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Love vs Attachment – 20 Differences You Must Know

Love vs Attachment – 20 Differences You Must Know

Updated on Sep 11, 2023

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Love vs Attachment – 20 Differences You Must Know

The concept of love vs attachment is unfortunately not clear to most people. Whether a couple is in love or simply attached to each other, they say “we’re in love” by default.

You might even say that it’s normal to be attached to a lover, so why can’t you be in love with the person you’re attached to?

Well, that needs a lot of explanation… and I’m glad that you’re ready to learn it! This think-piece will show you that love is way beyond kissing under the mistletoe. It’s about knowing when to stop and when to let go

And when that’s absent, then it’s just an attachment, a bond less than love. ṣ

So, let’s clear the confusion right away here…

Love vs Attachment – 20 Differences

You feel the butterflies in your stomach when you see that “special” someone but don’t know whether it’s love or attachment.

Even if you’re someone in your mid-40s and don’t understand the differences, don’t feel ashamed… because attachment can truly play with your logic!

So, this is your time to know the differences and let your love life take off. Before I dive into the details, here’s a quick peek for you. 

Basis of DifferenceLoveAttachment
1. AcceptanceLove accepts you for you.Attachment falls in love with the idea of having you and then tries to change you.
2. TimeLove will always stand strong against tough times.Attachment relationships never stand the test of the time.
3. CompromiseLove always finds the middle ground.Attachment wants both partners to go to extremes for each other.
4. ExpectationsIn love, you’re expected to do things unconditionally.  Attachment always has hidden selfish motives.
5. GrowthLove drives partners to become better every day.Attachment hampers your growth process.
6. FreedomLove lets you be who you are.Attachment confines you with limitations.
7. PassionLove is beyond passion; it is about the security and comfort that you feel with them.Passion eventually wears off in attachment relationships.
8. PriorityYou choose them over and over again without any questions.You reason yourself before choosing them.
9. DistanceLove grows stronger with distance.Attachment fades away with distance.
10. EmpowermentLove empowers you to be strong and support each other.Attachment makes you feel numb.
11. PartnershipLove takes two people to work together.Attachment is all about a single person giving effort.
12. HopeIn love, you hope for a better tomorrow with your partner.Attachment crushes your existing hope and never allows it to grow back.
13. FeelingsLove makes you feel internally happy and content.Attachment, in the long-term, leads to suffering.
14. EffortsLove never counts the efforts.You have a scoreboard of everything you do for them.
15. ConnectionLove is a connection that binds your soul. Attachment relationships will always be superficial.

However, it’s not that simple to understand these intricate bonds. So, I suggest knowing them up close… only then can you recognize them IRL!

1. Love completely accepts you, attachment changes you

If you fall in love with someone, you love every small thing about them. You accept them for who they are, without trying to change them.

Yes, you must put effort into making them a better person, but that doesn’t require changing their personality. Because then they will no longer be the person you fell for.

And of course, there might be things that slightly irritate you but you choose to accept them because love embraces all imperfections.

Whereas, when you are attached to someone, you try to change them because it makes you happier and always do things your way. When you can’t, conflicts and resentment arise. This feeling itself is a classic sign that the relationship has never been about love but attachment.

2. Love will stand the test of time but attachment comes and goes

In love, you might reach a point where you break up for good. But sometimes two people need distance to know what they have together.

But if you really really love them, their thoughts will never leave your mind. They will stay in your memories while you wish them the very best. You realize that the decision was a big mistake and the only thing that can bring happiness again is getting back together… That’s the power of love.

Attachment, on the other hand, doesn’t affect you if the relationship ends. Of course, you will be sad and frustrated because that special someone is not around you anymore.

But you soon get over it because it doesn’t squeeze your heart out or fill you with gut-wrenching pain afterward… if you don’t know what I am saying, you haven’t been in love, kid!

3. Love is full of compromises, unlike attachment

In love, you understand that your partner is different from you, so their decision-making, love-making, and vulnerabilities are different.

Instead of asking them to show love like you want to, you compromise and appreciate their efforts. You understand that you may have expectations but true love is all about finding the middle ground.

Whereas, in an attachment relationship, the foundation lies in selfishness. There’s hardly any scope for finding the middle ground because you want to mold their personality according to your likes.

You want things your way and vice versa. This leads to regular misunderstandings and fights.

