How to distinguish between love and emotional dependence

Myanmar childThe word ‘love’ is perhaps one of the most casually used terms in the English language – so much so that it has become an umbrella term for a whole variety of very different emotions! There is one thing we all agree on – that love is what makes the world go round, and that without it, the world is but a dry empty shell of a place. On the other hand, it is a word we very easily twist around to our own purposes to justify our emotional dependence on a person. If we can learn to distinguish love from emotional dependence and put this distinction into practice, then we make life more beautiful not only for us, but for everyone we come into contact with.

1. Learn to love yourself first

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, which we ascribe to heaven.

~William Shakespeare

Often when we are emotionally dependent on someone, we are looking to them as a ‘filler’ to cover over and distract us from unresolved emotional issues in ourselves. In order to truly love someone, we first have to discover and explore what love is, and that means starting with the person you spend the most time with – yourself! We can often name our shortcomings far quicker than our positive qualities, and we are very quick to beat ourselves up for anything we didn’t do to our satisfaction. This all has to change. Try every day to identify your positive qualities and bring them more to the fore and increase them, and when you do make a mistake, try and see it as a ‘work-in-progress’ rather than an absolute failure. When your own self-love and self-respect increases, you are then able to approach relationships with others with much more equanimity.

2. Use the heart

There is no mistaking love. You feel it in your heart. It is the common fiber of life, the flame of that heats our soul, energizes our spirit and supplies passion to our lives. It is our connection to God and to each other.

– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Along with the word ‘love’, the word ‘heart’ is often dragged in to many conversations and used to describe all manner of behaviour good and bad. When we talk about the heart we mean the space in the middle of the chest we point to when we say ‘this is me’ – the place we feel the essence of our being more than anywhere else. It is also where most of our higher and nobler qualities emanate from – empathy, kindness and love.

Emotional attachment, on the other hand is a tangled up array of feelings from the mind and also from the emotional part of our being located closer to the navel. Because the sources of love and emotional attachment are located so lose together, they can and are often confused by the undiscerning person. However, setting aside some time each day for a practice of self-discovery and self-enquiry (e.g. meditation) will very quickly enable you to distinguish one from the other.

3. Don’t expect

“When your love is pure or spiritual, there is no demand, no expectation. There is only the sweetest feeling of spontaneous oneness with the human being or beings concerned.”

– Sri Chinmoy

Social anthropologists often describe many human relationships like a contract – we give our love to a person and at the same time we subconsciously place all kinds of expectations on that person which we want them to fulfill. And then when the other person fails to sufficiently satisfy our demands (which will definitely happen from time to time – we’re all imperfect) we feel let down and angry with the person, our insecurity and fear of not being loved come to the fore, and we often resort to some kind of emotional manipulation to try and get them to fulfill our demands.

True love, on the other hand is like the sun. The sun shines its rays and gives its warmth to all and sundry, without anything in return. This may sound like naivety to the calculating mind, but when we live in the heart we feel exactly like the sun does – we just want spread our love and goodwill anywhere we can. With this kind of love we have detachment – we have no fixed ideas about what way this love should be taken by others, the mere act of giving love satisfies our heart immensely.

4. Learn to let go

Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.

– Hermann Hesse

Often we place mental restrictions on people we love, whether it be parents ‘living their dreams’ through their children, or someone ‘trapped’ in a relationship. True love means loving people for who they are, not trying to channel them into who you want them to be. The greatest service you can do to one whom you love is allow them to grow in to their soul’s highest potential – sometimes this will mean actively helping them, but other times this will mean recognising when you are standing in the way of that happening and getting out of the way!

5. The inner strength: patience and forgiveness

“Patience serves as a protection against wrong as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you.”

– Leonardo Da Vinci

To develop love, we also have develop forgiveness and patience. To forgive someone, it helps to see beyond their surface imperfections and appreciate the beauty that lies deep within. Love always goes hand in hand with this recognition of inner beauty inside a person, and when we can see this inner beauty in a person and appreciate it, we help bring that beauty to the fore and perhaps prevent whatever unfortunate thing that person might have done from occurring again.

