect of attachment - we don't tend to desire things that we have no attachment to - whether it be outcomes, relationships, sexual experiences, objects):
Alobar: "Here they teach that much of existence amounts only to misery; that misery is caused by desire; therefore, if desire is eliminated, then misery will be eliminated...If a person forswears pleasure in order to avoid misery, what has he gained?
...If desire causes suffering, it may be because we do not desire wisely, or that we are inexpert at obtaining what we desire....why not get better at fulfilling desire?...I don't want salvation, I want life, all of life, the miserable as well as the superb." (and so on, in that vein)
Kudra: "Look at it this way. The word desire suggests that there is something we do not have. If we have everything already, then there can be no desire, for there is nothing left to want. I think that what the Buddha may have been trying to tell us is that we have it all, each of us, all the time; therefore, desire is simply unnecessary. To eliminate the agitation and disappointment of desire, we need but awaken to the fact that we have everything we want and need right now."
Again, from my perspective - when we are attached to someone or something, when we desire it, what I think that we are really attached to/ what we really desire is the "happiness" (or joy or fulfillment) that we feel having that person/relationship/thing will "give" us, or "make" us feel. BUT - no person/outcome/object can "make" us happy - that has to come from inside of us.
Whew...well THAT got long...I'll stop now.
spectrum you both live at different places? If 1 is very independent and 10 is dependent and liking to be together LOTS? A 5 person and a 7 person may be able to compromise and bridge the spectrum gap. A 2 person and a 9 person may find that the spectrum gap is just too honkin' big to bridge.
Nobody's fault they are wired how they are but could ACCEPT this about their personalities and stop trying to square peg/round hole.
How about letting more time pass? To fade down the volume of the hurt of the old thing (romance) before trying to begin a new thing there? (friendship?)
You are not clear on what it is you seek. Could sit with that.
"Letting go of attachment" to me is accepting that life is lived as journey and things are not static in a life. Things change over time. Even standing stock still -- we are on a planet that moves many miles around the sun. We grow, age, we change, etc. Our relationships change too. I think every religion copes with "how to be weathering changes" in it's own style.
8 fold path for the buddhists, "wheel of the year" for pagans that follow that style, ecclesiastes 3:1 for those who follow the bible. Whatever the style -- it is there. Change happens. I do not know what your spiritual practices might be, but this could be a good time to visit with them. Be it talking a walk in the woods or reading sacred text, or painting or whatever it is you do to tend to your spiritual health. You took a ding in that bucket. You could make time to mend.
Thing changed for you here in this relationship. Could just let that be ok. You got to have an Experience, now YOU are changed too inside. Now at THIS point in time is a new experience -- the time of breaking up ness. Time will pass. You will change again. Then it will be the New Time of Something Else.
You will be ok.
The only way NOT to feel bummed out or disappointed if a dating partner isn't a runner after all? Don't date so you don't have to deal with the inherent "dating risks" to dating and sorting out who the compatible ones are.
Rather than plunge into dating a new person, you could just sit back a bit and take a time out to finish healing from this break up. THEN start dating again if that is what you wish. Again, things keep on changing. You will change along with it. You will be ok.
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