There are all sorts of reasons that relationships fail and by relationships I do not mean exclusively those of the romantic sort; friends, parents, teachers, teammates, etc. can all be affected.
The causes are usually highly contextual. There is not always one single cause that can be blamed and thus we are left scratching our heads trying to understand just what went wrong.
There may be an underlying theme though, and in order to understand this concept you may need some background information. Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, was attributed to having laid out what is called the “Four Noble Truths.” These truths allow for one to see the world for what it is and to escape suffering and achieve for the Buddha what was called Nirvana.
It is the second of these noble truths that will be important to this article, that of the truth that our desires are ultimately what cause us to suffer (for more explanation on these truths, visit here).
What did the Buddha mean by this? Surely he can’t mean that wanting to excel in sports, business, life is the ultimate cause of our suffering? These though, in a way and no matter how admirable of tasks, to cause us to suffer. The athlete who works relentlessly and is unable to grasp victory suffers. The mother who finds her son, of which she has worked hard to raise virtuously, has stolen a car, suffers. The business man who pours his soul into his work only to go bankrupt suffers.
For the Buddha though, there is something more than merely a desire. It is desire mixed with ignorance, or perhaps a better way of looking at it is that it is a desire stemming from ignorance. What we come to find is that suffering largely occurs from our expectations, expectations that were grounded on false beliefs.
The athlete really “knows” that victory will not always be at his doorstep, his desire stems from an ignorance of the way sports work. The mother “knows” her son may end up doing bad, yet her desire is so strong she forgets this fact. The business man fully well can see that some businesses fail badly. By joining in this activity, either consciously or not he understood this.
The key, for Buddha, to attaining freedom from this suffering, or Nirvana, is to rid oneself of these false expectations.
So how does one use this in relationships? How does one achieve relationship Nirvana?
First, you must sit and think about whatever relationship it may be and truly ask yourself, “What are my expectations in this relationship?” Some may not be clear to you at first. But you will find that most of them will be unfounded and most are just setting you up for more suffering.
This is found in a plethora of examples in romantic relationships. People have clear conceptions of how they and their partner should act in a relationship that they have acquired through books, movies, and hearsay. While some may not be very grand in the scheme of things (the man paying for supper), if these expectations are not met, we find ourselves basing the relationship on cliches instead of on the important things.
The hardest part of this task is finding what these expectations are. Do you expect that woman to do certain things in the household? Do you expect your son to act a certain way? Do you expect your teacher to tell you everything? Are these expectations really valid? Or are they merely an attempt at wish fulfillment; keeping our heads in the clouds.
These are important questions. A good relationship can help a person soar to new heights. These are things the Buddha was thinking about thousands of years ago. Human nature has not changed much since then.