Friends with Benefits: Attachments and Expectations

Expectations and attachments are buzz words with so many fantasies attached to them. It is important to lay the ground work of expectations and attachments in the first part of this series. This two concepts will and do come up often in FWB.

First let’s start with “non-attachment.”

My annoyance and distrain towards for the misuse of the concept non-attachment and “don’t get attached” is real. It comes up so often when talking about FWBs. While I “practice non-attachment” but it’s not the same thing as the fluffy fantasy that floats around. How do I practice “non- attachment”? It’s simple. I have attachments. It’s paradoxical. Practicing non-attachment means keeping them healthy and not having “no attachments.” It’s the art of fully enjoying things while they are there with [ less ] FEAR of what might be in the future and letting go gracefully. 

To say “I don’t have attachments and I don’t be attached to outcomes” is as silly as me saying I am fearless. Fear is not a bad thing. The neurotic use of fear is what sabotages our lives. Fear exists for a fucking reason. Pardon my French. No one is fearless. We would be dead in a day if we didn’t fear. I fear walking a dark alley without pepper spray. I could practice “fearlessness”, gamble against statistics and hope “bad things don’t happen to people who have good karma” while walking in dark allies of areas with high crime rate. Being attached to the desired outcome that I only want consensual sex within a healthy relationship is too high of an expectation, so lowering my expectations seems to be a better way to avoid be disappointed, angry and hurt if I am raped. Practicing healthy fear would be a much more productive approach. Admitting dark allies may have men creeping and avoiding them is living in my reality honesty. Carrying some damn pepper spray and know how to kick a guy in the balls is being proactive. Cultivating healthy fear and lessening neurotic fear is the goal. 

If you want to be a guru on a mountain somewhere with zero relationships, possessions, money, and doing fasted mediation all day to get rid of those pesky attachments, good luck. But in reality, you are a normal human and in the real world it’s magical thinking. You will have attachments as long as you are breathing. It’s how we HANDLE those attachments, having a healthy relationship with them; not avoiding them and saying we don’t have them that is key to creating a more realistic view of life.  

This is one of my oldie but goodies metaphor I use in coaching…..

Using a tea-cup as an example…..

No attachment:

I walk past a tea-cup in a store window daily and don’t notice it. If I do, it’s just another cup. My level of caring is null.

Unhealthy “non-attachment”: 

I stare at that cup in the store window for months. I like that cup a lot. I think “oh no I can’t get attached to that. What if I do? Then I might break? What if someone steals it? What if it not worth it’s price? What if…. blah, blah, blah” So I decided not to get attached to the cup. I block my feelings, avoid self honesty and introspection. I might go buy a cup that threatens my fears less, it might be a plastic cup that I don’t enjoy drinking from because it tastes funny. Drinking from that cup fills the space of a needed drinking vessel. I might even have moments of wishing this cup something I really enjoyed. 

I might decide to buy the cup I really want. But itself of enjoying it fully I set it on a shelf and don’t enjoy it at all. I touch it gingerly. I fear breaking it. I might break it and it takes me years to deal with the emotional impact. The emotional impact of its possible lose is often what stops me from buying the cup. I may not trust myself to mourn properly. My “coming and goings” of life transitions may have been to harsh so I have layers of separation trauma, anxieties and defense mechanism. 

“Non attachment” really is fear of loss and fear of pain that comes with change. If I am trying to be fluffy about reality and make my ego feel good I would say “I am not attached.” The honest truth most times is “I fear loss.” Or too many attachments in the past have been too painful. There may also be some level of self deprivation which forms from death anxieties, which is a very complex topic for another blog.

Neurotic attachment usually means non committed type relationships, one foot in and one foot out, evasiveness, pussy footing, future faking, cheating, playing games, cat and mouse, etc.

Healthy “non-attachment”:

“OMG that cup is beautiful! I should buy that, enjoy and drink tea from it.” I love the cup. It becomes my favorite tea-cup. The cup brings me joy because I allow my feeling to be spontaneous and free, versus trying to brace myself for the possibility of loss. One day the tea-cup falls on the floor and shatters into a billion pieces. I feel sad. I mourn. I pick up the pieces and remember the memories I have watching the sunset sipping tea. And then I let go. I understand my mind’s grieving process and allow myself to feel versus trying to avoid pain.

Non-attachment doesn’t hurt less, avoid reality or have “no attachments.” It simply accepts pain as part of life and does not avoid. Emotional intelligence is understanding life lows hurt like hell and this to shall pass.

All we have is this present moment. Healthy non-attachment realizes that and ENJOYS the moment because the fear of loss is not completely neurotic. It’s not thinking “what if” the cup breaks. It saying “enjoy it while it lasts.” It’s not even saying “how long will the cup last”. It recognizes loss and death is an inevitable cycle of life.

Apply this to most things in life. Don’t bu#$%^& yourself into thinking you have no attachments. We all do. Attaching is a healthy, normal human response to life.  “Non-attachment” is flow with the coming and going while embracing the emotion distress they bring and being present self (and others). Gentle forgiveness and self acceptance towards how the brain processes life will bring us so much more spaciousness for ourselves and others. All our mind are trying to do is avoid pain and replaying the past. 

Healthy attachment patterns also means letting you lover go without stalking, keying their car, forcing, manipulating, Facebook advertising your positive “exciting” life, threatening, bad mouthing them to all the people you know, or any of the other thousands of “crazy ex” stories found with a quick google search. Yes, even if you think and feel they “deserve” it.

Expectations?

To get into a romantic relationship and say “don’t get expectations” is a very immature approach to relationships. Both sides will have expectations, it’s inevitable. Some expectations are simple and others complex. Out of sync expectations is where problems begin. 

It is IMPERATIVE to keep expectations in balance in a FWB type relationship. Yet our expectations are often influx. Communication is the most important key to creating HEALTHY expectations so it matches the current reality. In relationships  “the future” ( aka including tomorrow) is a hypothetical emotional ideal often driven on little logic that is heavily impacted by our choices and other’s choices in the present. The present is influx and the future has little permanency. No one remains the same for a long time unless they are seriously stagnated in growth or slow growth rate.

A flow and continuous stream of communication is crucial to getting to know someone and continue knowing them. Continuing to “know” someone is how we create emotional intimacy which is key to sustainable healthy long-term relationships. One conversation occasionally is not enough to KNOW someone or their ever-changing landscape of reality. Remain curious and open. Talking a lot is not communication. That’s for another blog. 

Every relationships differs, so expecting someone to magically know what you want, need and what your intentions are is not realistic. Expecting labels, including “friends with benefits”, to magically define parameters is fantasy based thinking. Don’t operate on others narratives. Co-create your own narrative with communication. 

Keep the fantasy out and have those difficult conversations. Cultivate healthy attachment patterns. Communicate expectations. Life long daily practice.

{ In this series I will be building more on this and referring back to this blog. }

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