Is it possible to have a romantic relationship without attachment? Just based on pure love and with equanimity?

  • The Attachment Tag needs a definition. I added it to the Question, because it seems like the key point. (I am guessing that we would not use Iyanla VanZant's definition.)
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 1:21
  • @nocomprende Buddhist terminology is translated into English. Still (perhaps especially in the tag definition) I think we should prefer to use specifically-Buddhist definitions of these words; for example "attachment" in the Buddhist sense is described here and here and here.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 12:41
  • 1
    Why did you use the phrase "romantic relationship" and not just "relationship"? and what do you mean by "Pure love". The closest to pure love is like a mother to her only child. This is then not romantic. Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 6:15

8 Answers 8


Is it possible to have a romantic relationship without attachment? Just based on pure love and with equanimity?

I won't say that all relationships must end; but if a relationship doesn't end, one of the partners will die.

When we knew that my partner was dying, I think then we both/each experienced more love and less attachment than we had previously.

  • Perhaps that is inevitable, the only sane response to dying.
  • Or perhaps we were fortunate, we allowed each other that experience towards the end.
  • Perhaps we were unfortunate, we didn't allow each other that experience when we were younger (and instead had less love and more attachment during our earlier life together)

Sankha might be right: we might have been better to have been friends than to have "loved" each other.

I'm not sure about Rabbit's answer; that answer says, "our natural state is non-discriminative love", but a typical, old-fashioned "romantic" relationship is perhaps discriminative and exclusive: it says, "I will love you and no-one else" (or, "I love you in a way that I don't love anyone else").

A famous saying about love is, "love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own." I suspect that love can cause attachment, which makes happiness more difficult, and makes your happiness less under your own control. You give your partner control over whether you feel happy: you allow them them to hurt you (and they feel hurt by you).

Whether it's "possible" to have a "romantic relationship, without attachment, just based on pure love and with equanimity" presumably varies from person to person. Maybe it becomes easier as you get older and if you become wiser.

Now after my friend died I still remember her. Perhaps I remember her without "attachment", i.e. without hurting myself by wishing that things are other than as they are. When I (still) dream about her, which I did last night, I feel less conflict between the dream (of her being present) and reality (her having died).

I suppose the above doesn't seem like a strong recommendation.

I suppose that on the plus side, if you are able to eventually (and it might take years or decades, if you're ever able to at all) overcome your many faults, it gives you an opportunity to help two people (you and your partner) to experience that love.

It might matter, whether you and your partner have the same "values": whether you value the same thing. For example, do you both value "relationship without attachment" and "love with equanimity"? Buddhism? If so perhaps that's a friendship, a community. If not, an unequal or one-sided relationship.

  • 1
    That was a great answer, thanks for sharing your story!
    – konrad01
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 13:02
  • Great story and explanation. Regarding the "values" correspondence at the end and one-sided or not, please see my contribution of an Answer.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:52

"Romantic relationship" implies lust and craving. So the answer is no. If it is just Metta, it should be called a 'friendship'. Not a romantic relationship.

  • 7
    If the idea is to attain Nibbana as soon as possible, one should renounce lay life and become a monk. All these conflicts and difficulties arise when you try to practice the monk's life while being a lay person. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 16:56
  • 2
    "Romantic relationship" doesn't necessarily imply craving, and it absolutely does not imply lust.
    – tkp
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 17:23
  • 2
    @tkp: Even the dictionary disagrees with you on this. :) Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 17:43
  • 1
    @Rabbit: No I haven't heard of him and I don't know if he claims to liberate women through sex. But I have heard of so many Swamis who deceive women with such claims, just to get some cheap sex. Any sexual activity will only distance you from Nibbana(if that's what you mean by liberation). Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 12:45
  • 3
    I see! I follow the Theravada tradition and such beliefs have no place in Theravada Buddhism. Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 13:02

Love and attachment are two different things so if you purified all the attachment, you can enjoy the pure romantic love. The problem is that we all still have seeds of attachment and we strongly experience it when the love undergoes some changes.

Buddha teaches that our natural state is non-discriminative love. In our everyday lives, unfortunately, we don't experience that and it is usually when we fall in love we have a glimpse of that state. When we romantically love someone, all the people are nice, even those nasty neighbors seem approachable, the rain is liquid sunshine and obviously our prince/princess is a perfect Buddha. Loving someone means wishing all the best for that person. True love is not about ourselves, it is about the person we love - we perceive him/her on the highest level and we just want this person to be always happy and satisfied. If the loved one is happy - we are naturally happy as well.

