Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Balancing family life and the Dhamma, in pursuit of a happy lay life.
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Wri
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Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Wri » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:42 pm

Hello everyone!

I'm facing a dilemma, one that's pretty much been the main focus of my life for over a decade. I'm sure many of us here can relate to it, so I'm bringing this up here in the hopes that I can find some perspectives and advice. Thank you for your kindness.

Until I had come across the Dhamma, my main goal in life was being in a romantic relationship. I had quite a bit of success with that throughout high school and my first semester of college. Although these seemed to satisfy me enough at the time, I came to find out that they were masking my sufferings when I lost the last relationship I had nearly three years ago. Since then, I have not been in any close relationships, close friendships, or in any sexual encounters.

The dilemma is that I still desire relationships and sex on a regular basis and live in a culture obsessed with both those things and seeing them as the end all be all of life. However, the Dhamma has given me a much higher purpose in life, and moment to moment meaning that has made my life wonderful. Having been on this path for a year and a half, I am well established in my practice. I see, understand, and feel for myself concepts that show me I can be happy through my own mental effort, that I can let go of clinging, that romantic love and sex is a minuscule happiness compared to the joy of compassion and meditation. I see examples of highly noble, venerable monks living lives without romance and sex. I understand and feel for myself suffering, impermanence, and non-self and how peace can be attained because of these.

I feel at peace on some level at all times. But I live in a culture obsessed with these things and unfortunately the possibility of ordaining for me is a long-shot which is at least a few years down the line. I have spoken to a Tibetan monk before about this situation, and he said it just comes down to patience. I'm pretty good at that, however when such a contradiction of desires is flourishing in the mind, it is difficult to understand what is going on. In Vipassana meditations, I have pinpointed it to a need for excitement. However, when I tone down this need, I feel a high amount of aversion as if my life were being taken away from me. I lose energy quickly and am unable to do work. So I try to take joy in the Dhamma, meditation, and mindfulness. I don't cling to the joy, but I recognize that it can be in my life so I don't heighten aversion to it.

I think I could probably make this post into a novel, but I will end the post here! I would appreciate hearing how others here have handled this desire for sex and relationships and found comfort in a single and perhaps celibate life. Thank you very much :anjali:
Keep your mind steady and rest within the winds of experience.
May I show unconditional love to all beings.

denise
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by denise » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:45 pm

hi Wri...this helped me a little...i read.... "stop waiting for something to happen"...i didn't realize that is what i had been doing....wasted lots and lots of time ...feel better now...hope you will too,,,d

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Wri
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Wri » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:46 pm

denise wrote:hi Wri...this helped me a little...i read.... "stop waiting for something to happen"...i didn't realize that is what i had been doing....wasted lots and lots of time ...feel better now...hope you will too,,,d
Thank you for your reply denise. Could you clarify where I could find what you're referring to? I think it may refer to me waiting for a relationship to happen? Or to make a change in one direction? This doesn't seem to be the issue for me, as I wish to stop seeking relationships and be content without one. I don't mean to shut them out, but pursuing them, depending on them, and being in them, has caused me much suffering in the past and still creeps up from time to time now. I may be able to avoid the suffering they cause with knowledge of the Dhamma, but constantly hoping for something that requires so many conditions to work is quite a lot of suffering to me. Ideally, I don't want to have one, but I don't want to be out of one. I want to be okay either way, and that is the goal. I have chosen the direction; I am no longer waiting.
Keep your mind steady and rest within the winds of experience.
May I show unconditional love to all beings.

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Ben
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Ben » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:54 pm

No one, except you, can make you happy.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Wri
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Wri » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:59 pm

Thank you Ben. A large part of this, as with everything, is how I'm relating to the situation at hand. Having a relationship can be like expecting someone else to make my experience happy for me, rather than me make my own experience enriched. However, there is something to be desired about companionship. But you don't need sex or relationships for that. Being your own companion, and having good friends are equally worthy.

Thanks again for your advice.
Keep your mind steady and rest within the winds of experience.
May I show unconditional love to all beings.

