Last Updated on March 30, 2020 by Sloane Marie
Relationships and Buddhism seem counterintuitive. After all, Buddhism is based on creating a mindset of non-attachment. This idea basically says that, in order to be happy in this life, people have to remove their attachments to things. It is these attachments that ultimately lead to suffering. By its nature, a relationship seems like the opposite of this goal.
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Can You Still Have a Relationship and Be a Buddhist?
Luckily, being a Buddhist does not mean that you have to end your relationship. Buddhism is against causing suffering, and ending a relationship would certainly make your partner and yourself suffer. The goal is to just detach from from holding your partner to some idealized standard and to accept them for who they are.
Relationships and Buddhism can actually work well together. Buddhism teaches compassion and unconditional love. A marriage is something that can help you work toward this goal and can actually be quite helpful for compassion meditation. Buddhism teaches right action in the eightfold path. A part of this teaching is that you should abstain from illegitimate sexual conduct. For a monk, this might mean celibacy. If you are in a marriage, it typically means that you should stay faithful to your partner and your family.
What About Divorce?
Strictly speaking, divorce is not against the rules of Buddhism. In theory, someone who practices non-attachment by accepting their partner for who they are and who is following the eightfold path would not need to get divorced. If both partners are miserable though, it would be better for the couple to separate. If the marriage is harming the couple’s chance at enlightenment and the relationship is causing more suffering than a divorce, then it would be okay to end it. As a part of living a Buddhist lifestyle, you would make a happy relationship that would not have to actually end in a divorce.
Relationships and Buddhism
Not everyone can be a monk or a nun, and the Buddha knew that. Buddhism does not say that you have to avoid relationships or leave your partner to be a Buddhist. Instead, use your relationship as a way to learn love and compassion. Over time, use this love and compassion to help you treat everyone else in the world the same way.
While Buddhism teaches non-attachment, turning down a relationship is not the way to do that. It would be like throwing away your belongings to get rid of attachment. The attachment is still there, even if your belongings are not. In this case, you may even feel more attachment after throwing everything away. The problem is the feeling of attachment within you and not the person or thing itself. If you can practice less attachment to your relationships, you will be able to love your partner, friends and family in a more selfless way. You will be able to become more open to what they need and follow the middle way to enlightenment.