4. Love is selfless, and attachment is selfishness

There’s no other way to say this, but love just makes you selfless. It’s made up of moments when you tug them inside a blanket when they are cold… or doing a couple of extra dishes because it’s been a long day for them.

Love doesn’t count, nor expect anything in return.

But if you are attached to them, you want them to fulfill your needs. At times, they might make you feel a little less lonely or encourage and support you.

But that isn’t love, my friend.

You are attached to them because you are obsessed with yourself. They make you feel great, but you do not do anything in return and mistake it for love.

5. Love encourages growth unlike attachment

In true love, you encourage them to be the best version of themselves. You both care for each other and encourage them to achieve their dreams.

You always protect them yet support them to stand up for themselves.

However, attachment acts as a roadblock to your growth. You’re so obsessed with them that you don’t give your studies/job the time it demands… and when the spark tends to be missing, it takes a toll on your emotional health.

6. Love is freedom, and Attachment is controlling

Love allows you to be free… free like a bird. They nurture and protect you… yet let you be yourself.

Love lets you show your vulnerabilities without the fear of judgment or shame. Because love celebrates freedom, it encourages partners to communicate through thousands of love languages and accept it all with open arms.

On the other hand, when you are attached to someone, healthy emotions won’t guide you both. You resort to controlling them and their personality because you can’t accept their original versions.

Manipulation becomes a common trait in an attachment relationship because of the desire to control a partner’s behavior and expressions of love.

7. Love is passion, and attachment is indifference

When there’s love, emotions can not only be felt but also be seen on the face. They’re on your mind even when they are not around. You think about them even during the busiest hours of the day.

That’s why when it ends, you don’t know how to react and often seem lost.

But, when it’s attachment, you might feel anxiety or uneasiness when the relationship ends, but you won’t have the urge to reconcile anymore.

You will be indifferent because the connection didn’t really affect you on a deeper level. Somewhere you are even relieved that it ended because you couldn’t really feel that love for them. Isn’t it?

8. Love is easy, but attachment gets difficult

Loving someone is the easiest thing in the world. In true love, there’s nothing you want more than being with them. Even if you fight, forgiving them is easy because you cannot see them upset.

It’s easy to put in effort for them because you know you’ll be rewarded with their smile. Your heart realizes that you would do anything for this person and no other feeling can come closer to this.

But, when you are attached to them, togetherness doesn’t come so naturally. You both may be with each other, but threaten to leave each other even at the sight of inconvenience. Ofcourse, that can’t be love!

9. Love defies distance, but attachment cannot

Love always stands strong, and nothing, not even distance, can weaken it. When you are in love, distance never matters because they are in your thoughts all the time.

You feel them when you hug the pillow at night or see their favorite flowers blooming across the street. You remember them during your highest highs and your lowest lows. And you carry them everywhere you go… in your heart, ofcourse.

However, ‘Attachment love’ is different. You want them around you… not because you want to spend time with them, but because you miss how they care for you.

And if by chance it becomes long distance, a breakup is inevitable because their phone calls, texts, or gifts will never be enough to fill in the void.

10. Love empowers you, but attachment makes you powerless

Real love gives you the power to do anything. In a healthy relationship, they will support you and make you believe you can do anything.

It encourages you to stand up against tough situations even when you think you can’t. They become your rock, giving you strength in every way possible.

But, attachments make you powerless. You feel you cannot do anything without them. When they hurt you, you feel like you never mattered, and thoughts of ‘not good enough’ take over your mind.

And, trust me, this feeling alone is enough to do irreparable damage to your emotional health.

11. Love is about you both, attachment is only about you

When it’s love, your partner becomes your priority. You encourage them to be a better version of themselves and vice versa. You both care and think for each other.

In a healthy relationship, you both discuss and try to build a life that rewards you both… equally.

But when you have an unhealthy attachment to your partner, you never think beyond yourself. I know it sounds harsh, but that’s the truth.

An attachment makes you hungry for attention. You ‘want’ them to respond the moment you call them, and when that does not happen, you take selfish measures to keep them hooked on you.

12. Love gives you hope, but attachment is hopeless

In love, you get all the happiness you deserve. Infact, the emotional connection with your partner becomes so strong and intense that your hopes for the relationship never fade away. It only gets stronger with time and communication.

