A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Finding the one, but which one

A lot of what I will mention today, comes from being born to parents of 2 different cultures and religious backgrounds, who met and fell in love in a third country.  Having been raised in such a home, my life was the crucible, where the pestle of life crushed, mashed and blended everything into something new.

As humans we are social animals, this means we need contact with others on a regular basis. We are born into a family, which one depends on the karma we have earned in the past. Maybe we are born in a poor but happy family, or maybe rich and unsatisfied. Some will be born with a golden spoon, where everything they do is easy, and they are always successful. As we grow older we gain friends, those who we know and associate with but are not related to. At some point in early adulthood we will get a girlfriend or boyfriend, who perhaps will become our spouse. However realistically our first love though always remembered seldom is the one we end up with these days.  Fate brought you together with this person, and the two of you choose to become friends. However  your falling in love is out of our control. There is no on/off switch for love wired into our body or brain. Today you may meet this person in your local grocery store, or as some surveys now say, you have about a 1 in 5 chance of meeting online.

This is why when it comes to dating we need to be clear about our intentions. Are we just looking for a date for our graduation at school, or perhaps for a friends wedding and that will be it. If so then we should state this, and not talk about the future, that we know will not unfold. You meet someone and start to have feelings of more than friends. Time for getting to know the person, beyond just how is your day? Talk about family life, about hopes and dreams. You eventually decide that you want to possibly be exclusive, so at this point is when you need to be open and honest with each other. Discuss your hopes dreams, values, and any known medical issues. The medical issues becomes more important  as we age, as there are disease that can cause lifelong complications, or even death that are transmitted through intimate contact. Also knowing someone has a severe allergy to say peanuts, or can’t drink due to liver problems, while not relationship ending situations will impact your lives together. I know some of you are probably saying, that’s not something I want to talk about. Yes during that initial crush phase all is bright and rosy, everything is coming up roses, however we need to step back a little and see deeper. But if you are the one with the problem, you must be honest with the other person. They may decide it’s not an issue, or they may decide it is not acceptable, better to find out now, then have it cause trouble once you are husband and wife.

The person who we want to be our spouse should know anything that may impact their lives. They do not need to know details about your past dating experiences, who you dated, for how long, or details, unless there is an ex-spouse still causing trouble. However you both need to know that neither has HIV or other such infections that are communicable and some are deadly. Here is the time to give them a heads up, about any children you have but are not with you, things of that nature. Most of us who are beyond our teenage years have all dated, so to expect you to not have a romantic past is foolish. They do not need to know everything, and should not be concerned about it. Once important topics are discussed, then it should be left in the past.

Another issue which has become more prevalent is mixed faith or race couples,  while sharing the same religion is not required, it does give a common reference point for expectations. Also learning your future partner’s culture so as not to inadvertently offend is important. In some cultures the left hand is considered unclean, in others touching the head in public is considered rude and in some the clothing you wear in public should follow certain norms to avoid gossip. Being open, honest, and meeting in the middle will allow the two of you to work out what works for both. If you meet someone from a different culture and country, find out about their culture, lifestyle, foods, etc, as one of you will have to relocate. You should be prepared to learn a new language possibly, as expecting your spouse to always translate everyday conversations is ok for a time but long term it’s not practical.

Also some cultures have marriage customs that involve a dowry or perhaps a bride price. To those who have been brought up to western thinking, these seem out of date. Yet in many parts of the world they still exist and failure to follow these customs can be a serious social faux pas. In some cases it will be for show at the ceremony, then returned a few days later. In other cases it may be that the parents see it as their last support from the child they raised. Instead of digging your heels in on this point, consider this. Go through with it, not because you agree with it, rather because you love the person you have chosen. It will mean smoother relations with their culture when you are there. For myself, if I met a lady who’s father insisted on giving a dowry with her, I would take it, put it away, or if cash start an account for our children’s education. This way the family benefits, although I myself don’t, and I am fairly sure the lady I chose would appreciate this gesture of accommodation. Conversely if her parents expected me to pay a bride price, I would pay it, not because I am buying her, for to me it must be mutual choice. There is no price in my eyes that can be placed on the life of any human. This said I would go through with this, because I love her, and would want her to be in good relations with her family. However she would have to be willing to allow our children to be free from it.

The important part is be honest to each other, accept each as they are, accept that both of you will change in the future, that where you both came from and how were the lessons that made  you who you each are. If you ask questions such as “Can you accept me as I am, or can you live in this culture, or what type of wedding should we have? Are indications that you are thinking of more than just a friendship. So be clear in your mind, what your intentions are, so as not to cause someone to fall in love, only to be left standing with a broken heart, because you were not serious. My dad reminded me many times, saying I love you to a girl, to only get her to be intimate with me, was to do wrong on many levels. I’m not quite sure how to phrase the ladies admonishment, but am fairly sure most of the ladies will figure it out, or may already know it. If we start the relationship off with a solid foundation, we can build one that weathers all the storms that life will throw at it. The relationship with our spouse to be or our spouse is the most important one we will have, may yours be filled with love, compassion and understanding. When we say I love you in a romantic relationship, we must have the mindset it is for the rest of our life. It is not I will love you until you get a gray hair then find someone younger. Nor is it I will love you until the children are adults. Yes love is impermanent just like everything else, but this does not mean we shouldn’t consider saying those words as a lifetime commitment. Love is impermanent, as death will come to one or the other at some point, it should not be a temporary phenomena which changes like the weather or seasons. I came to a conclusion years ago, that if I fell in love again, it would be for the last time. I have dated several fantastic ladies, great personalities, well educated, all beautiful in their own way, and yet have not said those words. If I find the one that hits that button, reboots that part of my heart, what ever you wish to call it, if I say I love you, it will be to the last lady I say it to. This is not attachment, there is no guarantee that this relationship will last till death do us part. Rather it is a commitment, that if I say “I love you” in a romantic relationship, I am committing everything I have to making the relationship work. If we have the attitude that we will do what we can to make our spouse happy within healthy boundaries, and we have used some intellect in choosing the person, they should do a reasonable job of returning the same effort. Given two people making an effort to work on building the relationship, instead of being in a relationship, there is opportunity for both to be happy.

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