Podcast: Detaching in Love


Detaching and Love sound like polar opposites, yet there is a healthy way to detach in love. Boundaries, expectations, tensions, warning signs, are just a few of the things discussed this week. Detaching with love is the key.

Join Josh, Kit, and Shannon, as they discuss it being a “kingdom thought” to detach in love.

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

Josh 0:07
I’m here with Kit Elmer from our staff team, and Shannon is one of our leaders, and who they were talking about something and we decided we really need to make this a podcast because it’s such an important topic for so many different people. So very briefly, we’re going to talk today about detaching in love. And I think for a lot of us those two words detaching and love sound like they really do not belong together. Well, how can you love if you’re detaching? It sounds like they’re polar opposites, but they’re not. They’re actually really, really, really important. So, Shannon, you this came up because you were sharing with kids, some of your some of the ways this was impacting you. So why don’t we start there, just share a little bit with what you were discovering what’s happening for you.

Shannon 1:14
Okay, so really, I had, I really didn’t know or had ever heard of the term detaching and love, it didn’t come up for me until I realized that a very significant relationship of mine had very muddy boundaries. And as I was walking through that season, what what was happening was I was realizing that my expectations for that person in that relationship were there was off. I was expecting things that this person could not give. And so I was in this place of just a lot of tension relationally. And I didn’t know what to do about it. And in that tension, I’m sure it was in talking and coaching and things like that. This topic came up of detaching and love and is, like you said, they kind of seem like the the two words don’t go together. Because I think in our culture, we hear detaching, and that’s a bad thing. Like, well, I shouldn’t detach, because I love this person, where it’s a completely different. It’s Kingdom thought to detach in love. So once I kind of was understanding that and understanding right expectations and understanding right boundaries, I was able to see actually it, it can be a good thing to take a step back, assess the relationship and see we’ll actually, like, where are we right now, like what’s happening. And we’re not in a place where I can be with you. We’re not it’s not good for us to be together. But I still love you. I still wish you well I still pray for you. I still think about you. It’s not like I’m detaching. See ya Have a nice life. You know, you can still be in relationship with someone and be very present with them, but to detach in a healthy way. And all had to do with boundaries, expectations, all of that kind of rolled into one. So yeah, so

Josh 3:16
let’s let’s dive into this talk just very briefly about boundaries. Because I think without an understanding about what boundaries are, I think we’re going to get kind of hung up on detaching left. So then I want to kind of roll into and get you can speak to this. What are we talking about? When we’re talking about detaching love like, Shannon, you shared an example of this, there are lots of examples of why and how and when this is necessary and really vital. So boundaries in brief, the way I like to think about them is they they’re just lines or they’re visible, or invisible lines that delineate one thing from another, they’re all over the place, you know, there’s the shore is a boundary between the sea and the land. And when that is crossed one way or the other, all sorts of damages done, God has really clear boundaries, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I am not like the God of the Babylon, sir, etc, etc. So, and he invites us have boundaries, there are things that we are and things that we are not each of us individually, and all of us collectively, so can you take it from there, don’t pass me the baton.

Kit 4:14
You know, you said something earlier, when we were before we started about God being so clear, being able to detach in love and having boundaries, he doesn’t invade us, He invites us. And His love is characterized by freedom, not control. And so when we’re in relationship and a lot of times this idea of boundaries and detaching and love comes up when there’s some, maybe some difficulty or some toxicity, not always, but sometimes, and then you realize that you’re leaning really far in trying to control and manage and maneuver this relationship when it’s really not yours to do that. And so you have to step back and you have to detach in love, not in control, not in rejection, but just in love and and let that person be who they are. But you don’t have To receive, and take personally some of the dynamics that are going on. So how

Josh 5:04
would how would we define like, let’s just take a couple stabs at what, what does it mean to detach and love? Like, if you were to look it up in the dictionary, which you’re not gonna be able to do? Like, what would the definition of detaching and love be? What are some of the definitions that we could put to

Kit 5:19
honoring yourself and honoring the other person as different than you? Yeah, this individuation thing that kids do that’s really hard for parents, we do it, we need to do it with each other, we need to allow, you know, Shannon needs to be Shannon’s own self own person and I need to be mine. And I don’t control her. She needs to have the the honor from me to be who she is.

