What is emotional attachment?

Emotional attachment, also known as affective attachment, is a type of attachment that implies a dependency in your relationships, whether it is the relationship with your partner, social or familial relationship. In this article we will focus on emotional dependency within a couple, that can become a problem, and we must learn to identify it and get out of such situations.

Attachment should not be confused with love. Both concepts are entirely different, but can be complicated. Emotional dependence is a problem because it can lead to the annulment of a person. It often happens that the “attached” person ends up leaving their life aside, giving up their way of being, hobbies, tastes or circle of friends to follow the other person. The worst thing is not that not that they do it, but that they are not even aware they are doing it. They justify this dependence by hiding behind love, but they are aware that they are not happy deep down. They have given up everything to fight for a relationship that does not make them grow.

Have you ever experienced this? It is likely you have not realised it or identified it over time. Emotional attachment stems from fear, manipulation, and insecurity. Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, one being the fear of losing another person or being alone. Yes, many people fear loneliness, but being alone can allow you to find yourself.


That fear of rejection or abandonment makes you give up being yourself to please your partner. You do whatever it takes to make things work for you because you feel a genuine panic about being alone. The only thing you achieve is to lose touch with yourself and who you are as a person. Emotional attachment destroys self-esteem and self-respect.

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What are emotionally attached relationships like?

Emotionally dependent people follow a kind of pattern that repeats itself over and over again throughout their relationships. It always starts when you meet someone, and you begin to get excited, to overestimate expectations while building an ideal image in your mind of the other person.

Then you enter a phase of submission because you want to preserve that relationship. You put the other person’s needs before your own, creating an imbalance. The imbalance increases as the relationship deteriorates, resulting in fear of abandonment and more attachment.

Eventually, the relationship breaks down. You feel a kind of withdrawal syndrome, and you can’t go back. So what do you do? The next step is to look for a new relationship in which you follow the same pattern.

What are the main symptoms of emotional dependence?

When there is an emotional attachment, you idealise the other person. You don’t see their faults and overestimate their virtues. You also feel a lot of fear, even panic, of being rejected or abandoned, which translates into possessive attitudes, jealousy and a great deal of insecurity in yourself. This fear increases because you don’t want to be alone and cling to your partner.

Low self-esteem and insecurity. Clingy” people have low self-esteem, they are insecure. Their source of self-esteem is the relationship itself, which is not healthy. Moreover, their self-esteem decreases as their submissive attitude increases. They need so much to please and satisfy the other that they feel incapable of making decisions in the end. They don’t even know what they like because they gave up being themselves long ago.

If all this insecurity is already distressing in itself, the ordeal increases with any separation, however small it may be. Emotional dependence generates excellent anxiety and is overwhelming for the other person. The “attached” person gives up being who they are to please, and the fear, anguish, and worry follow one after the other in a loop.

As we have explained, emotional dependents follow a similar pattern in all their relationships. Therefore, the root of the problem is often not the relationship itself, but rather it is the “attachment” that you should investigate to find out the cause. For example, they may have emotional deprivation, lack of affection, low self-esteem or overly high expectations in relationships.

Consequences of emotional attachment

Emotional dependency has a series of psychological and social consequences. First, your relationships become unstable as you enter a kind of circle of break-ups and reconciliations that lead you nowhere and do not allow you to move forward.

You have lost so much of yourself and have idealised the relationship or the person that can lead to feeling dissatisfied and frustrated. The relationship itself is a source of pain because you feel fear and anxiety about losing the other person. And this fear is accentuated by the fear of being alone.

At the same time, your self-esteem plummets as the submission you develop annihilates your self-esteem. As a result, you feel unimportant, unappreciated and secondary. You think this way because you do not value yourself.

In addition to the effects mentioned above, there is also the anxiety that you begin to experience. It is a constant in your relationship because you feel lost in the face of any separation. There are extreme cases in which you can’t even bear the thought of your partner going to work. You feel continually threatened and in danger.

Looping thoughts run rampant in your mind. For example, you don’t know if they will meet someone if they don’t answer your call because they are with someone else, and these jealousies or worries trigger possessive and overwhelming attitudes on your part.

In the end, attachment leads you to distance yourself from your loved ones, or you try to keep your partner away from their social or family circle. You have given up your hobbies, your tastes and your activities. You have abandoned everything to please others and have a submissive attitude. Your whole life revolves around the relationship and your partner, so when it breaks up, you feel entirely lost. You feel sad, unable to get back to your routines, and your whole life comes to a standstill.

As you can see, emotional dependency leads to toxic relationships that repeat themselves repeatedly if you don’t put a stop to it. So the first step starts with you, if you are the “attached” one, because only then will you be able to build strong self-esteem that will help you develop healthy relationships in which you grow as a person, and the bond between you grows stronger.

Help with emotional attachment.

It is difficult to break a cycle of emotional attachment. If you have identified yourself in this post and your relationships follow the patterns explained, you should seek the help of a professional therapist. The problem, in part, is yours, and you have to solve it to make your relationships healthy.

The first step to eliminating the problem is recognising it and identifying your suffering. Psychological professionals will give you the help you need to develop healthy self-esteem, value yourself and accept your strengths and weaknesses. You have to learn to love yourself first and love other people. It is essential to spend some time alone, to discover and love yourself.

To love yourself, you have to think about yourself, what you like, find out what you enjoy, what you are good at. It is possible that you can’t think of anything at the beginning, and in those cases, the best thing to do is to start trying until you find something that fulfills you. Then, little by little, you will achieve your goals and do it for yourself, and these small satisfactions will help you regain your well-being.

When you do, you will be ready to start a new relationship without it being a source of anxiety and worry—quite the contrary. You will have confidence in yourself, security and self-esteem, which will allow you to enter into a union based on the same pillars, in which you can enjoy a love free of emotional dependence.

At the other end of the relationship are the “victims” of emotional attachment. The other person’s dependence on them is very suffocating, and they are not happy either. The relationship itself is a source of arguments, worries and jealousy. Moreover, even if you love your partner, you gradually lose interest because you feel in a toxic relationship that does not add to your life. In the end, even if it hurts, you also break the relationship.

The emotional attachment that leads to dependency is very harmful, so you must deal with it and learn how to leave a toxic relationship. But, best of all, leaving it behind is possible.

I At TherapyChat, you will find professionals who can advise, support and help you achieve your best version.

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