How does it feel to be in a detached relationship?

Published on by CMe



How does it feel to be in a detached relationship?


In detachment is freedom. Freedom from the bonds of deluding and unrealistic expectations in relationships. To be detached is to let go, not of the person or of the relationship, but of an anxiety-driven desperation to hang on, which eventually demolishes what it frantically wants to preserve. If you cannot rid yourself of the need to cling to someone or something you cannot hold on to it. 

It is to be able to enjoy the beauty of a lovely relationship without being caught in its possessive grasp. Possessiveness is a poisoned barb and it vitiates the atmosphere, which a relationship needs to evolve fully. To possess is to be possessed; whereas detachment lets you stand on the sidelines as a spectator while you are still an integral part of a relationship and view it objectively, with love, without the crippling effects of psychological baggage. Jealousy is another impediment to detachment, which is all about choosing an unfettered ambience wherein two people can live joyously and see their love flourish. There is no ownership in a detached relationship.

It is about giving space and finding your own to explore, experience and grow from that experience without judgmental constraints. Whether it is a child/ parent, teacher/student, husband/wife or friend/friend relationship the time invariably comes to let go, to release and be released from emotional insecurities. To be detached is to break out of the gilded cage that at best gives one a false sense of protection. A detached relationship offers one the limitless sky and space to fly in. It entails watching with pride as the object of your affection spreads her wings and takes flight even as you are airborne on your own trajectory. We are all constantly yearning to fly, chart new vistas, explore new horizons and find our own path. We cannot snip someone else�s wings and hope to fly freely ourselves. 

Detachment is not to be confused with separation or an uncaring attitude. Two half people, who cling to each other, who are dependent emotionally and psychologically, who have come together from wants and needs, from negative commonalities, cannot build a wholesome relationship. It is synonymous with building a house from material one would use to simply prop up a crumbling structure, rather than with solid building blocks. They are constructing on shaky foundations, augmenting a dilapidated edifice that is bound to come crumbling down. Such a decayed relationship begs for separation. Detachment on the other hand requires immense love, courage and faith. It is to choose to be whole and complete within yourself and to love another from that totality. A detached involvement in a relationship brings its own reward - a togetherness that only truly free spirits can enjoy.

It is to give another the confidence and the courage to stand alone, making leaning unnecessary for any one. Let go of your clutching, clawing power over another. Emotional control and resultant blackmail are the death knells of a relationship. When one holds the strings and wants the other to respond to the pulls on it, it is puppetry, a sick relationship at the most. A rich, truly fulfilling relationship is one in which each person pulls his own strings. Detachment is to untie the strings by which you unfairly secure another to you and let him attain his full potential as an individual. Let him dance to his tune as you gyrate to yours. If you must dance to the same tune let it be out of choice, not compulsion.

Selfish and detached 
Jessica HAD to see a counselor. Her husband and she had married for love against the wishes of their families. The objections were merely prejudices, so they had no real reason to obey. It wasn’t as if Priya did not look pretty, was not educated or not from the same background. Priya and Ajay went ahead and did the deed, until death do us part.

Today a few years and one kid later, they are practically on opposite sides of the fence on every issue.

It all began with being careless about tiny idiosyncrasies, which can get to be a loadful. Ajay has a problem with keeping appointments at work if he stays out late at night. Yet he meets up with friends on weeknights/weekends and sleeps through the ensuing day. They both have to reach work and the kid has to be sent to school in the mornings. He stands a chance of being demoted or worse loses the job. The kid keeps asking why her father sleeps when she comes home from school, which is hard to explain without telling the child about the late nights, the drinking etc the father indulges in.

On weekends Ajay just lazes around the house, does not want to go out anywhere or do any chores. It was not like that when they were courting each other. All that he wanted was to be with Jessica each waking moment and Jessica was so used to that kind of availability and attention that it’s become a lonely trip for her today

Jessica feels weekends should mean spending time together with the kid in an activating atmosphere so they all get a break together. That would mean a picnic maybe, or a movie. That’s not agreeable to Ajay because he wants to rest out the long week by staying home in bed, watching TV

It has genuinely come to that. Couples, who wanted to give everything they ever had to each other when they met up, have reached such levels of selfishness that simple give and take has become impossible w/out the retraction of a third party. That may be a friend, a family member, or a counselor.

Selfishness is of three levels. One is, you scratch my back, but I won’t scratch yours. Shobha and her husband are struggling in their relationship, both of them feeling trapped. She goes to work, handles the house (where are the green pants, what’s for dinner?) drops the kids to school, groceries etc. Gaurav truly believes his only job is to be able to bring home a pay packet. He will never stay awake when the kid wakes up with a bad dream at night (kids do that often), he will never take leave to spend time with his wife if she needs him around. Shobha feels that she’s pulling a cart, which has only one wheel, and it’s back breaking.

The second level of selfishness is that the parties involved will not share each other’s emotional distresses or joys. Raja Srivastav lost his only brother. His wife had fixed a night out with her friends who had come down from abroad. It was Raja’s brother’s Chautha (fourth day after the death), but Sonia insisted that after the ceremony they must go out. It would break the onslaught of events and pain for both of them. Today Raja feels it was her obsession with her self and her need to party that was the real reason that she wanted to party the week after his brother died.

This may sound callous to you, but this incident has actually happened to these two. 

The third level of selfishness is when one partner will not let the other evolve or share the fruits of his/her evolution with him.

