“Not until someone dissolves, can he or she know what union is.” ~ Rumi
Romantic love is a complex human experience.
Despite all the gratification it evokes, love remains a concern and a mystery to most of us. No matter how much we love someone, one of us, might get hurt.
Can we unlock the mystery of love? Can we love our partners without hurting them or receive love without getting hurt?
The answer is a definite “yes.”
Nearly 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught the Dhamma. Those who wanted to be free of pain went running to the Buddha to hear his wise insights on life and the human mind. 2,500 years seem like a long time, but every single word the Buddha had said still rings true today.
What does this have to do with romantic love? The dhamma doesn’t directly speak about romantic relationships, but it does put them into perspective. Buddhism helps us to love in a better and purer way. Learning a few notions from the Buddhist philosophy can reduce the suffering romantic relationships induce.
In my own experience, Buddhism has helped me to understand that love—as fiction depicts it—is different than what we often think it is. Those of us who have suffered the “consequences love” know this is true. They know that love is hard work and a journey that requires awareness.
Here are a few Buddhist insights that can positively alter our ways of loving:
Don’t seek fulfillment in another.
According to Buddhism, striving for happiness from what is outside of us is futile. Everything in life is fleeting. So if we base our happiness on external conditions, we set ourselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction. Therefore, seeking happiness and fulfillment in our partner is not the best idea. The Buddha explained that the emptiness we feel inside makes us want to identify with something that is outside—rather than connecting with ourselves. Our craving for fulfillment leads to attachment and we often mistake it for “true love.” Our partner should be an added joy to our lives—not a deal-breaker. For this to happen, we must cultivate happiness from inside out and focus on our own purpose.
True love can’t be lost.
We usually equate love to physical presence, but this isn’t true. Buddhism believes that we can’t own anything or anyone, because we never really had them in the first place. We can’t hold onto something that eventually will dissipate. In reality, the only things we hold onto, are the mental ideas we build around people and situations. If we take this to heart, our love for the other can’t be lost even if we lose our partner to death or a break-up.
Understanding nourishes love.
Buddhism suggests that we need to understand the other person’s suffering and conditions if we want to love them. If we wish to develop understanding, we must cultivate karuna, which means compassion. Learn more about your partner, their thoughts, feelings, and background. When we understand a person’s inner constitution, we gain the tools to alleviate their suffering. Practicing maitri will also bring partners closer together and strengthen their relationship.
Assumptions undermine relationships.
When we first meet someone, we likely have no expectations. However, when the euphoric phase ceases, we begin to build up an image of them and hope they’d meet our expectations. Consequently, we might become needy and dependent. When we don’t see the outcome we desire, we become despondent. In the eyes of a Buddhist, building up expectations is a game we’re guaranteed to lose. The solution is to stay focused on the present moment and accept what it brings, instead of obsessing about the future or unrealistic demands.
When we fall in love, we tend to forget the rest of the world. Even if we are aware that there’s suffering everywhere around us, we tend to concentrate solely on the object of our love. According to Buddhism, such love is grounded in attachment and neediness. The Buddhists affirm that our love shouldn’t be divided and must be equally spread to everyone. Undoubtedly, what we share with our partner might be more intense or more valuable to us. Nonetheless, we should transcend the idea of separation and learn that we all seek love likewise.
Last but not least, though we’re a couple, each one must seek growth alone as an individual. Growing in our own way allows us to grow together mindfully inside a relationship. Spending time apart is healthy. We take the space we need and, in return, give our partner the space they need, too.
Create space in the relationship, love yourself, and love your partner with freedom. The freedom to be, to speak one’s mind, to feel, and to live, are the greatest forms of love.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Emily Bartran