What’s the difference between love and attachment in relationships?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Disturbing emotions like attachment originally arise from confusion. There are only three emotions that do not result from confusion and are therefore absolute: fearlessness, joy, and love.

Fearlessness arises when mind recognizes its space nature—when mind discovers that it isn’t a thing, but indestructible like space itself. Joy emerges when mind recognizes its clarity nature. This happens when, on the basis of fearlessness, mind experiences its free play—its potential and its richness. Then one becomes joyful and happy.

Love arises when mind recognizes its unlimited nature. If you realize that the nature of mind is space-clarity and boundlessness, and that all beings are like us—that they want to be happy and to avoid suffering—you’ll notice that you cannot separate your own feeling from those of others. There is simply nothing else you can do but become a loving and caring person. Only these feelings have the true nature of mind as their cause, and thus they really are of a permanent nature.

The mind of normal people is like an eye: it looks outward but cannot see itself. All phenomena in space can be measured and described, but the question of the size of mind, of its length, width, form, or taste—nobody can answer these. We know everything about the outer world but nothing about the one who experiences it. This is bad since the outer images are constantly changing, whereas mind always remains the same.

From mind’s inability to see itself, two fundamental emotions emerge. The first is attachment or desire. We experience ourselves as being less than the totality of all phenomena and long for something we think we don’t have. The second emotion is aversion. We think that we don’t like all those people out there, that they are dangerous.

Many people tend to mistake desire for virility and think that without any desires we would be impotent. This misunderstanding is based on a misinterpretation of words, but it is the reason why many don’t want to meditate. This is why we use the term attachment instead.

If we take a closer look at love and attachment, we can clearly distinguish between two things. The first one only has positive aspects; it is the giving type of love. This love manifests itself through a direct exchange with someone or through a general feeling of compassion, sharing with others whatever one has. It also appears as sympathetic joy, meaning that we are happy about things that don’t have anything to do with us personally—simply because we consider them to be meaningful. And finally, with this kind of love we are balanced; we know that everyone has buddha nature, no matter how much this clear light may be hidden.

The other, bad kind of love doesn’t take place in the here and now, but instead happens in the past or future. It doesn’t set others free but rather limits and confines them. This kind of love cannot rejoice if the partner learns and develops but rather worries that he or she is becoming smarter than we are and might run away soon. We should really make sure to get rid of this jealous, narrow-minded, envious, and expectant kind of love the moment we see it approaching. Restrictive control isn’t beneficial to anybody. We should give freedom to people and let them go. If they come back, they belong with you; if they leave for good, they will be happier somewhere else. Everything clingy, sticky, and full of expectations isn’t good. Everything liberating is good.