Attachment in Human Love

Love between a man and a woman is one of the most beautiful things in the world. But what happens when the love you share with that person becomes the most important thing in your life?

There is nothing more natural than wanting to be loved. We need it. We need it from our parents and family as we grow up, and we need it as we interact socially as adults.

We all have a fundamental desire to be loved by at least one person who knows us and fulfills our every personal need. And with marital love, there is the additional need to be physically intimate to express love.

Though this need to be loved in every way (emotionally, affectionately, physically, spiritually) is completely natural, it also poses a danger to our eternal salvation that must be considered. That danger is attachment to the person or persons who love us and whom we love.

What is wrong with being attached to someone you love? Doesn’t attachment come with the territory of love? Yes and no. Yes, you become attached to someone you love in a way you cannot help, which compels a real commitment to that person, not easily broken. To call someone “friend” assumes a promise to have a dedication to that person because of who they are and your decision to love them.

For those who have experienced attachment to someone in love that lasts a lifetime, there is a fulfillment in this world that is a gift. Not too many find it. The reality is that human relationships can end, regardless of the intention to love each other no matter what and for life. Friendships end, engagements are broken, marriages go through separation or divorce.

Everyone in a marriage relationship assumes that it will never die. No one enters into a marriage thinking anything other than they are going to be one of the fortunate ones that make it until death. But when there is an end to a relationship, there is often a certain level of death inside, sometimes known as a broken heart.

Everyone experiences love uniquely. Therefore, no one can know for certain how another person will grow in love or handle the end of love. No matter how love is handled in good times or bad times, attachment to the person is the reason for the things we do in the name of love or in the end of love with that person.

In this sense, attachment is dangerous. When we rely too much on the love of someone, we not only risk getting hurt by them (obviously and understandably), but we also may have gone too far and deified that person. In other words, we just might have made this person our god and savior. This person is now the pinnacle of our existence, with nothing or no one above them.

To assign another human being that much importance in our life, to the point of having no one else above them, is to set oneself up for disaster. You have put them on a pedestal where they do not belong, nor can remain.

Have you gotten too attached to the person you love? Perhaps you have. In one sense, how can you help it? You love them so intensely, so deeply, so completely, you cannot imagine your life without them. This is beautiful, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But you have to pay attention to that part where you feel you something like not being able to live without the person.

Life is a gift from God. It is God who is to be our God, and the primary person of our affection. He made you out of nothing. He loves you more than any human being could possibly love you. He desires you to be with Him for all eternity, providing you His love and grace through your entire life in order to accomplish this purpose.

Who in this world can be more important than God? Who has a right to your love above your Creator and Father in Heaven? You will emphatically tell me “No one!” and mean it. I believe you. Why shouldn’t I? I think everyone who believes in God believes they love God above all things.

But in practice, I think all of us are susceptible to self-deception when it comes to the place of God verses the place of our husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, fiancé, best friend, parent, sibling, etc. Our affections toward certain human beings we love are powerful. And the power of love shared by two human beings has a way influencing the place of God. Thus a human person replaces the Divine Person as the one we love most.

Have you ever broken down and cried when you committed a sin or while in Confession? Most do not. But many tears are shed when a spouse dies or the person you date breaks up with you. It’s painful to suffer the loss of human love, but doesn’t seem too painful to suffer the loss of friendship with God in sin.

This is not proof that we don’t love God above all, but it should make us think. And we should never cease asking as we examine our consciences if we have put the person we love before God.

What happens inside is very telling. And we should pay attention to it. Does the love we have for another make us think, do, or feel something that is not in accordance with God’s will? Are my reactions and emotions toward a person I love out of context to God’s plan or the teachings of the Church?

If we are honest about our examination and do it in the light of Jesus Christ, we just might have an inappropriate attachment to someone. What would make it inappropriate? If the love we have for that person influences us to think or act in a way that is contrary to God’s will and the natural order created by God. Or if we do something associated with that loved one with a selfish motive, rather than motivated by love for God.

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” “love others as I have loved you,” “no greater love does one have than to lay down his life for a friend.” Obeying God, serving others, putting the needs of another before our own, sacrificing for another even to the point of death for his sake. These are ways we love God before any human person.

You must learn detachment. The person you date and marry already has a God, and so do you. You need only worship the one true God, not each other. The person you love needs a partner, a helpmate, a companion to share love and help on the path toward the God you mutually worship. Detach from the one you love just enough to ensure you don’t lose yourself and your priorities are straight if for some reason you are without that person.

God and His love can never be lost to us. God alone quenches love’s thirst. Human beings can only love as they are living Christ’s love. But human love fails. And human affection cannot be preferred to doing God’s will. Love God first, and human love will flow proportionally and without contradiction to the love of God.

So enjoy the human love relationships God provides in your life. But take them down off that pedestal. It‘s too unstable for them, and it‘s too dangerous for you. Never expect any human being to fulfill your desire for love and to be loved. Only God can do that.

Human love lures the heart, but God’s love fully captures. Many quote St. Augustine, and for good reason: “Our hearts were made for Thee, O God, and they are restless until they rest in Thee.” Entrust and share your heart to those you love, but know that only God can love completely and without fail.

Anthony Buono is the author of Would You Date You? and founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com

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