Letting Go in Relationships: A Buddhist’s View of Attachment.

Via Steve Davieson Jan 18, 2014

Photo: Steve Davies

It was around 10 years ago when, overwhelmed by a love lost and found, I sought guidance from a senior Buddhist leader.

I needed clarity as boundaries between an ex and me were unclear and rendering me senseless.

Several painful and agonizing months had passed since our original split, and my confidence had finally re-established itself. My self-respect had returned and, with it, spontaneity and joy of life.

It was at this point that I bumped into Debbie who had split up with the guy that had followed in my tracks. We began meeting up and spending time together and the monkey madness had started to play tricks with me.

The guidance I received was simple and direct. Not wanting to crush my ego but wishing to put me straight, the Buddhist leader said, “try not to take this personally but it’s not you she’s attracted to, it’s not you she wants to spend time with: it’s your Buddha nature. You should chant for her happiness, whatever the outcome.”

I could accept Buddhahood being an appealing character feature, but to chant whatever the outcome? Hmmm…this didn’t come so easy. What was I going to get out of it?

I actioned his advice and chanted several hours for her happiness, at first begrudgingly, as initially it was I who had been rejected. Anyhow, as I progressed, this begrudging nature simply became an act that was irksome; I could do it as long as I didn’t have to feel it. However, after a few days something changed: her happiness had become something very important to me. Suddenly she became more important, but that didn’t matter.

The truth of this came on my birthday, which fell at the end of the week. Unannounced, Debbie rang my doorbell saying she had a surprise for me. Her declaration of having fallen in love with another Captain Amazing simply filled me with joy this time round. I can honestly say I had no care for my own agenda and that I was truly glad she had found such happiness. If to love someone you have to set them free, then this must be that moment, I thought. She later split up with Captain Amazing, who in turn became a very good friend, but that’s another story.

Attachment is a very human condition. Meaningful relationships become so because they are intricately interwoven.

However, another Buddhist precept is the concept of change. It is the one thing, and perhaps only thing, we can truly rely on. When change arises, we are either able to adapt to it or we decay with it. When we only have ourselves to reconcile with in life, this is less of a challenge. In a relationship, it is 10 times harder to deal with change as identities have become linked with another. As hard as this is to accommodate, it is working through these changes that develops us as human beings.

Unless you’re lost in fairytales, the path of true love can never be easy, but I do believe it can be exhilarating, progressive and worthwhile.

My current partner and I have split up for short periods on several occasions as a result of change or growth.

However, from my previous experience, I’ve learned the beauty that comes from letting go. It takes from the one hand but gives so much with the other. To truly want an ex-lover’s happiness must surely be one of the most altruistic acts. To give or give away is to get. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got everything to gain, but when you’ve given what you believe to be your everything, then the universe gives you something that cannot be taken away, and that remains with you.

A friend of mine once said you could never go back. I refute this now. If you’ve grown from and during the process of departure, and re-discover time and again an eternal flame, then nothing is lost: you’ve just unlocked a door to some hidden treasure. That, in itself, is something worth keeping.

Relephant Reads:

Can We Love Freely without Attachment?

Not-Attached to Non Attachment; Suffering is Bliss. 

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Assistant Editor: Tifany Lee/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo:  Steve Davies

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About Steve Davies

Steve Davies is a photographer and blogger. He has a passion for interpreting life and development through pictures and words. As a practicing Buddhist, he strives to seek unity through diversity and is an advocate for keeping things real. Find more about him at his website.


43 Responses to “Letting Go in Relationships: A Buddhist’s View of Attachment.”

  1. Lisa says:

    thank you for this, Steve. It gave me comfort.

  2. Marci says:

    Lovely. Thank you.

  3. Loren says:

    Steve – this is a very powerful article. I really appreciate this and am now very interested in hearing more.

  4. Mikal says:

    Thank you, Steve. As other have expressed, your thoughts here give me great comfort and something sincere to behold. Now if I could just figure out that "You should chant for her happiness" means. Care to expand on that for those of not in in the know?

    • Innerfocus says:

      Sure. I practice Nichiren Buddhism the foundation of which centres around the mantra Nam-Myho-Renge-Kyo. In essence it is believed this summons forth ones innate Buddha nature, consequently, based on the principals of cause and effect this enables one to change ones karma.
      I'm glad you liked the article so much, thanks for your comment.

  5. maddnox says:

    beautiful article..very honest..love the ending of the article

  6. Kate says:

    I think I need to do this. This is a very good idea. Thank you for writing this.

  7. Krishnabrodhi says:

    Thank you so very much for sharing this story Steve.

    1 <3

  8. falconbrother says:

    I'm sending this to a buddy of mine that needs it right now.

  9. Marlene McViat says:

    Perfect timing. I am going to look further into this subject. It feels good. And right.

    • Innerfocus says:

      I want to express how grateful I am for your comment Marlene and how pleased I am by the timing and your interest of pursuing further.
      Nichiren Buddhism is both good and right and through practice you will undoubtedly have proof of this. It's not an easy practice and it challenges you to the very core; that said it has engaged me with a true purpose where I really feel I am living my life.
      It's dynamic and about taking action to change things for the better.
      I wish you the very best.

