Valentine’s Day isn’t just for people in relationships. It’s another opportunity to show yourself some love, too. Whether you’re currently entangled or free as a bird, there’s comfort in knowing that music will always hold your hand even when it’s clammy and unmanicured. As we know, listening to music can completely alter your mood and trigger certain memories. When I started this series, it was with the intention of combining two of my favorite things: music and psychology. So, what better way to study human connection than to start a dialogue about love and how it presents to different people? So I took to the streets to research– and by the streets, I mean social media.
I asked a varietal group of people what their favorite love and breakup songs were and what those songs meant to them. There were some contrasting variables to what each person claimed to value in a relationship– things that were specific to them as individuals, but at their core, their standards were very similar. In some fashion, each person expressed concerns with emotional vulnerability and sacrificing ego, understanding and practicing love languages, and healthy or insecure attachment. Even those who claimed to have never been in love understood the ethics of intimate and romantic relationships, with specifications of how they envision receiving love. I don’t have any real words of wisdom for you today, but consider what Aniah had to say about the songs she chose: “These songs put me in a magical headspace in which vulnerability not only feels reachable, but freeing.”
Chicago native, Femdot provides nostalgic New York sound and the inspiration for today’s love topic: the difference between attachment and love. Whether they’re still pillars in our lives or in the rearview, “Happy Breakup Song,” magnifies the goodwill we should wish to those we love. Just because something doesn’t last forever, it doesn’t negate the growth, happiness or success brought on by the experience.
Confusing love with possession or attachment is one way insecurity rears its ugly head in relationships. In the early stages of a romantic relationship, it can sometimes be easy to fall completely in line with your partner, becoming totally enveloped in the relationship and really not much else. Things that are deserving of your time and attention can fall to the wayside, like hobbies, friends and family, or responsibilities. According to a scientific study led by Dr. Helen Fischer at Rutgers, “Attraction involves the brain pathways that control ‘reward’ behavior, which partly explains why the first few weeks or months of a relationship can be so exhilarating and even all-consuming.”
But what about after the initial phases of love? We’ve all either been there or seen that, those relationships where one person fears being without “The Other Half” for longer than a minute. Consistent insecure attachment in a romantic relationship is indicative of emotional dependency. Dependency such as this occurs when an individual feels less than whole prior to coupling, seeking wholeness within the relation. When emotional dependency like this is apparent in a relationship, the union becomes less about equal partnership and more about serving oneself to fill an imaginary void within. Dependency can look a lot like addiction that’s led by, you guessed it– ego.
Have you ever seen a cute kitten or puppy and had the overwhelming (and slightly concerning) urge to squeeze a little too hard? I’m talking hard enough to maybe unintentionally inflict a little pain? Why would we want to squeeze the life out of something that brings us so much joy and comfort? This is where fear comes into play– fear that what we have now, we may not have forever. To combat this fear of loss, we may cling on for dear life– applying pressure in order to feel in control, squeezing so hard that what we love eventually suffocates. Similar to love, fear is complex; it’s been societally ingrained in our minds to fear loss, because to lose is to lack, and a feeling of lack can negatively impact our self-esteem.
The most effective way to combat fear of loss is through acceptance. The moment we relinquish the need to control, we can acknowledge and appreciate the beauty in that what we think we have cannot actually be “had.” Whatever will be, will be. A more romantic way to view this is to imagine your loved ones as open air– impossible to capture entirely and flowing freely. Assume the position that no one, not even your partner or family, is obligated to live up to your expectations. (Expectation can be an especially vicious instigator as it tends to lead to disappointment, guilt and anger more often than not.) Recognize that your loved one is an individual, inside and outside of the relationship, and celebrate their sovereignty. Remember that to love without possession is to wholeheartedly root for our loved ones’ happiness, even if that happiness doesn’t include or involve us. There is incomparable value in knowing that every person reserves the right to just exist, including you and your partner.