Attachment – conditioned, learned, or inherited?

A few years back, when I was in my last significant relationship, I’d had an ah ha moment about my expectations of my then partner. That ‘ah ha’ had a profound effect on the dynamic of how I related to him and ultimately may have contributed to the ending of that relationship. Let me clarify. I’d had a realization based on my spiritual journey which is influenced by Eastern philosophy. He was not of the same mindset.

Living on an island in a foreign country no doubt played a part in this awakening because if I’d been in my comfort zone, and not somewhat confined in a new place without a community of support, I might have missed the gnawing irritation from my subconscious that led to the awakening.

Here’s what my realization was. I’d come to expect my partner to be everything to me — friend, lover, confidant, support system, mentor, savior. And though I’ve used specific associations to define it I don’t see this as an uncommon approach to primary relationship. I wonder if that is partly why we scrutinize our partner selection to a supremely neurotic level. I mean if they are going to be our ALL they damn well better be absolutely perfect. (Alright let’s not get started on that dysfunctional line of thinking.)

More recently I’ve been faced with an entirely unfamiliar way to relate. I’m navigating a journey using the experience I’ve acquired from years of serial monogamy going from one serious relationship to the next with the tiniest of reckless abandon in the spaces between. But that’s not what I’m facing today. This means diving deeper into that expectation of partner and my attachment to it.

For me spiritual practice has generally been about self examination and I’ve invested at least as heavily in that exploration as many of my religious friends. Not hanging a banner of organized ideology does not diminish the relevance of my spirituality. My teachers are the people I connect with because I choose to examine myself in relation to those connections — the good, the beautiful, the bad and the ugly. (Yes, I added an adjective to that famous movie title because I believe in balance. Accept and let us move on.)

Over the past few days I’ve been sitting and journaling on what attachment in relationship looks like for me. My understanding of attachment, from an Eastern mindset, initially got me thinking that primary relationship and non-attachment are diametrically opposed and can not exist in any harmonious way. As of this post I haven’t arrived at my own take on the topic but I did come across this blog post which sums up what feels right for me at the moment. But, that could change as I sit with this some more. To quote the author, “…real contentment can only come from within ourselves. A partner can’t provide that for us, and to expect it will only lead to disappointment.”

lotusWhat I know today is self preservation in the form of holding back is not a viable solution to this conundrum. As the saying goes, “Like attracts like”, entering into relationship while walling off my heart-center will only serve to draw in a partner who is only willing to share the safe pieces of himself never blossoming into the magnificence of who he is with me. I imagine the lotus flower which takes root in and grows from the murky silt below to surface above the water reaching for sunlight to bask and bloom into one of the most exquisite flowers on the planet.

“A relationship with a partner, because it’s by nature where we open ourselves completely to another person, is a great working ground for understanding the true nature of self and other.”

BTW, the blog post title is a trick question. Do you get it?

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