I love you, but I can live without you

It’s easy to mistake our love of something for the inability to live without it.

Think of something you love. Music. Movies. Books. An activity or hobby like writing, cycling, or rugby. Or someone you love. Your Mum or Dad. Your brother, sister, auntie, uncle, cousin. Your friends. Your spouse. 

Considering the special place these things and people have in our life, it’s easy to ask ourselves, “What would I do without X? and not know the answer.

But the answer is actually quite obvious. Yes, the removal of one of these things from our lives would significantly impact our quality of life. But we’d still survive. That’s the answer to the question, “What would I do without you?” “I’d survive.” 

Aside from the obvious—food, water and shelter—there is nothing we cannot live without.

I sometimes ask Molly this as a rhetorical question, usually after she’s stopped me from doing something stupid. “What would I do without you?” Her reply: “You’d never leave the house.” Which isn’t technically true. I’d leave the house to go to jiu-jitsu and strength train. Maybe.

But more seriously, the answer is “survive.” It’d be the same if I lost any of my friends or family. Indeed, I’d be heartbroken. But I’d recover, eventually. I’d survive. Admitting that to myself seems treacherous. It seems like saying that out loud undermines the love I have for these people. But it doesn’t.

Love is not the inability to live without a person or thing. That’s whats known as attachment. The inability, the unwillingness to let go. Attachment is not healthy.

Love isn’t attachment. Love is an appreciation of a person or thing exactly as it is. And it endures through life and death, through presence and absence, through gain and loss. 

Next time you see someone or do something you love, say these uncomfortable words to yourself. “I love you, but I can live without you.” And if you flinch whilst uttering them? You’re not in love. You’re attached. You’re dependent.