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August 6, 2019

Avoiding Lopsided Relationships, Personal and Material

Avoiding Lopsided Relationships, Personal and Material


It is difficult to love when we are attached to the relationship. Even regarding material things, material things attached to are seldom really appreciated. Buddhism offers a simple illustration of the mind’s psychology that makes picturing the workings of attachment easy to see. It goes like this: let us say that we go to a horse show where many horses are for sale. As we weave our way through the maze of horses, we fully appreciate and delight in their beauty, color, shape, strength, and other characteristics. But, as soon as we purchase one, we are concerned about whether it has sufficient water, has eaten, is too cold or warm, and so forth. While haggling with its owner over price, we never cared about such matters, but once the deal is struck and it changes hands, we are suddenly concerned.

Owning brings with it attachment, and when it comes to relationships, owning is a great source of grief. The challenge is learning how to own something without being attached. It is impractical to merely give up owning things. People buy cars, houses, get married, and so forth in the course of daily life. That is not going to change. But, what can change is our getting attached. As far as people go, a relationship need not mean an entanglement. As far as material things go, we need not be owned by the things we possess.

Relationships crumble and fall when no foundation is built. Craving and desire may be nice to fulfill, but we must avoid a crash landing. Unlike animals who are ruled by unbridled instinct, we can work on building qualities into our relationships that balance out our animal instincts to assure ourselves that we are not manipulated by the relationship, but are in control. We must build trust in a relationship, and maintain the independence that equals our involvement.

People may live as roommates for years, no problem, but as soon as they get involved, they start fighting. Being careful to maintain the distinction we make goes a long way towards keeping the peace.

A physical relationship requires a sense of sacrifice, and emotional commitment to assure ourselves and our partner that our relationship is not just physical, but has a spiritual aspect, as well. Giving and taking is not just a physical exercise but and emotional one, or should be. It is the lopsided relationship that always ends up sparking jealousy, anger, insecurity, backbiting, and, last but not least, bad sex. But, a full emotional commitment that is equal to the physical attraction will make everything better, including the sex.

As soon as we notice a physical attraction developing, we must observe our mind to see if we are willing to muster up what it takes for an emotional commitment, as well. If unable to commit emotionally, it is surely better that we don’t make ourselves vulnerable to the ills of relationships by entering into lopsided affairs. Nothing wrong with flying solo.

It may seem like bureaucratic religious high handedness to preach morality and so forth, but it leads to better sex, richer personal growth, and joy. We may be attached in a healthy way, without clinging, grasping, and control issues, and to achieve that is what religion is aiming at.

As far as material objects go, much of the same principles apply. We need to govern our emotional involvement with things if we are not going to be manipulated by them. Yes, we can own a cool Ferrari, but if it is what we base our self-image on, we are headed for trouble. A sad example of this led to the loss of life of a high school friend of mine who saved money to buy a Corvette and totaled it shortly after its purchase. His self-image was so emotionally entangled with that car that he committed suicide a few hours after the crash. The lesson is that we must try to be indifferent to the things we allow ourselves to have. If we recognize the difference between need and want, as the Rolling Stones illustrate so well, (“You don’t always get what you want, but, if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need”) we can avoid all the entanglements that arise between material things and ourselves. In general, the Buddhist saying, “avoid all hankerings” is good blanket advice because it helps us to sidestep potential egoistical-identity procurements and the grief that they entail with one simple rule.

Sometimes we don’t think about details we are well familiar with because doing so will call into question desires we would rather not place on the hot seat. Most of us who have even rudimentary knowledge of meditation or yoga know well all the downsides of attachment mentioned above, but finding them “inconvenient,” tend to ignore disciplines that are really in our best interest. The animal in us is not easily given to reason. But, like any animal, it can be trained. If yoga practice can train our body, we can through exercising a little common sense, reason, and reflection, learn to exercise our mind. It is only a matter of nurturing a willingness to do so.

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