This world of ours can seem like a downright unfair place at times, but developing this quality of love for everyone you meet allows you to rise above ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ that people might throw at you and still keep your faith in humanity intact.


68 thoughts on “How to distinguish between love and emotional dependence”

  1. These articles really inspired me, and I feel a better person after reading them. I hope that everyone would read them as well, and become better people too.

    Many thanks.

  2. So well expressed; things that I have come to know through this and other experiences. My wish is for all of mankind to find these truths.
    Peace and Love to All.

  3. That’s a lesson of true love and freedom. That’s exactly what I have learned from my experiences in live as I am continue learning I have passed it on, to a person who I feel unconditional love for. As is always a good help reading this type of writings because makes de heart grow fonder.


  4. Thank u so much… Its realy very very good amaging…ya love someone like sun widout expectation..n d world’s selfless greatest love is of our parents.. definatly rt choice of image…etc etc

  5. Just what I wanted in this moment… I’ve been having trouble allowing my lover space to learn and grow, owing to a sense of injustice and insecurity within myself. You’ve helped me take a step forward toward letting go.

    Thank You.

  6. Thank you ! its very nice clarification about real love thats “Gods love”. love cares humanity and do not seek dors interest but just ones as iam.Pure love can not rank human being in any criteria than just being as human.To practice real love has correlation with understanding beyond man mind/GOD.

  7. It’s exactly the love that I wanted and everyone wanted. This is a great article worth reading for. Thanks

  8. tats great but i have a question tat if u r in love with someone… can u still not emotionally depandent on him or her……i m suffering of this…but i really dont want it n still be in love……and really a great post on love…anyone give me the answer plz

  9. i liked it…. but i wanted 2 know… is it not that wen u love someone u’ll do or try to work upon his /her faults….. then how to accept it as such..????

  10. I agree with you Daniel,I find the idea of loving in a relationship something to explore because if we are happy with ourselves why be in a relationship.if we are not spontaneous with our ups and downs then we will pretend ,and become resentful.somehow one will be happy in this relationship the one imposing the rule of relationships can be worked out if partners are willing to do so,yet our emotional growth happened in different ways.basically in a relationship a woman wants to be reassured by a father figure in moments of insecurities and a man wants to be nurtured by a mother figure in moments of insecurity and both are strong or weak in different times ,we cannot define how those insecurities are going to manifest themselves but we always remember how we have been reassured and loved so it is a give and take not being unconditional giver

  11. I was married for 19 years and 39 years old ,it was an arranged marriage .He told me he loved me in weeks of our marriage .It took me a year or more to say the words I Love you .The difference in loving the person whom has been chosen for you is that it is a conditional Love .First Condition is your already married to them .However falling in love and choosing to love a person ,taking small steps towards love ,loving the person’s insides is beautiful and knowing love is free is amazing.I have fallen in Love with the same person twice . I fell in love with my first love ,then got arranged to marry the man i was married to for 19 years ,he let me down time and time again under the name of love .Only after divorce to find my first love again .Our love is free and beautiful ………..again and hasn’t changed, I love him sooo much

  12. Love essentially gives us life. So loving people unconditionally gives us life; that I perfectly agree with. But I still think the need to note that when the love we show to others are appreciated in anyway, it gives more vigor to our life than when it is not. For as love gives life; hate somehow gives death.
    Thanks once again for your write up, I’m wiser.

  13. I have to say that this is probably the most intense feeling of oneness that i have ever experienced in the comparisons of our views of life. oh indeed it is so true that if only people learnt how to trully love there would be so much more peace.
    But then again why dwell on the “what ifs” it is still better that we continue to love without demands and continue to spread happiness without a fee. why charge a fee for something that you already have in abundance and is yours for the giving?

  14. Thanks so very much for this post. It has actually opened my eyes to how I was wreaking havoc in my own life!!

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