Because we are not realised yet and we are full of disturbing emotions, the romantic love can get weaker with time and we start experiencing our everyday problems again. The neighbours are nasty again and our prince is annoying. Then we might also discover that our prince found another lady and he seems to be happy with her. And in this very moment we can ask ourselves - if I really love him I should be happy that he is happy with that woman, right? If your purest emotion towards this person is non-discriminative love, you will happily wish him all the happiness and set him free. If you feel great attachment, you will experience suffering because of that attachment.

  • 1
    +1 That early "romantic" love that weakens over time is often called limerance. Practically it serves a purpose to bring people together, but it doesn't characterize a long term couple relationship and staying together. In fact, relying on limerance too much can set unrealistic expectations thereby making the long term relationship vulnerable. That's one reason why some cultures' approach of arranging marriage has some distinct advantages over the typical western approach of "falling in love".
    – tkp
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 17:25
  • @tkp There is a thing (a concept, a word) called "limerance". That may not imply that "limerance", as defined, is what every person experiences or participates in.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 3:33
  • If you remain strong, the love need not weaken.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 12:19

Of course. True love is full of happiness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Non attachment is a condition of true love.

  • Even in a romantic relationship??
    – konrad01
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 13:59

Love is mindfully enjoying each others company,listening to the each other and being in peace.If he/she suffers then you should take steps to bring peace back and vice versa.The ultimate goal of being in love is to be peaceful.Attachment is out of scope here because it either deals with the future or past.The present moment matters in love.Also there is nothing like true love or false love.Love is simply Love.So it is possible

  • Love is being non-attached and 'peaceful' in conflict also.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 12:30

Several not-upvoted answers here so I am contributing. As a Hetaira Archetype personality person, I have a specific perspective on Relationships. To answer any question, we have to get people to define their terms:

  • Love - <To Will The Good Of Another> I use the definition from the Catechism (not because I am Catholic, but because it is the best wording I have ever found).
  • Romantic - <you get to know your partner a lot more intimately> I use the definition from the Urban Dictionary because it is concise and appealing.
  • Attachment - (Tag on this site has no description - bummer) Well, this is the crux of the question then, so you-all will need to get to work on it!

For me, with my personality type, non-attached love is my basic modality. But few people have this personality type, so relationships in general tend to be a mess. (For more info, you can search "Hetaira Archetype" and read the literature.) This personality type is a part of the nature of all humans, because it is part of core psychology (according to Jung and his followers). Everyone can realize it, so the answers saying that it is possible are correct. Good news!

So relationships and the love they express vary mainly in the level of Intimacy. This is really what we are getting at. Why bother to be intimate? To get to know someone better. Why bother to get to know someone better? Mmm, getting warm. What is your motive for getting to know someone better? [answer for yourself] For Hetaira-people (found everywhere and doing all sorts of things) the motive is to care for someone in personal and intimate ways. Ways that others can not (being not developed and disposed to) or will not (due to apparent issues with other relationships and society at large) or should not (due to other constraints of the situation). IFF your motive and intent are pure - caring without attachment - then the relationship is positively-based. It could actually work. If not, not. You must be very strong in yourself already to live this way. Get strong!

Regarding it being one-sided, I would say that everything is one-sided, and we need only concern ourselves with our own choices. Leave the other side to the other person. A relationship is not ownership or control, so yes, as one Answer states: if they leave for someone else, be happy that they have flitted to a different flower! Your own values should be caring and appreciation, regardless of anything they do. Like a parent, but intimate in a different way.

My Meditation Teacher said that the basis for your actions - your motive and intent - are what matters, in this as in everything.