Josh 5:43
Yeah, that’s great. So say the very first part of that, again, it’s it’s honoring myself and honoring the other as other

Kit 5:52
as other, honoring the other. I do love that term to honoring the other. Yeah, yeah. Because we’re different. You know, we it’s good. God made, you know, as extremely unique from one another in his image.

Shannon 6:05
I think it to like, what’s coming to mind is knowing what’s mine. Like, if I know what’s mine, and I know what’s not mine in the relationship, it like that can be muddy too. And in relationships with unclear boundaries. Yes. And so if I’m taking on things that aren’t mine, it’s not a healthy relationship. And so even that, I think that was in my own experiences. Those were areas where I was realizing this relationship is actually running a lot of my life right now, this relationship is causing me to change my beat my normal behavior, behavior patterns, or, you know, fill in the blanks. And so, once I was able to see, that’s not mine, that that’s yours. That’s not mine. And so I can release that.

Josh 6:53
And use you when you say that you’re, you’re talking about me. I have too many kids. I’m thinking about Finding Nemo, you know, the seagulls are like mine, my, but you’re talking about like, we’ll get what do you mean when you say it? This is like what kinds of stuff is mine that can get confused that

Shannon 7:12
can be like if this other person in the relationship has issues or struggles or Yeah, codependency like that all it all kind of weaves around this topic of detaching and love. It has to do with boundaries, expectations. Again, like ownership, knowing who I am, knowing who you are, and how do we walk in this right relationship together? When there’s times when I can see, actually what’s going on right now is changing me. What’s going on right now in this relationship is force like, I’m starting to downward spiral. Because of what’s happening into this in this relationship. There’s a point where you have to take a step and look and say, okay, what’s happening here, and either we can establish the right boundary, or there might be a season that actually we need to, I’m going to detach in love, I’m going to say, this is not good for us to be together, I still love you, but we’re not good together.

Josh 8:17
So could you use the word earlier? toxic? And I think that’s what that’s one of the probably the most pronounced places where it’s like, oh, man, this really needs to be an attachment here. Shannon use the word emotional dependency, I think, like, there’s this that kind of bleeding of our identities, where it’s like, you know, if boundaries are visible, it’s like, somehow they’ve, you know, somebody splash water on the page, and the colors are starting to bleed. You’re like, Wait, who am I? Who are you? Like, what? What do I have to own in this conversation? What? Is that what I’m feeling? Or is that what you’re feeling? Is that what I’m going through? Is that what you’re going through? Is this my problem? Or is this your problem? And and it’s, I think, one of the places it comes in, like as Christians, so I’m gonna, someone’s gonna push back, you’re not because I disagree with what you guys are saying. But as Christians, like, love your neighbor as yourself. So, I mean, I think some of our listeners be like, Well, wait, wait, like, you know, sometimes you have to really enter into another person’s struggle, and we can, you know, we have to be there for them. So respond to that

Kit 9:09
by their choice. You don’t, and you don’t force yourself on them. Of course, we’re available to help people when they invite us when they’re like, I want you to help me, but we can’t decide that they need our help. That’s not our decision to make. And I think a lot of times this, what we’re talking about is in toxicity where, and, and and or it often happens in Parent Child relationships, where our tendency is to want to tell our children, we want to control their lives. And we have authority over them and we can guide them but we can’t fix control, rescue and make their life our own.

Josh 9:48
So so when you talk about being invited, I certainly see that’s one of the places so somebody’s not asking for our help somebody isn’t, you know, isn’t wanting our involvement and so detaching and loving ways like actually, you need to respect their boundaries. They’re they’re not asking to be, I think the other place that I’ve seen this is, is where the other person really, really, really, really wants your help. They’re asking for help. They’re coming after you like, you usually only can help me with this. I mean, yeah, fix me. You’re such a good listener, you understand me, you get me like, and that’s one of those places where I think it can be really, maybe that’s just part of my personality, it can really hard for me to say, hold on, hold on, like, I do love you. And yet, I can go thus far and no, no farther. Shannon, you can say something too, I think.

