“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
Last year, I found myself questioning particular failures in my life—including the relationships that didn’t work out.
I got all the answers I was seeking through a Dharma talk I attended last year in Ladakh, India.
Buddhists consider romantic relationships as part of samsara. They’re not against them; they simply consider them something personal. Since they see it as an individual concern, Buddhists don’t include marriage ceremonies in their scriptures.
What I didn’t know, however, was what it actually takes to make a relationship work if we choose to pursue one. The Buddhist monk who gave the Dharma talk opened my eyes to two aspects that I never considered before as essentials to a successful relationship.
Intellectually, I know these facts. I wasn’t oblivious to them, but when I reflected on the relationships in my life (and not solely the romantic ones), I could understand why Buddhists perceive marriage as a cause of suffering. The truth is, the absence of these factors, is what gives birth to pain.
According to Buddhists, we need to practice two things in order to maintain a mindful, non-painful relationship:
1. Maintain space.
In our modern world, space is seldom given in relationships. Now with the constant availability through applications and smartphones, we are abusing this chance to stay in touch with our lover.
Add to that, the fact that sometimes love blinds us to the extent that we begin to lose our own personal space and in return cut into the space of our lover—just for the sake of sharing everything together. It’s not long before our relationship starts to suffer and we feel that we have neglected activities, friends, family and “Me” time, just for the sake of so-called love.
Buddhists believe that in order to keep a relationship healthy, we must create space and maintain it. We shouldn’t lose our own individuality in the process and more importantly, we shouldn’t cut into another being’s space and freedom. Just because we have constant access to our partner, doesn’t mean we must reach out to them. We should breathe and let the other breathe so we don’t feel imprisoned.
It’s been almost a year that I’ve been practicing giving space in my relationships with people. It certainly conflicts with what I have been accustomed to, but I must admit that I’m enjoying my personal space more. Furthermore, it brought about a sense of happiness to know that I’m letting people “be” and enjoy their personal space as well.
2. Have no expectations.
It’s human nature to have expectations about everything. It is the price we pay for having a constant thinking mind. We over-analyze and overthink everything, especially when it comes to our love relationships.
According to Buddhists, we are playing with fire when we indulge our expectations. The reason is because things will more than likely not go the way we planned. There is a high probability that the relationship will end or things just might not work out. And if the relationship doesn’t end by choice, it will eventually end through death.
In order to save ourselves heartache and pain, Buddhists believe that it’s better to keep our expectations low and just enjoy the present moment with our partner.
For me, having no expectations is the hardest thing to practice. In the past, I had too many expectations and not a single one was met. Nevertheless, I know deep down that if I do practice it in my next relationship, I will save myself from suffering.
We all have our tricks and secrets to make personal relationships work. And while we have to do what works for us, we must also be aware of the suffering that we bring to the table with our actions and how we can move towards more mindful relationships.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Nicole Cameron