November 4, 2015

What Buddhists think about Relationships.

When I learnt about the Buddhist perspective on relationships, frankly, I didn’t like it.

I wasn’t fond of it…because it was correct. It left me bewildered and thoroughly reticent. At first, it was startling to be hit with the truth so hard. But, with time, and after many ordeals, I became fascinated with how Buddhists view romantic relationships.

When I was in India, I attended many Dharma talks. One discourse, however, was about love and relationships.

In Buddhism, they talk a lot about love and compassion. But the kind of love they talk about involves wishing all sentient beings to be equally happy—-everyone, with no exceptions and no conditions; it is limitless.

In contrast, romantic relationships are limited. An unfathomable variety of emotions exists within them. Additionally, emotions are painful. They always depend on someone and something.

In relationships, there are a great deal of assumptions and expectations. Thus, they always leave us vulnerable.

In the discourse, the Buddhist monk explained how we are dependent on condition, how we have no control over anything, especially our feelings.

That being said, Buddhists believe that romantic relationships are within the realm of suffering.

We likely pursue them to attain happiness and to find our other half, as if we are not “complete.”

In Buddhism, romantic relationships are not taught as an institution that you need in your life. However, they are taught as an establishment that causes suffering.

Furthermore, relationships are viewed as an impermanent phenomenon; like everything else in this life. They have us operate out of a belief in permanence, holding on onto our partner even more.

Dzongsar Khyentse, the Buddhist Rinpoche, once said: “If you go through the Sutras or Shastras, there is no mention of a marriage ceremony. I always say that if I were to make a marriage ceremony, it will be something like the couples standing in front of me and I say, ‘Oh, well you know… things are impermanent… it might not work after few days.’ More likely, Buddhists would have a divorce ceremony.”

In another passage, Dzongsar says: “Personal relationships are the most volatile and perfect examples of assembled phenomena and impermanence. Some couples believe that they can manage their relationships ‘until death do us part’ by reading books or consulting with a relationship doctor. To a certain extent these small understandings may help create temporary peace, but they don’t address the many hidden factors that are part of the relationship’s assembly.”

But Buddhists aren’t “anti-relationship.” They believe that if we choose to pursue a relationship—which we all want to do—we must create space, not be attached and refrain from having any sort of expectation. Additionally, we should be aware of not falling into the trap of vulnerability.

In my estimation, Buddhists provided us with the correct description of a relationship. I know many of us won’t admit that relationships are associated with suffering. Even if we are enjoying the perfect relationship, we anticipate permanence and “forever after.”

In our modern life, it is hard to avoid entering a relationship or staying away from anything that has to do with love. However, when we do, we should take into consideration a Buddhist’s advice.

We should not fall for the illusion of permanence. Dzongsar, again, puts it this way: “Parting moments are often the most profound in a relationship. Every relationship must end eventually, even if it is because of death. Thinking this, our appreciation for the causes and conditions that have provided each connection is heightened. It is especially powerful if one partner has a terminal illness. There is no illusion of ‘forever,’ and that is surprisingly liberating; our caring and affection become unconditional and our joy is very much in the present moment.”

Taking this into consideration, I think we should have enough awareness to escape—as much as possible—the chains of suffering. Even when the relationship does end, we should realize that it is life acting through us.

Let’s bear in mind that emotions are indeed pain and impermanence is out there waiting to take place. Most importantly, let’s not fail to remember to “consciously” love.


Relephant Read:

The Meaning of True Love (from a Buddhist’s Perspective).


Author: Elyane Youssef

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Unsplash


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Carmen C Morell Apr 17, 2019 9:04pm

Impermanence is the one permanent truth.!

edhare Dec 24, 2015 5:08am

NIk, every word you typed is a continuation of life, your life. Every thought you have, every feeling you have, every pleasure and every pain is a continuation of what you are preaching to everyone they need to deny. Is this one of those do-as-you-say, not do-as-you-do sort of things? I look at an infinite Universe and see again and again that its consciousness has CHOSEN to be gloriously alive. I'd like to think that God is smarter than you or I, so I accept and believe what is, and that everything, EVERYTHING, is part of God and that everything has value. You are welcome to believe otherwise, and that is so much the point — we are the meaning makers, so give it any meaning you want, but step down from that ego that tells you that your meaning is universally more important, more complete, than my meaning. It is more complete for you, but all that I believe is just as complete for me.

edhare Dec 24, 2015 5:04am

I don't fully know or understand the Buddhist principles, so do bear with me as I comment. I am eager to learn more, which for me always starts with what is in front of me now on the path.

To me, time is so malleable that I believe that it must exist only as a perception, only as the way that our awareness sees its existence. In that sense, if anything exists for even a moment, it exists in timelessness, so one moment is "enough" to make it real. Even those things that seem to have duration are a constant process of change, so that "lifelong relationship" is not permanent at all, but is a constantly changing series of moments, broken into stories by the humans that live those moments, giving them a new meaning in the story.

I think the concept I have the hardest time with is the idea that life is suffering. It can be, but I do believe that it is we who truly are the meaning makers, so as we experience the unfolding of a Universal life around us, and create our own parts in that unfolding, we can see it as suffering, or see it as great joy. We can see it as exciting or boring, and each way of seeing it is simply what we are creating, what we are believing and what we are doing. And all of the things we each do, the Universe responds with an unfolding that is unique to our own seeing, our own desires and our own beliefs.

In my life, I have had relationships that have been suffering and in which vulnerability truly was a weakness, but I have also experienced friendships that, by conscious intent, are rising in to greater and greater self- and other-awareness, and in which vulnerability is a true and deep strength, not a weakness to be avoided. So, I truly believe that we, the meaning makers, can create relationships in pain, or in joy, in contraction or in growth, in love or in anger — we are truly so free and unbounded as to be able to do any of it.

I know, there is a lot of "I" in my comments to an article written around Buddhism, but I truly believe the I-ness to be just as real as the IS-ness, and that our own unique individuality truly is the whole, experiencing itself in different ways. So, I, and the Universe I see, are not mere illusions to me, but an intensification of experience that allows the Universe to see itself in different ways, not as illusion, but by drawing on a very real part of a complete whole.

OK, my ramble is over now. If anyone read it all, you are patient, curious and kind. 🙂

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Elyane Youssef

Elyane S. Youssef is an extraterrestrial who was given birth by Earthlings. While living on planet Earth, she fell in love with art, books, nature, writing, photography, traveling, and…pizza. Elyane finds her joy in backpacking and bonding with locals. To see the faces she interacts with on her travels, you can follow Face of the World on Instagram. Besides getting on and off planes, she is in a serious relationship with words and hopes to inspire as many people as possible through them. Once her mission is accomplished on Earth, she will return to her planet to rejoin her extraterrestrial brothers and sisters. In case you’re wondering, yes, she is still willingly obsessed with Frida Kahlo. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also check out her macrame art on Instagram.