Not allowing the spouse to get a new job, or accept a promotion because it would mean a kick to the deep-seated ego of the other would be indeed unfair on part of any one of them. To refuse to take over responsibilities for a while if the other wants to do a PhD or go off to Vipassana. Sacrifices made while the going was rough and desertion when the going is good is an extreme example of the same syndrome.

This guy rushed home excitedly waving hundred dollar bills. He said to his wife, “Pack for a trip, baby. I’ve just won one million dollars in a lottery!”

The wife yelled back from the room, “winter clothes or summer?”

He said, “Who cares. You are going alone!”

This may be a joke but this is a pattern, which is seeping into most marriages and relationships today. The effect is that men and women are unhappy with their partners after a while. Because, as a class of people we seem to have forgotten what it is to share, to give! However, the deeper effect is the legacy we are building for ourselves. Our children, our perceptions, and our hereafter though they seem eternal will all come back in our face as soon as the means are gone.

Dysfunction ally Detached
If in the past we've felt taken advantage of, rejected or betrayed, we may erect stiff (even impenetrable) boundaries to protect ourselves. As a result of our adverse experiences--which frequently take place early in life when we're most sensitive to them--we may harbor anxiety or cynical beliefs about getting too close to others. And we may have decided that it's also not prudent to allow others to get very close to us. 

In such cases, we'll tend to relate to others on a generally impersonal level, and share our deepest, most private feelings not at all. Such a life stratagem, though extreme, does at least minimize threats of further disillusionment or deception. By restraining ourselves from getting emotionally invested in a relationship, we render ourselves relatively invulnerable to others' disapproval--or even abandonment. Whether or not we're consciously aware of our self-protective proclivities, we yet maintain a certain distance from others, constantly safeguarding ourselves from disappointment. And cultivating emotional self-reliance to avoid such hurt, we may actually come to view our very strength in relationships as synonymous with our detachment.

But protecting our ego in this way has its own hazards. For it can lead us to forfeit the opportunity to participate in just those experiences most closely linked to the achievement of optimal health and well-being. Regardless of the potential dangers of letting down our guard and sharing ourselves deeply with another, to truly flourish in our lives we need to open ourselves up to the joys--as well as the perils--of intimate relationships. True, trusting others not to exploit what we share with them may at times be a leap of faith. But without taking such risks, our existence can easily end up feeling sterile and unsatisfying.

We are, by our very nature, social beings. Doubtless, personal dependencies can threaten tenuous feelings of inner safety, but what's commonly understood as "happiness"--clearly, the state of mind and feeling we all aspire to--hinges on allowing ourselves to be interpersonally vulnerable and, ultimately, to accept this vulnerability as an inescapable part of living well. So if we're to experience any lasting fulfillment, we need to recognize--and even embrace--our quite necessary dependencies. Whatever direction in life we pursue, if we're to realize our essential being we simply can't turn our backs on others. Rather, it's imperative that we take risks, or the meaningful relationships we all need to feel whole will continue to elude us.

How, then, can we learn to be successfully dependent (i.e., not get so engulfed by our dependency needs that we virtually lose our identity in relationships)? Obviously, any solution to this probably universal challenge requires us to establish just the right balance between depending on others and depending on ourselves. And achieving such personal/interpersonal equilibrium necessitates that over time we learn how to accurately assess (almost on a "case-by-case" basis) who really deserves our trust--and how much trust at that. In all our relationships we need to learn how to discern what constitutes the optimal combination of involvement and detachment. And for those of us entering relationships with substantial emotional wounds from the past--scars that may have taught us to be extremely wary about getting hurt again--such acumen may be hard to come by. So, too, the courage to stay open and vulnerable in situations experienced as precarious by the scared or suspicious child inside us--that hyper-reactive part of us who all too easily may trigger anxiety in our adult self, and thus cloud our judgment. After all, we're become gun shy for good reason, so we may be far too ready to flee from a relationship than current circumstances actually warrant.

But when accumulated hurts and disappointments force us to become overly detached, our ability to connect with others--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually--is seriously compromised. Excessive detachment also negatively affects our capacity for empathy and compassion. If for many years we've engaged in what might be called "defensive distancing" (or rather, not engaged with others because of overriding defenses), we may have gotten out of touch with our own hurts, thereby making us less responsive to the emotional pain of others. Excessively detached from our emotions (and precisely those fearful or painful emotions that determined our detachment in the first place), our ability to understand and empathize with the emotions of others cannot but be similarly affected. Additionally, our capacity to experience the joys that intimate relationships alone can provide us may also be seriously undermined. Our defenses--originally so essential to our emotional survival--can end up constraining us in more ways than we might imagine.

Relationally speaking, the most positive and rewarding feelings are available to us only when we can be fully open and accessible--expressive and confiding, involved and concerned. When our lives are more or less bound by the negative biases we harbor against getting too close to others--when, that is, we've come to assume that others are withholding, threatening, deceptive, or just generally abusive--our relationships predictably end up being rather barren. Certainly, we're not able to experience them either as essential or fulfilling. In fact, we're likely to experience our lives--absent such vital connections--as monotonous and mechanical.

Detachment to this extreme can lead us to experience our existence as frustratingly inert and empty--a kind of gaping, lifeless void. Voluntarily cutting ourselves off at deeper levels from others, we inadvertently sever our pivotal connection to the rest of humanity. By so cautiously restraining our contact or emotional response to others, we've effectively killed it off. There's simply not enough "living feeling" left in us to respond in a heartfelt way to our own experience--let alone react caringly to the emotional experience of others.


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