Preface: It is important to recognize a few simple keystone facts about intimate relationship feelings before proceeding.
1) The opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference.
2) Rejection of a partner in an intimate relationship requires that you disown some part of yourself.
3) Infatuation is a biological phenomenon that requires nothing beyond being 'captured' by the visual and scent related stimuli of the desired mate. This is accomplished by no in depth understanding of the 'love object's' characteristics.
4) Love is one step up the ladder of evolutionary maturity from infatuation and entails a more complete understanding of the individuals involved. It includes an understanding of both the strengths and weaknesses of the object of one's infatuation.However, love may not entail each partner's understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses.
5)Attachment is the final rung on the maturity ladder. In the attachment bond both parties are fully aware of their own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of their partner. They maintain an affectionate, compassionate, devotedly loyal, and passionate bond with one another in the face of both good fortune and hardship.
6) An objective (factual) sense of self-worth on the parts of both partners in a relationship, coupled with basic attraction, is the best predictor of a rewarding and attached bond.
7) Passion is crucial to attachment. The word 'passion' is derived from its oldest roots which means 'to suffer.' In truth, it suggests that my feelings and life are acted upon by the joys and pains of my significant other to the same degree as my own troubles. Without suffering, there is no real attachment.
Often in the attempt to understand a fundamental characteristic of human relationships, as with an emotional transaction such as attachment, it is best to begin by indicating what does not qualify as attachment.
Attachment is not guaranteed by nature, birthing, blood relationship. shared solidarity in hardship or lifelong solidarity. Attachment is a process that involves learning to accept, first in yourself, and then in an significant other the universal presence of both character strengths and weaknesses in the human character.
Let us begin in this exercise in contrasts between attachment and other feelings at play in intimate relationships with the phenomenon of infatuation.
Infatuation is defined as a strong and unreasoning affection for another that is marked by limited understanding of the object of one's affection, and which is often considered sentimental and transitory. This is the 'the love at first sight' event. Recent research suggests that infatuation is a kind of time limited, obsessive-compulsive state which may be instigated by a tidal wave of dopamine (neurotransmitter) in the brain. Dopamine is held to be released in response to the visual and scent stimuli of the desired other which is in turn related to neuropsychologically complementary differences (brain differences in two individuals that fit together neurologically - like puzzle pieces) in the potential mate. In short, mother nature is in charge!
This is not to suggest that there is only one mate for every person on the planet! In point of fact, there may be a large number of people of a specific neuropsychological makeup who will spur our passions. However, geography, circumstances and history will confine our choices to those who we find 'attactive', namely, to a select few who are available in our life times. In short, passion is focused on opportunity.
Love is a word loosely bandied about and applied in a variety of ways by different cultures and in endless epochs. For example, I 'love' this car does injustice to the word as the car cannot return any of my affection.
Love is one step up the evolutionary ladder from infatuation in that love suggests a more durable and long lasting affection that includes benevolence toward the object of one's affection and a desire for their well-being than infatuation. Love is, in truth, an outpouring of affection that anticipates a return on investment from the object of one's love, but does not of necessity evaporate if that investment proves unprofitable. In a very real sense, love amounts to profound affection that contains elements of a cost-benefit analysis. Put more simply, I may love a significant other, but hate a wide variety of their traits and behaviors. This love-in-whole and hate-in-particular feeling, can, over time, contribute to the ultimate deterioration of the relationship. Indeed, in many instances which are all too common, I may hate the very traits and behaviors in my partner that I refuse to accept in myself.
Attachment is therefore neither infatuation, nor love although both of these may be forerunners to attachment. Attachment is marked by tenderness, devotion, and a sense that the object of my attachment is of greater or equal value to myself - it is, in short, a bonding. For the magic of attachment to be conjured, the individuals concerned must not only be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their beloved, but must also completely accept both as part of the human condition! As this definition suggests, attachment to another cannot be accomplished over a brief period of time, or in those circumstances that bring only good fortune to the couple. Hardship is required in order to sift the feelings of infatuation and love from those more realistic and abiding commitments that mark attachment.
Attachment on the part of one partner does not evaporate if the other partner is unfaithful as intrinsic value is embedded in that partner despite their infidelity. To be certain the pain of betrayal and loss is nearly overwhelming for the 'injured' party, but rage is notably absent. Rage at betrayal is the province of infatuation and love, not attachment. Rage is an other directed emotion, but in attachment the value of the other (partner) is equivalent to one's own value and so rage must be equally directed to yourself. In psychiatric terms.self-directed rage qualifies under the definition of depression. Hence, in an attached couple the loss of a partner quite inevitably leads to depression as seen in the profound grief and early demise of the surviving partner when an attached partner dies.
In liturgical terms, 'the two shall become one' best describes the kind of relationship that merits the label 'attachment.' As with any goal of lasting value, attachment requires self-examination and continuing commitment in the face of personal disappointment with childish expectations and fantasies. Indeed, a truly committed relationship may emerge only among those partners who have each accepted their own individual human fallibilty menu entries and those of their partner as a necessary puzzle piece in the larger conundrum of the human condition.
We are all parts of a larger puzzle. If we're lucky and willing to objectively examine, and work on ourselves, we may find a complementarily configural piece into whom we can fit for our lifetime, and perhaps beyond.