If you often feel worried about a loved one, disappointed or upset by their choices, or like your emotions revolve around whether they’re “doing well” or not, then detaching with love (or loving detachment) is the key to feeling grounded, guilt-free and at peace.
What’s Loving Detachment?
Let’s start with what loving detachment actually is and isn’t. Loving detachment is NOT tough love. Loving detachment is less harsh and more flexible; it’s not so black and white.
3 Steps to Understanding Loving Detachment and Learning How to Do It Consistently
Step 1: Understand Your Motives
Loving detachment comes from love-based emotions like compassion, openness and kindness. When you’re not lovingly detached, it’s coming from a fear-based emotion such as anxiety, guilt and helplessness.
My tip for this is simple: Get mindful and check in with your feelings often! Start with how you’re feeling when you have these interactions. Are you impatient, controlling, anxious or guilt-ridden? It’s that simple to notice if you’re having a fear-based emotion. If you are, consciously move to a love-based one. You can do this by practicing the next-best-feeling thought. Try to make mindfulness a consistent habit.
Step 2: Don’t Just Love, Accept
Accepting what our loved ones do can be very hard. This is about getting past what you think is “fair or right.” I always come back to my old, do you want to be correct or effective? Effective in this situation is that I’m at peace not that I control all those around me. I can have peace no matter what others are doing!
There’s a great exercise I love from renowned “loving detachment” expert, Martha Beck.
- Step 1. Think of someone you love who you feel is causing you to worry, feel anxious, angry or sad.
- Step 2. Identify what this person should do to make you happy, but using this sentence: “If _________ would only __________, then I could feel ____________.”
- Step 3. Now delete the first part of the sentence, so it reads: “I could feel _____________.” Realize that this is the only honest truth in the sentence and know that you have the power to feel that way no matter what anyone else says or does.
My tip for this step is to practice a loving kindness meditation often.
Step 3: Learn What Having Loving Boundaries Really Means
I often talk about boundaries as being on a continuum with thin, enmeshed boundaries on one side and thick, emotionally distant boundaries on the other. Loving detachment is all about knowing where you are on the continuum between the two.
My Tip for this step: Work on your calibration.