So I woke up today to discover that the beautiful buddha outside my door was stolen last night.
Funny thing, someone stealing a buddha — an object of peace, serenity and non-attachment.
While I loved that old stone buddha, it made me smile to think about how it’s sudden departure was the perfect teaching in non-attachment.
Could I have gotten super frustrated?
Upset at the declining state of my neighborhood?
Distrustful of people?
In scarcity mode regarding my possessions?
But getting pissed off about something that was now gone, something that I had no control over, would have literally been me creating my own suffering.
And honestly, I didn’t feel like swimming in any of those pools.
So I let it go and accepted it was gone.
There was no resistance. No attachment to what I thought should have happened.
Just peace and the knowledge that things come and things go — and life will move on.
The perfect parting lesson from my buddha.
This got me thinking about the things we hold on to — and the way that we struggle when we become too attached to anything. And being the personal development and relationship junkie that I am — that immediately led me to reflecting on my relationship history and times in my life when I was too attached to the outcome with potential partners.
See, there was a time in my life when I was so attached to the idea of finding “the one” that I had inadvertently disempowered myself and sabotaged my chances at actually finding love. I longed for partnership so badly and found myself endlessly confused as to why love just wasn’t working out for me.
What I wasn’t seeing was that my attachment to having partnership was the very thing that was getting in my way from having it.
Attachments, Dating & Relationships
Looking back, it’s clear that there were several factors that played into this semi-frantic need I had for a partner. There was the cultural and societal programming that I’d bought into, family pressures and expectations that silently haunted me, and beliefs and insecurities I had about what it meant that I wasn’t with anyone.
If I wanted to fit into the world around me — it seemed to me that I needed a partner.
Probably the most powerful thing though, that drove my desire for partnership at that time, was a deep lack of inner fulfillment with my own life.
A lack of purpose.
A feeling of being completely and utterly lost.
A seeping, pervasive loneliness that would storm my heart and take me hostage in the wee hours of the morning.
And while it didn’t feel ‘spiritual’ or enlightened to admit it— the truth was I thought that if the ‘right’ person came along, that somehow they would magically take away all the ache in my heart and fix what wasn't working in my life. Because at that time, I didn’t believe that I was capable of doing that for myself.
I felt that I needed a partner.
Or else my self-worth and value would be in question.
Or else I might be seen as different, unrelatable and an outcast.
Or else I might live and die alone.
Or else people will judge me.
Or else I’ll never have financial security.
Or else I’ll never be truly happy.
Or else I’ll be an old, lonely woman, surrounded by dogs, watching reality tv, burdening people with lengthy conversations in check-out lines — out of a deep hunger for human contact and connection.
Looking back, it was a really disempowered time in my life. My happiness was dependent on how others responded to me and who I could get to like me. When a new man I was attracted to stepped in and wanted to date me — I felt incredible. Complete. On track. Fully alive. And if they didn’t step in — then I saw that as a reflection of my own self-worth and became depressed and hopeless.
The sad thing was that because I had this strong need for partnership, I found that I wasn’t able to relax and authentically be myself with any of the men that I dated. I was so concerned with making sure that the men I liked would like me back— that I became anxious and calculated.
And when sticky, challenging feelings would come up for me that I wanted to talk about, I kept them buried inside for fear that my feelings would push men away and be “too much” for them. I didn’t want them to see what I was feeling because, at that time, I didn’t feel those parts of me were lovable. And so instead of being open, messy and real— I put on this front of being easy-going and chill and tried to act like I had no baggage or issues.
What I wasn’t seeing was how this front was killing any chance I had at authentically connecting with these men or creating any real intimacy with them.
Yes, I might have had some fun times with the men I dated, but the truth was, true love could never bloom because I never let any of them get to know the real me. Instead, they got to know the me I was being in order to get love and attention from them.
And so the connections I made with these men could only go so far because there wasn’t any real level of authenticity in them. I never let them see my full, raw, messy heart — so there was never any genuine emotional intimacy to truly bond and connect us.