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Mkoll
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Mkoll » Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:41 am

Wri wrote:I have spoken to a Tibetan monk before about this situation, and he said it just comes down to patience.
:twothumbsup:

Whenever you come up with an answer for your dilemma, it may seem satisfactory for a time but there will come a time where it won't be satisfactory any longer. You can look for another answer and repeat the same process. Or remember that advice and strive for what isn't impermanent. ;)
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Wri
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Wri » Fri Nov 14, 2014 4:06 am

Thank you, Mkoll. Perhaps I should focus on my sense innate well-being rather than all the things I could make different repeatedly until my time is up.
Keep your mind steady and rest within the winds of experience.
May I show unconditional love to all beings.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Nov 14, 2014 10:35 am

Wri wrote: I would appreciate hearing how others here have handled this desire for sex and relationships and found comfort in a single and perhaps celibate life.
I'm afraid I can't offer advice on the celibate life, as I am a family man and when I have been single and celibate, I was conscious that it was unwillingly so. But what has helped me deal with the general issue of romantic relationships is this. When you say
my main goal in life was being in a romantic relationship
I can relate to this quite well. What "cured" me of this delusion was the realisation that the pleasure and happiness arising from romantic relationships is extremely short-lived. There are weeks or months of excited anticipation. Then days or months of ecstatic enjoyment. And then the feelings change into something else. If we are lucky, they become feelings of affection and friendship, possibly coupled with a fulfilling and mutually respectful way of handling the sexual urges which remain. If we are less lucky, they change to bewilderment and then the search for another experience of anticipation. If we are very unlucky, they change into anger, low self-esteem, cynicism, or depression.

Basing my life around unstable and fleeting feelings was a bit like a surfer looking for that "perfect wave" or looking for the world's best bungee-jump. There's nothing wrong with it providing we don't harm others, but it is a bit unworthy.

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Anagarika
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Anagarika » Fri Nov 14, 2014 1:55 pm

Wri, I was reading a website devoted to Bhikkhunis in the US, and one of the posts was from a newly ordained Bhikkhuni. Reading her articles and reviewing her video interviews, she is clearly wise, thoughtful and very well suited to her new life. Yet, in an interview, she was asked what difficulties came with being a Bhikkhuni a a forest monastery. She mentioned that she struggled for some time with the loss of intimacy, meaning intimate relationships with others. I thought her answer there was very honest and positive.

Others above have already answered your question well. There's just no doubt that the desire for intimate relationships, for closeness for partnering with someone, bring enormous benefits to mundane life. Our brain's reward systems are hardwired to provide overwhelming blissful chemical feedback when we are in sexually passionate moments, or when we are in intimate moments of romantic closeness. Being bonded in love with another is a very powerful human drive, and we even see in the animal world this same need and reward system.

Undertaking the training rules (veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami) to refrain from sexual activity ( abhramacariya ) : abhramacariya veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami is the precept, as you likely know, that one accepts with 8, 10, or Bhikkhu(ni) ordination. For me, accepting this training rule is a matter of sublimating the goal of proceeding on the Path over the psychological and physical drives of the sensual world. Some use asubha to immerse the mind in the foul nature of the human body....to take the desire for intimacy from the sublime to the mundane. I tend to try to see the impulse to appreciate a beautiful female form, or to visualize sex with an attractive woman, as a function of my hard wired psychology and brain chemistry at work. I make at effort to meditate quickly on the idea that the root of this craving is a base human sense desire.

I can be honest and say that the renunciation of intimacy and sexual relationships was difficult, but was not overwhelmingly so, as for me, the path of accepting the 8 precepts was so much more rewarding. Further, I can say that accepting these training rules at a later stage in life was easier after having had positive relationships, raising children, and having those experiences, that brought both joy and some difficulty. I wai deeply to the young men and women that undertake the bramachariya life; that is true acceptance of, and devotion to the Path.

Whether you are a fan or Ajahn Brahm, or not, he has a number of youtubes wherein he discusses the benefits of the bramachariya life over householder life. He discusses the idea of welcoming being alone, and couches this with the idea that "when I am alone, I am always with my best friend." He has tried to put in a more elevated perspective the benefits of the renunciate life, and that the joy and happiness of this life (including jhana practice) can be a preferred life to that of the mundane householder life. Maybe he's right.

