The major difference is that, in real life, you don’t have any clue about when your shared time with someone is going to come to an end.
The circumstances of life, the frailty of the human condition, the instability of emotions—all of these factors make relationships much less predictable than we usually believe. If you meditate deeply upon the impermanence of life, non-attachment will be the inevitable consequence.
When you start practicing non-attachment in your intimate relationships, you will have found one of the pathways that leads to unconditional love. Only a non-attached person can love unconditionally, that is, without expecting anything in return.
When you love with non-attachment, you are not concerned with the results of your loving, which emanates from you just like perfume from a flower. You can love out of a genuine overflow of energy from the heart, without any conditions or limitations. If attached love expresses itself by the words “I love you, because…”, detached love just says “I love you,” without any conditions. Going one step further, you will realize that pure, unconditional love, is best expressed by the words “I love.” As a great mystic once said: “Love is not a relationship, it is a state of being.”
The source of any form of love is inside you, and you don’t depend on anyone to be able to express it. This is one of the most liberating shifts that a person can experience.