I often interact with couples in troubled relationships.
I listen to worn-out men talking about their partners: “Why she won’t give me any space? Why does she think she is right about everything?”
I encounter bewildered women recovering from heartbreak: “I thought this relationship was forever. He was very different when we were courting, and now everything has changed.
Relationships are arguably the most important aspects of living in this world, so it makes sense that the pain of feeling unfulfilled by them is strongly felt by many. Because our entire existence depends on relationships (with others and with the planet itself), we end up placing a lot of expectations upon them.
To adequately address this most common complaint of dissatisfaction, we must first understand why and how relationships come into our lives. Most of us think that people come into our life to give us pleasure, and that relationships should serve that end. We are conditioned to think in this manner; in fact, we believe that the purpose of existence as a whole is to find pleasure and happiness.
Herein lies the root problem for which we suffer and complain our entire lives. Instead, let us consider that people come into our lives due to our unfinished karmic cycles.
What is karma, and what is a karmic cycle? Well, it’s a concept typically found in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Roughly translated, it means “action,” but it is mostly used to signify the principles of cause and effect. A karmic cycle begins with thoughts which then get converted into actions. These thoughts are generally repetitive and create a pattern over time. These cycles typically don’t culminate quickly; they may span lifetimes.
When this is the case, the karmic transactions we have initiated with people in other lifetimes must reach closure with a person who we have met in this lifetime. The purpose of their being in our lives is to teach us certain lessons that had gone unlearned in previous lifetimes. They are here to give us neither pleasure nor sorrow; they are just teachers on the path of our soul’s journey. Once we learn our lesson, their purpose of being in our lives will effectively be over.
Another common mistake we make is believing that every relationship will be eternal—something that will last forever. Our culture has conditioned us to think this way as well. It’s helpful to remember that every relationship in our lives comes with an expiration date. Let’s begin with our own self. The expiration date for our relationship with our self is the day of our death. So if this most personal relationship will one day end, how can we expect that another relationship would be any different?
However, we’ve created the fallacy that every relationship will continue as long as we are alive. As I was saying above, when we learn our lesson from a particular individual, the purpose of their presence in our lives is over. The karmic cycle that had begun with that individual finally concludes. If we fail to accept this, we end up carrying the “dead body” of the relationship around with us, a burden that only results in our own suffering. But what is the way out?
I suggest that whenever a karmic relationship ends, it should be ended tangibly in our lives, too. Alternatively (and more difficultly), we can try to allow the continuing evolution of the relationship.
It is very unfortunate that on one hand, we put such a high premium on relationships, but on the other, we don’t invest in them at all. We take them for granted and often don’t make much effort toward facilitating their evolution so that they can remain meaningful in our lives. And while we imbue them with high expectations, we don’t really make them a priority in practice, and instead use others as a means of maximizing our own priorities that lie elsewhere. Without care and nurturance, our relationships die—and then we complain about it and wonder what went wrong.
If we understood these basic truths about relationships—that they are here for a greater karmic purpose and they aren’t meant to last forever—then we likely wouldn’t have so many complaints about our relationships or the people we are in partnership with. The belief that the sole purpose of relationships is to make us happy is the primary reason why relationships have become a continuous tug-of-war and survival of the fittest. An honest evaluation of the state of our relationships and how they are serving our soul’s journey is essential to finding true happiness, in both our relationships and our lives.
Author: Vivek M.
Image: Carly Rae Hobbins/Unsplash
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman