We’ve all been there. At some point or another, we’ve all had to figure out how to emotionally detach from someone. It’s usually a weird period where you often feel like you’re in a no man’s land of confusing emotions.
Having to engage in healthy emotional detachment means that at some point, you were emotionally attached to someone.
Emotionally, you likely depended upon someone for a lot. You likely received happiness and comfort, whether a friend, co-worker, family member or a romantic relationship.
Your emotions were tied up, and now you have to figure out how to detach emotionally and move forward.
Letting go is a hard thing to do. It causes pain, no matter how important it is to detach from the past relationship. Whether you have to distance yourself from someone, break up, or cut ties, detaching can take a toll on your emotional and physical health.
No matter how much you tell yourself it needs to happen, it doesn’t make it any easier.
What is Emotional Attachment?
It’s a healthy part of life until it’s not anymore.
Emotional attachment enables human connection. Without it, we wouldn’t have close ties with anyone. We would interact as we do, and we wouldn’t make close friends or have romantic relationships.
Connecting with others is part of what makes us human, and without it, we aren’t living to our full potential.
Often, when we have an emotional need, we expect someone to provide us with that need. It can be validation. It can be security. It can be a need to be needed.
We give someone else the power of providing us with these things because we trust them and feel bonded to them on some level to provide us with the things that we need to maintain our mental health and emotional wellness.
Becoming Emotionally Attached Stems from Childhood
How you attach emotionally to someone as an adult and what you seek from a relationship largely depends upon your childhood and how connected you have been to your caregiver.
When we’re babies, we need someone to fend for us so that we can survive. It is the mother’s responsibility (or primary caregiver) to provide a child with the necessities of life so that they can survive and reach the age of independence.
That instinct is hard-wired into humans. It’s what kept us alive when we were hunters and gatherers and lived nomadically.
The closeness and the bond that develops between the child and the adult is attachment. The child begins to feel attached to the person who takes care of them.
The child seeks out that adult when they are afraid, or sad, or angry. This is in the hopes of being comforted and protected and because they are emotionally attached to that person.
How the Relationship You Had With A Caregiver Shapes You Emotionally
If you have been nurtured and your emotional needs have been met as a child, you will then have healthy relationships as an adult. If you were loved and soothed when sad, protected when afraid, and validated by a close adult.
We then understand that those are common feelings that someone else may end up seeking from us.
Because of past experiences having received these needs, you then understand how to give them to someone else. You make a good partner and can be a good friend.
What Sort of Relationship Did You Have?
The kind of relationships you have growing up can affect your emotional health.
1. If You Were Neglected
If you’ve been ignored, neglected, or shut out as a child from the adult(s) you’re closest to, you will likely often feel confused and insecure. You still need validation, happiness, love, trust, security, etc. But you haven’t been able to get them from your mother or whoever in charge of taking care of you as a child.
You may have been provided such as you haven’t been left to starve, have a roof over your head, but you haven’t been cared for or nurtured in the way a child needs. Then your emotional needs may not have been fully met as a child.
How It May Affect You
When you grow up and begin to form relationships with other people, you may find that you don’t understand what other people need emotionally because your own emotional needs haven’t been met growing up.
If you can understand that people will depend on you to provide them with positive emotions, you often don’t know how to do it. It will take some trial and error, and you may end up with a bad reputation when it comes to emotional availability by the time you learn how to get it right.
2. If You Were Overindulged
There is another extreme, as well. Think of the kid growing up in his mother’s shadow. She does everything but breathe for him, and if she can figure out how to do that, she will have done that too. She’s told her child that he’s perfect, that nothing is ever his fault.
He has likely developed an over-attachment because of this, and his emotions are heavily dependent upon what his mother says and does, which likely has continued into adulthood.
How It May Affect You
When that child grows up, there is a good chance that he will be emotionally dependent. He may rely too heavily on a friend or romantic partner to give him validation because he’s never had to address those feelings for himself.
This person may find that people detach from him because it’s too much work. It’s draining to have to provide validity to someone constantly.
Constantly telling them that they are unique, loved, or safe, often while getting very little in return makes people give up and emotionally detach.
Learn How to Emotionally Support Yourself
Even if you didn’t have a relationship with an emotionally supportive caregiver growing up, you can still get along and find happiness as an adult without dealing with people emotionally detaching from you.
To have a life and a future full of self-love and self-worth, you need to learn to provide emotional support to yourself.
Find your self-worth, and hold onto it, regardless of what anyone else says or does. Know that you are safe because you can trust yourself. Know that you are valuable because you value yourself.
Nurture the adult that exists now because you can’t go back and redo your childhood. Seek out adult relationships instead of looking for a pseudo-parent.
When You Need to Emotionally Detach
Maybe you have a relationship with someone you love, but their emotional dependence upon you is too much for you to handle. You’ve tried talking to them in the hopes that you can make them understand that they need to tone it down and find their inner peace, but nothing is working.
Unless you want this to go on forever, you probably need to emotionally detach or at the minimum emotionally distance yourself.
When You Need to Let Go
There are reasons why you need to make a difficult decision to let go of someone.
Sometimes you need to let go of someone emotionally because they are toxic. This can be anyone you have relationship with. You care about this person, but they are unhealthy for you and your mental health, so you decide that emotionally detaching is the only way to get back to being the person you want to be.
These people are often so determined to get what they want that they will gaslight, lie, and manipulate you to meet their needs. You may have strong feelings for them, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t emotionally detach yourself from someone like this.
A toxic person may be a narcissist who will never truly know how to care enough about you to put their own needs behind yours.