Shannon 10:33
But no, I totally agree. Like, it’s not my job to fix. Everyone. It’s not my job to fix anyone except, you know. So right. How does that again walking in right boundary? Even if they want me to help them? Is that mine? So it goes back to that same? What’s mine? Like? Who am I? What’s for me in this relationship?

Josh 10:55
So guys, how do you? How do you differentiate? Like, it’s a it’s a person going? Well, I don’t know. I mean, they say I need to detach from this. Like, how do you know or like, what will be some signposts some warning signs, some yellow flags, red flags, like, this is a sign maybe that you need to detach and love as opposed to know, this is just a hard situation you’re walking through with somebody and it is loving, like, what some of the warning signs people

Kit 11:18
think, great question. I think when we when, when we begin to be each other’s saviors, you know, like, I can fix you, and then it becomes about like, this is what I’m going to do for you, and I’m the one who’s going to do it for you, and vice versa, you, you’re the only one that can fix me, you know, then it becomes very unhealthy when two Healthy People are saying, I’m struggling, and I need your help, I need to talk with you about this or pray with you. And you’re like, able to do that without it becoming this thing that you’re owning, that’s not yours to own. Everybody has to own what’s theirs to own, and not own with what’s theirs to own. And so, you know, if you have a healthy view of yourself, you know, a lot of times this comes up in when there’s some, you know, some real questions about our self love and, or self rejection, if we’re feeling poorly about ourselves, we’re going to look to other people to do things for us that they can’t do.

Josh 12:14
So when so that’s, that’s one warning sign. She didn’t use the word earlier spiraling. I think earlier, you were talking about just getting confused about like, Who Who am I like? Can we put some words to that? Or like, like, like, Where are the flags there? Where might somebody say like, um,

Shannon 12:35
I think for me, like looking back at, like, when I was really wrestling with this, specifically, I was seeing where I was changing from who I am. And so like, typically, you know, you have your responsibilities, the things that you do, and I was putting this relationship above those, can

Josh 12:56
you give an example? Like, just to make it more concrete for for people?

Shannon 13:00
Um, I don’t know, if I can, I’m trying to think of how to protect the relationship.

Josh 13:03
Okay. Well, let me so let me give it hypothetical examples. That means he’s a real example with concrete, but I think like, like some, if there are other obligations that you have, like, I think so for people who are in families or have jobs or other ministry, obligations, and they begin to, to those things begin to suffer because somebody is pouring their their time. I think one common one could be the husband and wife were one of the spouses started with an addiction or a problem. And, and one spouse is kind of like, you know, I’m going to, I’m going to help get you better. And, you know, they’re making the phone calls, they’re making the appointments. We have, I can’t tell you the number times people call our office, husband or wife calls her office and says, Can you meet with my spouse? And you say, Well, sure, if they call us, you know, there needs to be some detachment in love there. I think another example would be if, you know, somebody has in a family or ministry obligation or as a ministry obligation, and they are actually not doing the work that is given them to do that’s on their plate to do that, you know, their family is suffering or their job is suffering because they’re spending so much time trying to kind of pull this other person up. I think that can be another another indicator of what it looks like you’re trying to save this person as opposed to just being there with them or for them or walking with them.

Shannon 14:22
Right. Like that relationship kind of ends up superseding anything else. Yeah, yeah. Anything else that are normal things that I need to manage and take care of in my life, responsibilities, relationships, whatever, at the drop of a hat. Oh, no, this person’s calling this person needs me this person’s hurt this person, you know, fill in the blanks. I need to drop that this is going to supersede any of my other responsibilities. I think that’s a pretty big warning sign

Kit 14:50
Yeah, and affect your well being. Right. It’s not just that you see a valid need that might interrupt your life. It’s that your whole state of well being is is contingent upon if they’re okay or not, right? And if they’re not okay, then you’re not okay. And so every time they have an issue, your well being is, is up and down because of that.

Shannon 15:13
And that does happen in life, there are things, you know, my daughter breaks her arm, let’s stop everything, take her to the hospital, there are things that are going to happen. But then when you have a relationship where this is a constant thing, this is something that, you know, the phone’s ringing, is it them? Is there a problem? Like they’re kind of becomes

Kit 15:33
a defining of you?