  • I see this progression of development: Learn to love self, learn to love another, learn to love a group (family, etc), learn to love many, learn to love all. If you stop at One, you miss most of the development process. Couple relationship is the first step!
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 12:32
  • I was just on the point of asking this Question today, but I got to Answer it instead.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 12:33
  • @ChrisW: Swipe over the two words, Right-click, choose "Search Google for 'Hetaira Archetype' ". Look at the first ten things that come up - many are scholarly references. Read the one that should seem especially relevant to this post. Seems very easy to me. Let me know if that doesn't work as described?
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:23
  • When you say "Hetaira Archetype" I expect you mean, for example, as that is described here: Feminine Quarternity: Queen, Medial, Amazon, Hetaira (Feminine Archetypes - A Quaternity)
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:27
  • "Love -- definition from the Catechism" I think that "love" is described in Buddhist vocabulary too, for example see here and the corresponding definitions/articles for the Pali words mettā, karuṇā, and muditā. I though Pali was quite clever to use different words for different types of love.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:32

There is no love in attachment. Whenever attachment is present in the mind, there is no love in that mind. Why is that so? Attachment comes from clinging. Clinging comes from craving. Craving comes from willing. Willing comes from ignorance. From ignorance comes suffering. Thus, there is no love in attachment. Attachment is suffering. The more a mind is permeated with attachment, the more there is no love in that mind.

There is love in non-attachment. Whenever non-attachment is present in the mind, there is love in that mind. Why is that so? Non-attachment comes from non-clinging. Non-clinging comes from non-craving. Non-craving comes from non-willing. Non-willing comes from wisdom. From wisdom comes liberation from suffering. Thus, there is love in non-attachment. Non-attachment is love. The more a mind is permeated with non-attachment, the more there is love in that mind.

Is it possible to have a romantic relationship without attachment? Just based on pure love and with equanimity?

Yes, but only if both partners are liberated from suffering while being together in a romantic relationship. If a person liberates from suffering while not being in a romantic relationship, that person will not seek romantic relationships anymore.

If one partner liberates while being in a romantic relationship, he will not seek romantic relationships anymore, but his current romantic relationship will change to "unconditioned love".

If both partners liberate while being together in a romantic relationship, they will not seek romantic relationships anymore, but their current romantic relationship will change to "eternal love". How is a relationship based on "eternal love" experienced? Beyond words.

  • I read this as a binary (black and white) description: either attachment and ignorance and suffering and no love (at all), or (complete) liberation and wisdom and love and no attachment.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 11:27
  • 1
    Thx. Correct is: The more attachment, the more no love. The more non-attachment, the more love. I updated my answer.
    – beginner
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 11:41

First of all we should look at what makes LOVE

Love is in a group of emotions

  • Affection
  • Attraction
  • Caring
  • Appeal
  • Sex appeal

All these emotions have one basis and it is Attachment, Without attachment these emotions are Impossible.

So are we incapable of caring for another without attachment?

No, For example Lord Buddha was very kind to every being and had immense sympathy towards all living beings.

So we can have emotions like....

  • Sympathy
  • Kindness
  • Empathy

These kind of emotions do not need to have an attachment to arise.

So what is Pure Love?

Love is something that is more like a coin,One side is her appearance the other is her attitude or what we call how she is.

So does Pure Love exist?

Let's take a look at the two sides that makes the coin called love!

Physical appearance

His or Her physical appearance is something that has changed over the years which is changing even now and it will continue to change even into the future.

So the change is inevitable,The looks you love will change so much even for you it will be hard to imagine.All the attraction for the looks will fade out slowly in time.And now all you have is the way he or she is to like.Because without any beauty your mind will not be attracted to what it see.And you will adore the memories of the past you had together making an attachment so strong.

Decay,the true tragedy of life.... **Decay the true tragedy of life**

The attitude

You are the best example for this, look back and see how your attitude changed over the years. From home to school, From school to college and from there to work?

Even you can't memorize it all now can you?

People change and that is something i don't have to explain.

So what's the solution?

It is OK to have relationships and my friend do not be afraid of having to attach yourself to someone because none of us are free from anything (Only an enlightened or an arahant is free from attachments,everyone else either attach or collide with everything they find)

If you are even considering someone to date you are allready attached, that is the truth.

Buddhism do not go against people having relationships. Just remember People change how they look,walk & talk,literally everything changes and you will have to take it all like a man and lie with the understanding who you love and what that person is a forever changing thing and you will have to accept the fact that what you once saw in that person will most likely disappear in time.

Live with the understanding of things,You will allays have an attachment to him or her but if you are with the understanding that it is only a person who change and you are just like that too and if you understand the fact that one of you might have to say goodbye to the other (Even if you love each other that does not mean death waits for anyone) you will live a happy life and i assure you it will not be a major issue for anything.

May triple gems bless you!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .