I've recently been working through a difficult tension in relationships. On one side you have "non-attachment". This is generally pushed by Stoicism / Buddhism. The macro idea is that attachment leads to suffering, therefore we should not be attached.
Non-attachment is especially pushed in the book, The Way to Love. Some quotes:
The first truth: You must choose between your attachment and happiness. You cannot have both.
What makes you happy or unhappy is not the world and the people around you, but the thinking in your head.
Make a list of all your attachments and desires and to each of them say these words : “Deep down in my heart I know that even after I have got you I will not get happiness.”
If you wish to be happy the first thing you need is not effort or even goodwill or good desires but a clear understanding of how exactly you have been programmed.
In order to be genuinely happy there is one and only one thing you need to do: get deprogrammed, get rid of those attachments.
But only after you have got rid of your emotional upsets, for then your action will spring from peace and love, not from the neurotic desire to appease your computer or to conform to its programming or to get rid of the negative emotions it generates.
What is love? Take a look at a rose. Is it possible for the rose to say, “ I shall offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people? ” Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light?
This is a very powerful perspective. Being attached causes unhappiness, so deprogram yourself to not be attached, then "love" everything as a rose does: by loving without any expectation in return.
On the other side, you have our "programming" that states that, not only is attachment natural, but it's a good thing (and society has been de-programming us to be non-attached). At a high level, there are are four different attachment styles: Secure, preoccupied (or anxious), dismissive (or avoidant), and cautious.
The book, Attached goes deeper into understanding attachment (and trying to cultivate secure attachment):
Attachment theory is based on the assertion that the need to be in a close relationship is embedded in our genes.
Two dimensions essentially determine attachment styles: Your comfort with intimacy and closeness (or the degree to which you try to avoid intimacy). And your anxiety about your partner’s love and attentiveness and your preoccupation with the relationship.
On how our culture creates avoidant attachers:
We live in a culture that seems to scorn basic needs for intimacy, closeness, and especially dependency, while exalting independence. We tend to accept this attitude as truth—to our detriment.
The worst possible scenario is that you will end up needing your partner, which is equated with “addiction” to him or her, and addiction, we all know, is a dangerous prospect.
On how having a "secure base" is helpful for independence:
A secure base is a prerequisite for a child’s ability to explore, develop, and learn.
“Dependency paradox”: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.
If you want to take the road to independence and happiness, find the right person to depend on and travel down it with that person.
A hard-to-shed misconception is that we alone are responsible for our emotional needs; they are not our partner’s responsibility. ...Again, we must constantly remind ourselves: In a true partnership, both partners view it as their responsibility to ensure the other’s emotional well-being.
It's a very powerful book, especially for someone like me who is closer to the avoidant side (and is trying to deprogram himself).
I'm not sure the "right" answer here. Some non-attachment ideas are great: happiness and need meeting comes from within (don't need external validation), love whether or not you're being loved back, and deprogram yourself. Some attachment ideas are great: Acknowledge biological attachment, become/find a secure base for true independence, and deprogram yourself.
In the end, we should likely take a Kegan Level 5 / Vajrayana perspective here, as noted in this StackExchange answer:
Vajrayana view includes both sacred and illusory aspects of love. In Vajrayana we are trained to see things from all the sides at the same time.
Love is both sacred and a giant trick, as far as Vajrayana is concerned.
A Vajrayana perspective would more likely align with your "pain is part of life" and "might as well enjoy the flower" conjectures.
Vajrayana would still appreciate the inherent fakeness of love, the mechanical nature of which comes from a match of partners' stereotypes and preconceptions. So even if a Vajrayana practitioner could play with the fire both in context of its ego-melting properties as well as for pleasure, they would not take it one-sidedly as an untrained run-of-the-mill person would do.
Some final notes:
- If you're in Boston and interest in this, I'm going to a weekend meditation workshop on this very topic: Love and Attachment.
- Feel free to check out all of my comments and highlights on The Way To Love, here.
- And my comments/highlights on Attached, here.
Finally: this is kind of weird / cool, but people are actually voting for future blog content on the Trello board here. Please do so!