Whereas, in attachment, both partners don’t have the motivation to fulfill each other’s expectations which eventually leads to loss of hope.

They cannot and do not want to notice your feelings, and this leaves you with a lump in your throat.

13. Love makes you feel content, and attachment makes you suffer

In a healthy relationship, you both care for and understand each other perfectly. You accept their way of living, their way of thinking, and also their way of showing love.

This acceptance is enough to make you feel secure and protected so that your emotional needs aren’t compromised.

But, when you are attached to someone, you only pave your way to suffering. Why? Because attachment can never fulfill your expectations which will eventually cause frustration and anger.

14. Love never makes you count, attachment does

When it’s love, you never keep track of your efforts for your partner. You happily put laundry on a Sunday morning because you know they had a long week.

You tug the blanket extra tight even when they snore like a baby because you know the last night was tough for them.

But when you are in an attached relationship, both of you keep scoreboards. You may not do it consciously, but every good thing you do becomes a counterstatement during fights. Because attachment doesn’t know how to make efforts without expectations in return.

15. Love makes you a better person, attachment makes you shallow

When you are in love with your partner, you become more understanding, gentle, and thoughtful. Your first thought is always about your partner, followed by you.

You want to become a better person for them and your future with them. And for you, there’s absolutely nothing more valuable than that.

But, in an attached relationship, you always have a list of pros and cons ready. You will not care how this relationship affects your growth; rather, you will focus on superficial highs. It will shift your focus from appreciating the good in that person to seeing what good it brings you.

16. Love is deep, and attachment is superficial

Love brings you together like two pieces of a puzzle meant to fit in. You let out your vulnerable yet quirky side in front of each other, and there’s no scientific explanation for this other than love.

But that’s not the case with attachments. When you are attached to your partner, you only get surface-level comfort. Your heart and soul remain unaffected.

You might get the support when needed, but it doesn’t affect you much because you know it’s temporary.

17. Love gives you importance, but attachment doesn’t

In love, you share the first cake slice with them even if there are 1000 people around. You make sure that they are okay, even if it means canceling on your girls/boys’ night.

But when you are attached to someone, neither of you will be motivated to prioritize the other. You won’t feel the need to include each other in special events, share the first slice of cake on birthdays, or give a shout-out to each other.

18. Love is expansive, attachment is restrictive

In love, when you sit with them, their comfort and positive aura encourage you to reveal your scars. Love allows you to expand your thoughts and express your raw emotions to your partner.

But attachment is always neck-deep in insecurity. You feel like you cannot be your raw self because they won’t like it. Insecurity restricts you from sharing your vulnerable side because somewhere, you know, they will judge and abandon your feelings.

19. Love is full of trust, but attachment isn’t

When you love someone, you trust each other, wholeheartedly. You put your faith in your partner and know that they will always choose your comfort over others.

You know that even if you have an ugly fight, they will return to you and you only. This trust is only achieved when you both genuinely love each other.

However, if you are attached to your partner currently, you will have a hard time trusting them because you feel you’re easily replaceable.

You fear that if you don’t obey their desires, they might choose someone over you, and walk away.

20. Love is long-term, but attachment is short-lived

The biggest difference between love and attachment is its future.

If it’s love, you both will definitely think of a future together. You’ll share your ideas about when you want to get married, buy a new house, have kids… and so on.

On the other hand, in an attached relationship, you only love the physical passion and chemistry between you both. You want them in your arms all day and night, and their slightest touch makes you go crazy. But since you will always connect on a superficial level, this relationship will end sooner rather than later.

So, love makes you a different person altogether… in a way that attachment never will. Wondering if your relationship is love or just attachment? To find out, keep reading!

Are you in love or attachment? 

Unless you’ve experienced both love and attachment in your life, it’s hard to understand the differences properly. A person who’s just attached to their partner might find love too foreign… whereas someone in love finds attachment absurd.

So, if you want to know what you are experiencing currently, keep reading…

Signs of Attachment

Attachment may seem very similar to love, so much so that it’s easy to be mistaken. You might think you’re in love… while you’re not.

Attachment can get really toxic over time… and leave you deeply scarred. So, if you want to save yourself from this heartbreak, here are some signs for you to identify an attachment…

1. You feel lost without them

This is one of the most common signs of attachment. You feel lost when they aren’t around you and face difficulty making decisions on your own.

