When you think of romantic attachments, what comes to mind? For most of us, it is that special connection we have with our partner; that indescribable something that differentiates our relationship with our significant other from our other relationships. We do not feel the same or share the same bond with anyone else, and most of us have been taught that this attachment is the glue that holds our relationship together—that special secret bonding that makes the partnership so strong.
While we have been taught that this emotional attachment is confined only to our spouse, most of us can also attest to feeling emotional attachments toward people other than our partner at one time or another. How is this possible, especially as it appears to counter what most of us have been taught about depositing only feelings for our partner into our emotional savings account, so to speak. Is it really true what they say about emotional attachments to others being a threat to marriage?
As most of you know, I was raised in a pretty traditionally conservative household and taught that the one man, one woman relationship platform was the only option. My partner was supposed to answer to all my needs and vice versa, and even the possibility of any outside emotional attachments was simply asking for trouble.
Fast forward to today and my entire thought pattern has been turned upside down. No longer do I concede to the fact that emotional attachments to others are a deficit or threat to my relationship. Instead, I actually embrace this concept. How? Because for me, this seems like an utterly natural response. Think about it… we have emotional attachments to most people (if not all) who cross our path in life, whether it is our family, children, co-workers or friends. All of these people offer us the opportunity to engage on an emotional level and bring something beneficial to the table.
For instance, I have several children. Did I have to take a portion of my love away from one child in order to love another? Of course not. My love expanded to embrace each and every relationship with each and every child. No deficit… only growth. Would the relationship with any of my kids have changed if they had tried to keep me from having a relationship with their siblings… probably. If one of my kids had been threatened by my interaction with the others for fear of not feeling special or being replaced, that would have actually put a strain on the relationship we shared.
We want to differentiate between certain relationships. We want to say things like, “Oh, but a relationship with my kids is different than my relationship with my partner.” In terms of the type of relationship, yes, but not in the form of emotional attachments.
Society/religion/government will actually spend all kinds of time and energy getting us to buy into this thought pattern; this belief that emotional attachments outside of our primary relationship is wrong. And not just wrong, but dangerous, resulting in the demise of the marriage. We are trained to “guard and protect” our relationship at all costs, but does this encapsulation of our relationship really bring about a “specialness?” And if we do find “specialness,” we then try to control it in order to protect our position in the relationship because the one woman/one man mentality has been drilled into our brains from youth.
So, what happens when we decide to embrace emotional attachment instead of trying to control it? In my case… nothing. Nothing happened. Well, at least nothing bad. Instead, this relaxed approach to emotional attachments with others actually deepened the bond I already had with John. It goes back I think, more often than not, to the concept of “letting go of something, and if it returns…” kind of mentality. When John has been accepting of who I am in my entirety, I am drawn towards him even more. When he tries to control me, I will feel myself pull back.
Besides, bonding or attaching is something we are designed to do. Humans LOVE to engage with others. We crave the community aspect of who we are.
The problem I see is that when it comes to primary relationships we have been taught to restrict our natural state. This is another reason why these “emotional attachments” become such an issue and why we fear them. We instinctively know this restriction goes against our very evolutionary nature, yet we have been taught that if we do not restrict, we will lose our partner.
I have a wonderful guy friend. He is someone I can really talk to. I have confided in him about all sorts of issues in my life. This friendship provides a wealth of emotional assets for me. What makes this friendship even better is the fact that my husband knows all about it. Not only does he know about this relationship, he also encourages the contact. My husband knows this man provides a safe haven for me to share how I am feeling and that I receive a different connection and vantage point when discussing whatever subject I discuss with my friend. My husband and I both know the emotional connection or relationship I have with this other man is not in competition with our marriage because it does not have to be. My husband and I can have whatever kind of attachments we want with whomever without it being a threat to the deep bonding love we already have for each other. How? Because we accept the fact that we are going to have emotional attachments to others. We believe these connections with others to be as natural as the connection we have with each other.
These outside relationships do not have to come from some “romanticized” view of the connection nor do we have to create some perceived deficit in OUR relationship in order to share a bond with someone else. Besides, part of the joy of being in a relationship with a significant other is that you have both agreed to trust in the love you have for each other. That love does not have to be under constant scrutiny, after all, if the love is supposed to be so powerful, why the fragility of it being lost?
Once I learned to not fear emotional attachments with others, I was able to see the true benefits of allowing emotional attachments to happen. It was okay to say I really liked so and so, and John could announce his love for a dear friend or new friend. It was more than okay, it was loving. It was true and real and how we felt. Did this new attachment mean we were going to leave each other… no. Did it mean we had an even more honest assessment of our relationship… yes.
Look, I have no intention of ever leaving John, and this intent comes from the freedom we have in our relationship. Instead of letting fear be a force in our relationship, we chose honesty, trust, acceptance and above all compersion.
Not only have we seen our relationship flourish and grow and strengthen, but we have also benefited from these same things in the relationships we have fostered with others. Outside emotional attachments do not have to be the beginning of the end of a relationship but can instead be the beginning of the beginning of something beautiful.
John and Jackie Melfi are in a consensually non monogamous marriage. They have been featured in ABC News Nightline Special Report “Getting Naughty In N’awlins”, Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention, and CNN “This Is Life” with Lisa Ling. The Melfis are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and Austin. With over 20 years of combined experience, this powerhouse couple coaches thousands of singles and couples through their award winning blog Openlove101.com.