How do you go about it? What do you do? Often, the person we need to detach from is toxic and controlling because they don’t have a good relationship with themselves and need you to provide them with everything in life.
Just cutting the person off cold turkey may seem impossible. If you’re able to do so without there being serious repercussions, then that’s one thing. But most toxic people don’t just go away as soon as you let them know you need or want to detach.
So how do you detach emotionally and move on?
Emotionally Detaching From Someone
It takes lot of forethought to practice emotional detachment. You need to analyze the situation and pinpoint why you need to detach in the first place. What is it that you can’t handle anymore? Do you seem to attract the same sort of unhealthy people? Is it you, or is it them that needs a change?
Once you know, you can stop providing the things that are wearing you down the most and slowly detach.
1. Realize You Can Only Control Yourself
When looking to become emotionally detached from a person, it is important to understand that you cannot control everything. You can’t control the reaction of the other person when you stop providing for them emotionally.
So focus on what you can control. You can control yourself. You dictate how their reaction will affect you and your behavior. Focus on it when you feel that someone toxic isn’t going to accept you being emotionally detached from them.
2. Take One Day at a Time
Some days will feel like a mountain that you can never get to the top. You’ll feel alone in your future goals, and sometimes you won’t want to move forward.
It may be easier in the short term to give up and allow yourself to feel bogged down by someone who isn’t good for you. This is often the case when someone breaks up with you and you feel lost, but it also applies to a toxic relationship you are trying to end.
Take it one day at a time—practice patience. Maybe tomorrow will be less stressful, and you can continue to move forward with a better outlook for the future.
Talking to friends or asking for support can help you to keep things in perspective. Anything you can do to distract yourself from the pain is good.
The people who love you and care about you can help you move past this, so you can process your own emotions, look after your well-being, and detach from the person who is causing you pain.
3. Don’t Let Emotionally Detaching from Someone Effect Your Mental Health
Don’t let anyone abuse you emotionally because you emotionally detach from them.
When you detach from someone, that person will often try to pin their feelings about your detachment on you. Just because you separate yourself from someone doesn’t mean they aren’t still emotionally attached to you.
Your mental health is vital, and when you detach from someone, they tend to project their negative feelings onto you and try to make you feel guilty. This is especially true of toxic people and narcissists.
If you won’t love them, who will? If they don’t have you emotionally available to them, they can’t live a happy life.
None of this is your problem and not something you should feel guilty about.
When someone reacts in this way, they aren’t considering your feelings or how their emotionally attached behaviors affecting your own life.
Don’t let a guilt trip keep you from emotionally detaching from someone toxic. You owe it to yourself to live a better life than that.
How to Emotionally Detach from Someone When You Love Them
Love makes it incredibly difficult to detach yourself from someone.
You need to keep in mind and realize that love and being emotionally attached are two different things. Remember that you can love someone and care about them emotionally, but choosing to practice detachment may still be the best way to go, especially if they end things and you are left to pick up the pieces.
Trying to detach when you love someone is difficult because it’s hard to see past the love. In this instance, you have to learn how to emotionally detach not only for your shot at a happier life but also for the other person in the situation.
Being clingy and hanging on makes them feel bad or even annoyed, and it makes it impossible for you to heal.
Get off social media if you must
So you know you need to detach. You’ve made peace with the fact that you can only control yourself, and when you have to be around the one you need to detach from, it gets awkward, but you’ve stopped letting them guilt trip you.
In today’s world, it’s not as easy as just going home and not having to be around them or going to work and escaping them. Social media allows you a sneak peek into someone’s life, and you can’t properly learn to emotionally detach if you are checking up on the person when they’re not in your presence.
Stop getting in touch with them. If you have ceased contact with someone you need to detach from, but you’re still checking their social media or talking to them via text or phone call, then you probably don’t know how to emotionally detach from someone completely.
You’ve completed some of the steps, but any contact you have with someone you were at one time emotionally attached to is taking a step backward.
When someone hurts you or is toxic or has left you, you need to learn how to process it in all of its facets emotionally. You may have no actual contact with them anymore, but you can’t completely detach from someone you’re still talking to or looking up online.
If you have to emotionally detach from someone, you need to unfriend, block, or unfollow them online. Emotional detachment is about creating space so that the other party is no longer in charge of dictating how you feel about life and yourself.
Understand that emotional detachment means not checking up on them to see what they post.
Cease all forms of contact
It means not sending other people to ask them how they’re doing. It means not calling them in the middle of the night because you’re lonely and don’t feel happy.
When you decide it’s time to emotionally detach yourself from someone, you have to do it all the way, even when you aren’t physically around them.
Spend more time with friends who can help fill the hole left behind by the person you are detaching from. Friends can give you someone to talk to and vent to.
It’s okay to have conflicted emotions, and friends who are willing to be there can help you cope with your emotional pain and make some sense out of them.
You Can Detach Emotionally from Someone and Be Okay
When you emotionally detach from someone, nothing seems right for a little while.
You can be okay after you emotionally detach from someone. You have to give yourself time and be disciplined in your practices in life until you figure out how to make yourself happy.
Don’t jump straight into another relationship with someone.
When you emotionally detach from someone, you need to give yourself time to process everything that has happened and give yourself plenty of time to heal.
Your own life will get back to some version of normalcy. It will just be a new type of normal—one that you choose for yourself.
Having to detach yourself from someone is unpleasant, but it’s sometimes what is best for us.
When a person we love has left us, then we have to do something to find happiness again and form healthy attachments.
Give yourself some grace, and with patience and self-evaluation, you can do this.