A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Friendship or Romance?

When we start a romantic relationship, which develops into more than friendship, why do we say falling into love? Are we not choosing to do this? We may meet the person through a friend, at the local coffee shop or these days, some say one in five relationships now start online. We then choose to communicate with that person, in hope to know them better. The usual questions lurk in our minds; can we trust them to be who they say they are? Are they failing to disclose anything? We have to decide if we trust them or not. Some caution is necessary, however if anything meaningful is to truly develop trust must be given to a degree with deeper trust developing over time. It is only after some of the possible problems or if you prefer potholes on the road to love have been exposed that, a deeper romantic love develops. Having a shared value system makes it easier, 2 Buddhists will agree more readily on those then say with a Muslim or a Catholic. I am saying that by having the same basic belief system as a reference makes it easier to overcome problems as they arise. It is also important to disclose any impediments, such as contagious medical conditions, prior marriages or offspring early on. Worrying about the past relationships the other person may have had, is not fruitful. First they are in the past either you or they can change the past, so unless one of you has a stalker, leave the past in the past. Hopefully you both learned from you past relationships. Realize that while you may share a lot in common, it will be the differences that truly make your relationship. Celebrate what the other person enjoys, that you would prefer to pass on. One may like camping, while the other prefers 5 star hotels. If you become a couple and can afford a luxurious holiday at some point, then do so. However if the way to save for this trip is to rough it camping beside a waterfall or lake a few times for a holiday then both enjoy it too. One may like opera the other jazz. By embracing each other’s differences, we expand our own experiences. But back to the first question I mentioned today, the falling one. I think it’s because we have come to that canyon in the path, the one that separates friendship from committed relationship. Where either we stop because we think the gap is to far to cross, or we come to the edge of the cliff and jump. We jump because we think that the other person will be there to catch us. So we are falling, its up to the other person what happens when we get to the landing spot. If their arms are open and they catch us, we go forward to that new territory that perhaps leads to a lifetime commitment. If they are not there, it may feel like you have had a landing from which you will never walk away from. For most of us a few days, weeks, months or a year and we have recovered enough to willing put ourselves back on the path again. There are stories in every culture about lovers who gave their love, were spurned, and never loved again. These are rare, when these people love, they give their heart completely. It is why when we date that we must always put the other person first, to be open and honest, to not lead them down the path, to where they leap, and we know we will not be there to catch them. My dad used to say never talk to a girl about marriage, or meeting her parents if you are not serious. Don’t use her as a plaything, or as one to fill in the time till someone better comes along. He did say that a marriage ceremony or wedding ring wasn’t a guarantee of a lasting marriage. It took both the man and the woman jointly committing to making the relationship last. He mentioned that different cultures had different practices. He told me of the old Chinese custom of arranged marriages, such as his first one. That some cultures had a dowry involved, although in some cases it was only for show now. Buddha never said not to have any sex before marriage, perhaps because he did not pass along a marriage ceremony for Buddhists. However he did warn us against sexual misconduct, which means outside of a committed long term relationship. He did give us only a few reasons to dissolve a committed relationship between male and female. However these were to be of last resort, and the exception rather than the norm. If a Buddhist follows the precept to love others, they will have a lasting marriage, for they will put their spouses and children’s happiness on par or above their own happiness. Or as my dad used to say there is no ‘I” in “US”.

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