Sometimes you feel the need for their validation to step ahead. It’s because this relationship consumed your identity, my dear and that is not love.

2. You’re always afraid of losing them

It’s normal to go green eyed when someone is trying to flirt with your partner. But if anxiety develops within you, that’s not jealousy… that’s fear, fear of them cheating on you with someone. Attachment always brings fear in partners.

3. You keep in contact all the time

In attachment, you want to stay in contact with them 24*7. If they’re away for hours at stretch, it makes you anxious.

You fear that distance will give them the opportunity to replace you. That’s why there’s a constant urge to be near them and be updated about their whereabouts.

4. Your happiness depends on them

Your happiness must never be others’ responsibility… or else the relationship is bound to see a terrible end.

If you are just attached to your partner currently, there’s a high chance, your happiness relies on them. Your face lights up only when they are around, and nothing in the world matches that.

You might think this is a cute thing but let’s face it, tying happiness to a person never ends well for anyone.

5. You manipulate them to spend time with you

Attachment works in mysterious ways. You never realize when you cross the line and become toxic… so much so that you aren’t comfortable letting them have a ‘life’ without you.

And on days when they chose to be on their own, you resort to manipulation because you don’t want to be lonely.

6. You get hyper-sensitive when there are no date nights

Hypersensitivity in a relationship is the best way to understand if it’s love or you’re only attached to them.

If they stay busy or want to hang out with others, hypersensitivity coils up because maybe “they don’t want to be with you anymore”. It doesn’t matter if that’s the truth, you don’t want them to be happy with someone else or spend any time away from you.

7. You get uncomfortable if they ask you to change

As much as you hate to admit it, both of you have flaws. You both must equally work on them together to grow in the relationship.

But if you are just attached to them, you’ll become defensive when they try talking about their flaws. You resist change because there’s no driving force like love that can motivate you.

8. You can’t see yourself without them, still, there’s no future

Spending time with them becomes a routine. Their absence makes your day dull, yet you don’t see a future with them.

You can plan out where you’ll go for the next weekend or what clubs you both want to visit but moving-in hasn’t appeared in your head even once. This in itself is a huge sign that this relationship has not reached the love stage at all.

9. If they don’t react in a certain way, you get sensitive

In an attachment relationship, partners are super sensitive. Suppose you shared a story and they decided to lift your mood with funny jokes…. but that’s not how you wanted them to react, and so, you lashed out.

This is not love because you want them to act a particular way. You have difficulty accepting them for what they are and that’s why your conversations turn toxic.

10. You make them realize all the good things you do

Probably the most fitting sign of all is making them realize what you do for them… time and again. You might not do it consciously but whenever something goes haywire, you make sure they never forget the sacrifices you’ve made to be with them.

Understand one thing, in love, you never list out your efforts because you don’t have a scoreboard. The fact that you have kept a note of everything already tells us that this is just an attachment bond.

So, you didn’t match with these signs? Well, before you rejoice that it’s truly love, let’s know it for sure with these…

Signs of Love

Love is not always about roses, chocolates, and dates. It is beyond that. Love is about the joy you feel in your heart when you see them smiling, it is about the pride you feel when they achieve something or about the comfort you feel when they’re around you.

Loving someone is one of the most beautiful feelings in the world and I know you agree. So, here are some signs of love that will help you know if you’re also experiencing this magic…

1. Both of your needs are equally important

Yes, when you’re in love, you not only make sure that your emotional needs are met but also make an effort to fulfill theirs.

You both like to stay with each other even when there’s nothing to do. Simple eye contact is enough to have a conversation for you both. Now, that’s a sign of a healthy loving relationship.

2. You see a future with them

You prefer being with them more than anything else in this world. You feel calm around them and look forward to meeting them.

You go to parties, have fun, and spend weekends naked and can’t help but imagine the rest of your life doing that. You plan a house, job, and kids with them, and that’s when you know love has already found a home in your heart.

3. You take care of each other

If you are an introvert with a social butterfly partner, you will know what I am talking about. You hate social interactions but still attend all the parties because they want you to.

But when things get too much for you, subtle eye contact is enough for them to say, ‘let’s go home’.  This is love… you both make an effort for each other and make wholesome memories.