  10. Rachana says:

    Thank you for these words. I can relate to your experience. I have found that through rejection I have learned a lot about myself – it has asked me to look at my fears of being alone, my desire to control the will of another (that was a surprising one to admit), that part of my ego that just WANTS and has believed THE FAIRYTALE our culture so celebrates, the very human expression of wanting to share love – leading you to find love within yourself… Having tools, like you have shared – giving love towards someone that has 'hurt' you really helps to untangle the storyline that is keeping you away from reality. And reminds us that we are all souls on our own journey, and if we are so lucky to share a dance in time – its a blessing – and letting go honours the life we have both been given. And more love in this world – well yeah! Bring it on. More Love… Thank you xxx

  11. Innerfocus says:

    Thank you for your kind words and comment Rachana- much appreciated :)

  12. CharmingLucy says:

    I've found comfort in breakups in the past by chanting inside my head "I let you go with love" and really feeling it. At times I would chant it over and over again for up to half an hour, but it did work to help me let go. Thanks for the reminder that deep love is about wanting the other to be happy, no matter what.

    In a current relationship that has some bumps, I'm finding comfort in remembering that letting go is an act of love, and that we're both on our own path, which may be entangled now, but may not be later. And that the outcome really doesn't matter; we're on journeys.

  13. Jody says:

    Your article offered a realistic pathway to mercy and awareness through the loss. Enlivening, thank you.

  14. Lee says:

    Great article, thankyou!
    I think Debbie is your current partner…. just a hunch :)

  15. Arun says:

    Lovely post. I kinda feel that my love is not TRUE as, all I want is to get her. But your beautiful words have given me hope and sense of GOOD, now I am gonna love her even more, by letting her go. Let there be more love in this world.

    Thank you for making me understand the real meaning of LOVE.

    I am starting this journey now, and I have this understanding that it is not going to be easy, but yes I believe it is going to be worth. :)

  16. Arun says:

    Lovely post. I kinda feel that my love is not TRUE as, all I want is to get her. But your beautiful words have given me hope and sense of GOOD, now I am gonna love her even more, by letting her go. Let there be more love in this world.

  17. Sugandhini says:

    Thanks Steve for the article.It gave me a lot of strength when I am all breaking into pieces

  18. Celina says:

    I love this article Steve!!! Great work. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Innerfocus says:

    Thank you all for your kind feedback. All much appreciated…and no Lee, simply single :)

  20. Brenda says:

    You have put into words what I have always felt was the right thing to do…I'm not sure why it brought ears to my eyes, though. Thank you!

  21. Frankie says:

    How will you know when to let go and when to continue fighting for your love?

  22. Paweł says:

    Thank you so much for this powerfull article.

    This is the real path of love, thank you for sharing!


    When the right time comes you know

  23. Bess Mahaney says:

    perfect for me now, are you a practicing Nichiren Buddhist? I just recognized the "guidance from Senior Leader" that struck a cord…
    Just had a break up, I'm chanting for the person's happiness!!! It's easier to "let go" if I chant for his happiness…

  24. qrae says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your situation is similar to mine and I enjoy chanting. Are you open to sharing the chant?

  25. Innerfocus says:

    Bess, sorry for not responding earlier! I don't receive notifications. Maybe your situation has changed by now?! Yep I'm a Nichiren Buddhist… :-)

  26. Nicole says:

    When these articles show up on my newsfeed they always have little comics/photos that I want to look at more closely but when I click the link they are never featured in the articles…is there a way to find them?

    Thank you,

    • elephantjournal says:

      Hi Nicole! The images that appear on shares aren't always the main photos in the article, but if you message us on Facebook when you see a photo you like we might be able to help!

  27. Bhavna Pani says:

    Namaste from India! Thank you for this article. It was comforting. Im having great difficulty letting go of a relationship. But this helped a little. Regards. Bhavna Pani

  28. When it begins to make scence(with your help) only then did my love become a love like no other.Truly a more meaningful love I am grateful to have expierenced.

  29. Jelena says:

    Wow. One of the best articles I’ve read on elephant journal. Thank you. As always it came at the perfect time x

  30. Candee says:

    This is where I’m at with my life change. Let it go.” I got there in on my own using lots of tools (Including Frozen now that I think about it) and I cried. A lot. I’m drawn to Buddhism for many reasons so I was excited to read this article. It told me i have a Buddhist nature that people are drawn to and I should embrace it. Buddha says to chant for their happiness. No matter who they are or what they did to you. I’m making a Chant Queue (my version of prayer list). I will Chant for xx instead of saying prayers. I think the vocalization is something I will enjoy and force my mind to still. I’m really excited about this.

  31. Innerfocus says:

    Good for you Candee. Just chant Nam-Myho-Renge-Kyo.

  32. Deb says:

    How do you pronounce that mantra, and what is the translation? Thanks

  33. Natasha says:

    Wow! This article resonates with me. So sensible, loving and giving. This read is a graceful way to let go and to be at peace. :)

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