“You don’t learn to unlove them, you learn to love yourself more.” ~ Vinati
Buddhism doesn’t directly speak about relationships.
However, the teachings that Buddha offered can help us understand them.
If we reflect on the Four Noble Truths, we’ll realize they’re the answers to our most complex problems.
According to Buddhism, almost all the troubles in our lives stem from attachment. Buddhists ascertain, however, that we can eradicate the roots of attachment and live happy, peaceful lives.
The idea of non-attachment might be frightening, especially when it comes to relationships. We’ve somehow associated attachment to love. However, attachment has nothing to do with the experience of true love—they’re the opposite of each other. To truly experience love, practicing non-attachment is essential.
Buddhists explain that attachment creates frustration, emotional dependency, anger, jealousy, and unhappiness—and it deprives us of our peace of mind. In other words, being deeply attached to our partners causes us misery. It blocks our ability to love them from beyond the ego. When we love without ego involvement, our relationship takes a different turn—a much healthier one.
Detaching from our partners brings us closer to them. Detachment in romantic relationships means to keep creating our own individual life outside of our partner. It means loving them, but also continuing to work on loving ourselves.
Instead of pouring our energy into building expectations (how our partners or our relationships should be), we bring our attention to the present moment solely. Then, our relationship becomes a spiritual practice and a place for true love to flourish.
When we detach from our partners, we don’t let them go; we only let go of suffering and our distorted views on love. Our partners don’t become our entire life—they just add to it.
We might claim that attachment is not the problem, or that we’re not attached to our partners. However, the truth is that attachment goes beyond being attached to the person themselves.
Buddhists clarify that we’re attached to the notion of permanence—we believe that our relationship will be (or should be) everlasting. We almost entirely forget the notion of change and the enormous role it plays in our life. If the relationship doesn’t end due to a breakup, it will eventually end due to natural death.
We often forget that there’s no guarantee in life. So, when things change (the person or the relationship’s conditions), we wallow in sorrow since it was unexpected. Stability is challenging, especially when dealing with romantic relationships.
This is why Buddhists emphasize the importance of dealing with the present moment as it is and embracing impermanence. We should embrace the now, instead of using it as a means to fear the future. Realizing that both the good and the bad aren’t lasting in our relationships, our perspective on romantic love shifts.
By constantly wanting a guarantee that our relationship will last, we bring discomfort and pressure to ourselves and our partners. We basically shut down when fear enters, and it inevitably causes the annihilation of the relationship.
Some relationships come to an end, and it becomes clear that each partner should go their own way. They might still hold on, though, because of fear of uncertainty. They fear losing their partner, their memories together, the routine they had built, and undoubtedly, they fear losing their comfort zone. They also get attached to how good their relationship was in the past. Then, they helplessly try to bring the goodness back, entirely forgetting that the past is gone and that the conditions have changed.
Detaching from psychological time (the time that we create in our minds) is imperative to the success of our relationship. When we don’t cling to the good times we’ve had in our relationship, we eradicate anxiety and appreciate the now. When we don’t cling to the bad, we move forward without staying stuck in despair and misery. We also deal with problems mindfully, as they naturally arise.
As the Buddhists discern, impermanence is on our side—not against us. When we deal with the now, what may come later no longer scares us. In reality, the notion of change becomes fun. Instead of trying to keep the relationship moving on one track, we become excited to see what may unfold. And I don’t necessarily mean that bad things might unfold. When we experience our relationship in a conscious way, the relationship might make it to a whole new level.
Moreover, we’re attached to the idea that our happiness depends on our partners. Buddhists explain that almost the entire time, we believe that our source of happiness is out there—in a thing or a person—thoroughly forgetting their ephemeral nature.
Our happiness constantly oscillates, because we place it on what doesn’t last. Particularly in romantic relationships, we often “need” our partners to complete us or our joy. Some partners become so immersed in each other that they lose their individuality. Then, when they break up, not only do they have to deal with the pain of separation, but they also struggle to find their own identity again.
According to Buddhism, when we put our source of joy in someone else, we deprive ourselves of real happiness. It doesn’t just harm us, but it also harms them, as we become needy and clingy. People change all the time, and so do conditions. Buddhists advise that we must find happiness within ourselves and learn how to be happy without needing another person.
When we find the source of joy within us, we love our partners more fully and make them happier. We also indirectly create a healthy space, which only makes the bond stronger. There’s no more pressure on our partners, and they feel free to be themselves and love us in the way that makes them comfortable.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Unsplash/Pablo Heimplatz
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Callie Rushton
Social editor: Callie Rushton (she was the only person available)