Shannon 15:35
Yes. And I’m going to take it because I feel obligated or I’m going to take it because let me drop everything. And that’s going to supersede everything else. I think that’s, that’s a, that was a pretty prominent one for me.

Josh 15:48
So let me ask this question. We’ve talked about the detach part, how, how is this loving? Because I think that’s the, that’s kind of one of the pools that are the hooks that kind of pull us back in is like, you know, for me to say, you know, the phone’s ringing, I know who it is. And for me to ignore the call knowing they’re in distress or for me to pick up the call and say, I can’t talk to you right now I have other things you need to do. Or even to say, you need to do this for yourself, you need to go take care of this, you know, so how is that loving?

Kit 16:20
Well, detach and love is actually a recovery term. And so is enabling. And so you know, the idea of that, the negative aspect of not detaching and loves that you’re enabling like, so when you are always at someone’s beck and call, and they’re not, you’re not allowing them to get the help they need or to get stronger, to own their own life. And they’re putting everything on you and saying no, but you’re going to fix me, you’re going to be the thing, then you’re enabling them, you’re not allowing them to, to get well. The another recovery term is tough love, you know, it’s it is loving to say, I can’t help you. I can’t, you know, if I do that, if I if when you speak to me really rudely and unkindly. And I say that’s okay. That’s not loving to me or to you to allow that to happen.

Josh 17:16
It’s like you’re, you’re, I think a lot of those situations, you’re, you’re basically cushioning somebody from living in the reality of their own choices, which isn’t respectful of their identity they have, it’s their life, it’s, God has given them this life and trust it to them and for, for us to try to kind of buffer the decisions they’re making, as a way to try to protect them. And I think in the end, in a lot of those situations, is actually just trying to protect us from the pain of seeing somebody spiral or getting hurt more.

Shannon 17:44
I would say two things about just that in love. In love part. The first thing is just something that I tried, I tried to practice is always remembering, Father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing. So if that, if that’s my view, if I don’t take that view, then I’m going to blame you. Like you know what you’re doing here. And to some extent, like people make decisions purposefully to behave a certain way. But if that’s my heart’s posture, towards this person, Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing, I’m, I’m going to look at them out of love, versus out of accusation, of like, why are you doing Why are you doing this to me? or Why are you doing this to yourself? And so I kind of take that posture. And that’s just helpful for me just subconsciously, to always be like, have that in mind. The other thing that was coming to mind, just as we were, as we were working up to this topic, one of the verses that kept coming to mind where there’s no greater love, than for a man to lay down his life for his friends. That’s a loose translation that kept coming to mind. And I was just like, or what do you like? Why does that verse keep coming to mind lately? And what started, what I started thinking about was, when I, and this might be taking this verse completely out of context, I’m not sure. But like, here we have, you know, Jesus laying down His life, like, I’m going to die for you. Like you’re dying, like you’re dying of self. And so when I’m laying down myself, when I’m laying down my expectations for this person, my expectations, you don’t have to look like what I’m expecting you to look like, I’m gonna die to that. I love you so much that I’m not gonna hold you to what I think is right. We’re not right together, and that’s okay. But I love you. And so I’m going to die to that does that Does that kind of make sense? And so I was just trying to like wrap my mind around that and so how much like that’s that in some ways, like, I’ll jump in front of a car for you feels easier than actually Laying down my expectations for someone. Yeah, in some ways that feels more difficult. And so I think, again, in that posture of, I love you, and I see that you’re not well, you’re not making the right choices. And this relationship, the boundaries have gotten muddy, I see that, but I love you. And I’m going to lay down my expectations of what I want this relationship to look like. Because I love you, because I don’t want to be angry, because I don’t want to look at you in an accusation away or in like, I don’t want to not, I want to be able to honor you in the relationship. And so if I’m able to die to myself, in that way, it definitely comes out of out of a heart out of a love posture.