Of course, I didn’t see any of this at the time. I thought I was spiritual and grounded and just having really bad luck in the love department. What I didn’t see was that the way I was connecting with men wasn’t clean because I felt I needed to ‘get’ something from them in order to feel whole and be happy.
And when you’re trying to get something from someone, and you’re deeply attached to the outcome, there’s no room for actual, true connection.
Connection in relationship comes from authenticity.
It comes from vulnerability and transparency.
It comes from presence, embodiment and open-heartedness.
And while that was everything that I wanted, it was the opposite of how I was showing up.
Unfortunately, it took me many years to see that who I was being at that time was not only diminishing my own power, but completely repelling the men I was most attracted to.
Happiness, Love & Non-Attachment
The truth is, as long as we feel like we need something or someone in order to be happy….happiness will always elude us.
When I was at that point in my life where I felt I needed to meet ‘the one’ — what I was really feeling was that my life wasn’t okay and that it was critical to have someone come in and ‘fix’ it. Because I truly didn’t believe that I could do that on my own.
That was my one big blind spot.
Feeling dissatisfied and like we need to change something in our lives — that’s absolutely fine. In fact, it’s a very powerful place to be in — to feel like we’re ready to make a big shift.
The key to having that be a healthy and powerful transformation though, is to take personal responsibility for the things we want to change in our lives and to be the source of that change.
The problem comes when we seek to fill that lack inside of ourselves from something or someone outside of ourselves.
Because true happiness can only really be cultivated from within.
If we’re always looking outside of ourselves for someone else to make us happy — then we’re constantly dependent on others for our state of well-being. This disempowers us and keeps us small and in the passenger seat of our own lives.
On the other hand, when we source our own joy and fulfillment, then we show up in our lives from a place of wholeness. When we face our own fears and insecurities and take the actions necessary to fill our own cups, then we embody an inner confidence that is not only uplifting to us, but extremely vibrant and attractive to others as well.
This lesson showed up so clearly for me in my dating life back in those days.
As soon as I let go of the idea that I needed a partner to come and ‘fix’ me and make my life better — and I empowered myself to become my own source of fulfillment — then, and only then, did quality men start showing up…..and staying.
Because I was free.
Because I no longer needed them to feel happy.
Because I felt whole and content within myself.
Because relationship became a place where I was going to give — not a place I needed to go to in order to get.
And that’s the space from which thriving, healthy relationships are ultimately born.
Fulfillment doesn’t come from finding a partner who will show up and ‘save’ us— that’s just a temporary bandaid. Real fulfillment comes from our own ability to show up for ourselves and enjoy our lives as thoroughly as we can.
When we’re happy and fulfilled — then anything extra that comes into our lives, like a partner, is simply overflow and abundance. We don’t need those people or things in order to feel happy — because we’re already happy within ourselves.
Healthy, thriving relationships don’t bloom when people are desperate and needing each other. That’s where co-dependent relationships are created.
Amazing, enlivened, conscious partnerships happen when two people come together — commit to owning their own issues — and walk side by side, lovingly supporting each other along the way. This is very different from co-dependent relationships, where two people come together because they feel they need each other in order to take the next step.
So if you find yourself attached to an idea that love will come and save you, I encourage you to take the time and really explore what's going on for you underneath the surface. Because if you truly want to have a healthy, flourishing partnership — then you first need to do the work within yourself to move into a more empowered and whole place.
It’s natural to long for partnership and crave deep intimacy.
However, if you feel you need love from someone else in order to be happy — then ultimately it’s not a lack of partnership that will be creating your suffering, but your own resistance to facing your life and creating your own fulfillment.
Melanie Hersch is a Psychotherapist and a Dating & Relationship Coach who is passionate about helping people figure out what's getting in their way from having the kind of love they want.
She's an insight facilitator, a bullshit detective, a communication enthusiast and a personal cheerleader who infuses humor and lightness into deeper personal explorations. If you're in a place where you're feeling stuck in your dating and relationship life and you could use the guidance of a therapist and relationship coach wrapped into one -- reach out to Melanie here to set up a complimentary consultation. She works with clients for a minimum of 3 months at a time -- which you can learn more about on her website.