4. You have discussions on everything under the sun

You know it’s not just attachment when you discuss literally everything in the world with them and don’t feel uncomfortable.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know about world politics and they don’t know about personal finance, you always listen to each other.

Time flies by when you’re with them and conversations seem never ending. My dear, this only happens when you are in love. Trust me!

5. Conflicts are common, but you hug it out

No relationship in the world is free of conflicts. It may get ugly when you’re fighting but that’s completely okay because you reconcile with a hug.

Conflicts also give you a peek into each other’s thoughts and opinions. But when all is done, you make sure that things go back to being good because, for you, the relationship matters… more than anything.

6. There is growth for the better

The attraction phase is always the best, you are all hot and bothered, and passion is everywhere. But the real journey begins after that settles in.

When the spark fades away, and you decide to be with them, it’s a sign that you are ready for the growth that it brings along.

7. Good or bad, they are the first person to know everything

If anything happens during the day, good or bad, who do you wish to share it with? If the first name in your mind was your partner’s, then it’s love, my friend.

Subconsciously, you’ve already made them a significant part of your life… and love requires nothing more than that.

8. They are your safe zone

It’s so hard to be your unfiltered self with others but with them, it comes naturally. They make you feel safe and protected so crying your heart out doesn’t feel awkward. That is a beautiful feeling of love.

You can tell them that you’re scared of rats or that you love watching horror movies… and they’ll listen to you free of any judgments. What is more blissful than this?

9. You get happy seeing them smiling

Indeed, your happiness mustn’t depend on anyone, but that doesn’t mean that your partner’s smile can’t make your heart skip a beat.

All of your happiness might not depend on them… but their happiness can definitely make you happy!

10. You don’t need anything else except your “love”

In love, you don’t need monthiversaries or exotic vacations every month because it’s bliss to just be together every day.

All the hardships, conflicts, and late-night conversations are worth it. If given a second opportunity, you’re ready to do it all over again with them. Don’t you?

However, did you find more similarities with attachment than love? Then take your next step here…

What should you do if you’re attached to someone?

If you are just attached to your partner currently, it’s important that you take a step back from the relationship and get therapy, so your future relationships never put you in this kind of situation, ever.

If your relationship is just about attachment and not love, recognize sure-shot signs ASAP and accept the reality. When you identify your unhealthy attachment style, you become more open to working on your emotions.

Feeling attached to someone is not a bad thing unless it hampers your perception of love. However, if you have developed an obsessive kind of attachment, don’t feel guilty… because I know you are suffering.

Acknowledge that you are more attached to your partner and work towards improving it. I know it’s challenging, so take all the time to understand the differences and your needs.

Once you know what you want, tell your heart it was ok to make that mistake. Never keep the bitter feelings suppressed because it will only fill you with guilt and delay your healing process.

Other than that, you can also seek online therapy. A mental health professional can also help you dive deeper into your thoughts and work on your unhealthy emotions. You will find a new perspective on love, and trust me, love will never become messy for you ever again.

But on the brighter side, if it’s love, here’s what you should do next…

What should you do if you love someone?

If you love someone, then follow your heart. Express your love to them and if they love you back, it’s your duty to keep your partner happy and satisfied.

In love, you do things without any expectations from each other. You show up for them, be vulnerable together, and support them even when they aren’t perfect.

When you love someone deeply, your heart feels like it found a missing piece you never knew you needed. But while love may easily find a place, only you and your partner can turn it into a home.

Love is easy, but nurturing the feeling till your last breath… with the same person forever requires commitment.

Have an open conversation about the future expectations and set some ground rules. Listen, really listen when they speak, and also make sure to deliver your message correctly.

Trust them to be there with you through thick and thin and promise to do the same. Always be kind to each other, share your feelings and thoughts, and comfortably show your tender side when needed.

Support each other, but when your partner needs a reality check, don’t hold back.

And most importantly, love each other, from the honeymoon phase to freckles and white hairs, because it’s love and love only, that makes you a better person.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

Love and attachment are very similar yet universes apart. True love gives you all the power in the world to grow as partners and as individuals, while attachment rips it apart. It puts your heart in a corner and allows your selfish motives to occupy the space.

I believe everyone in this world deserves love. So, if you think what you’re experiencing is just an attachment, don’t deny it and work on it… give yourself and your partner a chance to build a loving relationship!