Everyone feels some sort of attachment to people, things, or places. After all, if you have something good in your life, it makes sense that you might feel resistant to losing that person or thing. However, excessive emotional attachment is unhealthy when it begins to disrupt your life.
In the case of relationships, unhealthy emotional attachments can disrupt your partner’s life as well. The line between healthy and unhealthy attachments can be hard to figure out, however, especially if you don’t have a precedent for healthy relationships. If you have been in an abusive relationship before, it may be hard to adjust to a normal, healthy balance with your partner.
Emotional attachment can lead to a long, amazing relationship with your partner. If you feel an emotional attachment to an object, such as a childhood toy, it can be calming to have it after a stressful day. However, if you feel a little too strongly about something or someone, it can become a dangerous obsession.
Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Emotional Attachment
It’s normal to love and want your partner or your things. However, fervent and obsessive behavior can lead to breakups and intrusive behavior in your everyday life. Here are some of the common behaviors and patterns that indicate you may be developing a toxic attachment.
Your feelings depend on their presence and attention
Any relationship has some amount of interdependence — you enjoy spending time with them, and you feel good when they’re around. A relationship’s interdependence turns into an unhealthy codependency, however, when you do not feel “fulfilled” unless they’re around.
In a healthy relationship, you have fun with your partner, but you also have fun on your own. In unhealthy codependency, you are unable to enjoy doing things, much less feel happy on your own. As a result, you begin to cling to your partner and ask for more time together — because that way, you spend less time feeling empty by yourself.
You feel that you cannot live without them
If you feel a never-ending spiral of negative thoughts and emotions (including suicidal thoughts) at the idea of being without your partner, you have an unhealthy emotional attachment.
If you’re attached to a material object, an easy way to gauge whether it’s healthy is to ask yourself, “Can I sell this item and survive?” If you feel that you would rather have this object over having a place to live, or basic essential items like clothing and food, then you may have an unhealthy attachment to that item.
You obsess over their every single move
Obsessively checking a partner’s location and current online status, like a private detective, is a sign of trust issues. Where are they? Who are they with? Are they with someone that they like more than me? This is more tempting in the age of social media, where we have the ability to constantly check someone’s status updates, posts, and whether they’re online, but that doesn’t make it healthy.
Your paranoia can extend to their family members, friends, and even exes. It’s normal to feel curious about their personal circle and their dating history, but if you are going years back into your partner’s ex’s Facebook timeline, that might be a problem.
You harbor selfish feelings & prerogatives
“If I can’t have them, nobody can.” “They wouldn’t be where they are today if it weren’t for me.” “They’re only like this because of me.” Experiencing these flashing thoughts when you see the person out and about conversing with friends or family — without you — is a red flag that you’re unhealthily attached to them, and furthermore, that you may be the toxic partner in the relationship. When an attachment becomes unhealthy, you begin to think that their lives should revolve around you, and that everything good in their life is the result of you and you alone.
It’s important to realize that an unhealthy attachment is selfish. This is a hard fact to accept, but you must reflect and ask yourself if you’re the toxic one in a relationship. If you truly care about how your partner feels, and their independence as a person, you would have the courage to let them go — whether that’s letting them hang out with their friends on their own, or letting them carry on with the rest of their life after a breakup.
Focus on Healthy Attachments
An emotional connection to something or someone is never bad. However, there is a line between a healthy attachment, and an unhealthy one.
If you feel that you have an unhealthy attachment to something or someone, you can fix this. Write out the reasons why you feel this way — do you feel “incomplete” without them? Do you feel afraid of losing your self-esteem or stability if you ever lose that attachment? It may be helpful to discuss these questions with your partner, or a licensed online therapist.
There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need people and things you love to stay in your life. However, you should always be your number one priority, and therefore it’s important to establish a healthy, emotional connection with yourself first.