Josh 20:46
There’s the, there’s the need for like, some people who need to touch and love are kind of the the helpers, you know, I want to get in there and make a difference for somebody. Yeah, and that person may really be asking for it. But it’s, it’s like, you know, that they need me, they need me that kind of thing. Another kind of person might be the person who’s, that’s not their personality in general, but they’re in a toxic relationship, maybe with an unhealthy boss, or a pastor or somebody who’s just or a husband or wife who’s just putting stuff on them. And they need to say, hold on like this, I’m not going to own your stuff anymore, what you’re putting on me, that’s not me. And then the third, there’s a third bucket load.

Kit 21:23
It’s just I think the third one is when you’re just trying to honor the fact that you’re different people. And you know, that one person might be like, you know, stepping back and being more reserved, and you’re taking it personally like, Why? Why don’t you be Aren’t you more like me? Why don’t you come closer to me? And then then you need to detach and love and say, okay, that’s not what I would say. Just knowing

Josh 21:47
they say or do knowing that’s okay. I think especially with husbands and wives, same job, or people in the same church, you get, like, you know what, it’s okay, that we’re different. And it’s, and that’s actually a loving thing, just to detach from each other a little bit with that.

Kit 22:00
And with the toxic part, it can also be this idea of enabling, you know, like you might not be, you might not be a helper, so much in the situation on either side. But someone is behaving in such a way, either demanding or being unkind, maybe even emotionally abusive. And you have to say, That’s not okay. I’m detaching in love, I’m not rejecting you, but I am stepping back in love and respect for myself. And for you not to fit into that.

Shannon 22:26
You can be in any of these scenarios, and not realize that you’re in it. You don’t realize your desire to help this person is not in a right boundary, your desire to Well, this person’s calling me, let me get it, let me answer it, let me respond. That’s not loving myself, Well, and that’s not loving them. Well, it can be, but that I think that’s what’s important is, what I’ve learned is to pause to be able to pause, to be able to have a level of self awareness, to pay attention to your body. What’s going on in me, when I’m responding to this person? Why am I eating more? Why do I want to drink? Why am I you know, I want to retreat, I want to go away, you know, fill in the blanks. But I think it’s really important to be able to pay attention to how your body is reacting in a relationship. And what was really helpful to me was finding a person to talk to was, you know, spending time with Jesus talking to him about it, the community around me, you know, to be able to say, hey, actually, we noticed this difference in you. Or maybe you can go about this a different way. Or maybe this isn’t a right relationship, I think all of those things are good to just periodically have ourselves in check. Because we can be in a relationship where we may need to detach in love, and we don’t realize it. So it’s just really important to be able to get help and maybe ask the people around you.

Josh 23:58
So we have to we have to wrap up before we do I want to just come around to this reality that we coming back to these as these two, initially seemingly contradictory terms detaching in love, that this is actually changing. You’re getting at this like this. This is exactly what God does. God is always very, very clear about who he is, and very, very clear about who we are. And he is completely willing to enter into our mess, but he will not. First of all, I love the passage revelation, I stand at the door and I knock, he isn’t, he could bust the door now he can, you know, disintegrated. He says it already knocks your specs. But he chooses to he respects our our boundaries, who we are. And I think on the on the flip side of that he he always he never assumes and I mean that in the sense of taking taking it never takes on the identity that we try to just attribute to him. He’s always clear about who he is. And so and we have all sorts of You know, wacky ideas about who God is. And hopefully as we continue to grow in Christ, we get clearer and clearer about who he is. But he doesn’t, you know, sink down to who we’ve made him to be, he always remains exactly who he is. The great I am so anyway, this detaching love is really in many ways just about us becoming more like Him and more able to, again, you know, receive who we are from him, and to and to walk with others as they are, not as we wish they could be. So now Kitt, would you just close this, maybe specifically, just pray for anybody who is listening, going, I need some of that. And we’ll end there.

Kit 25:40
Lord is so beautiful, how you create us, uniquely, each one of us. We are each though created in your image. And you by design Lord, created us to be honored honorable, and Soler, would you help each of us to embrace the person the true self that you’ve created us to be? to embrace that? to ask you about it, to learn of it? And Lord, to know that everybody else has that too? And it isn’t our role to create our own identity or to create anybody else’s? And so, Lord, would you help us to realize that we have our God given identity each one of us and you want us to honor and respect and love that? Thank you.

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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.

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