A quick, and perhaps poor analogy: I read recently that there are young people lining up to volunteer to be rocketed to Mars to live on the planet Mars for the remainder of their lives. It's a one way ticket the sponsor is offering, and people are being vetted to determine who will be sent to Mars for life. Many apparently see the benefit of leaving their homes, their families, and a "normal life" in favor of being part of this path. If we see the renunciate life that the Buddha prescribed as a path toward release from the fetters that cause dukkha, maybe the training rules are a small accommodation one must make to more fully immerse in the Path. I am appreciative for undertaking the 8 precepts. Having said all of this, it is clear that the householder that practices this Path can gain the fruits of the Path as well, and I make no suggestion that that Path is any less valuable.

So far, I am happy on "Mars." No Starbucks here, though. :)

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Wri
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Wri » Fri Nov 14, 2014 6:38 pm

Thank you Sam Vara and Anagarika for your replies :D I am going to take notes on all the replies here and make sure to study them soon.


Sam,
Thinking of the impermanence of the pleasure helps me stabilize myself quite well and I appreciate being reminded of that. My previous relationships were quite focused on sex, and the funny thing is, you never get enough of it. It's like drinking salt water. Eventually my relationships became nothing but sex until eventually being ended in a fury of tears. Thanks to the Dhamma, I could probably handle this much better than my high school self, but the point remains that these things are not worth relying on. And if they aren't worth relying on, I can do with or without them just fine. The patience I need now, is for my "monkey mind" as the Tibetan monk called it, to settle down. And there's the saying "when the student is ready, the teacher appears." So perhaps when I am truly ready, I will show my ability to handle it, and then things will work. At 22, it just feels like I'm missing out on the good times, but my older self will appreciate this work in Dhamma. Besides, in regards to sex and romance I can say "Been there, done that" :jumping:

Anagarika,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply! It helps to be reminded that most people struggle with this at some point. It is perhaps the strongest of the mind's attachments. I will continue to put more focus and dedication to the Path and continue on the higher purpose. And I am quite a fan of Ajahn Brahm and the Buddhist Society of West Australia Youtube. When I first started getting into Buddhism, I would watch those videos every day. I must have watched all of them by now haha! Not sure there's a whole lot that's more pleasant than listening to a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm during a Summertime sunset. :meditate:
The Path has given me a lot of joy for sure. A lot of meaning and an ability to really help others in such a genuine, beautiful way. That has introduced me to some of the most wonderful people I could imagine. I'm not gratifying my sexual desires that way, but it means a lot more than sex ever could. Sometimes it just gets difficult as the joy of the Path tends to fade for a while, and what's left is the brain yelling about its desire for sex and intimacy. But that is the time for me to come back to myself and be there for myself. To be my own best friend ;)

Thanks everyone that has replied so far. Hearing the experiences of others has given me more confidence is handling this issue and trusting the Path. I greatly appreciate your kindness and compassion.

:group:
Keep your mind steady and rest within the winds of experience.
May I show unconditional love to all beings.

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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Digity » Sat Nov 15, 2014 5:49 am

I struggled with this feeling that I should be in a relationship, because that's what normal people do. Deep down it's not what I really wanted. I wanted to be alone and the Dhamma practice only reinforced that desire. The past few years were a struggle in this respect, because all my friends and siblings got married and had kids. Here I was alone and not willing to do what everyone else was doing. This makes you stick out like a sore thumb. At first it wasn't a nice feeling and one person was a jerk about me not wanting to get married, etc. However, as time has passed I'm relieved I stuck to my guns. I feel very content being on my own. A lot of my friends and siblings are struggling with raising their kids and dealing with a whole array of problems. I think my sister kind of regrets having kids, because she didn't realize the amount of work and worry that goes into raising them. I think she better understands my decision to want to be single. I have other friends who have told me "don't do it"...they're talking about getting married and having kids, because they are having a rough time with it.

To me, relationships are very imposing and burdensome. I tend to be very aversive, so at first I tend to notice the downside of things. That's why relationships have never been a big thing for me, because I've always seen it as burdensome trying to keep someone else happy, compromising, etc. I don't regret not settling down and if anything my desire to be with someone keeps diminishing over time. Like the Buddha said, be an island unto yourself. In the end, you don't need anyone else to complete you or satisfy you. The practice itself is enough.

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Wri
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Wri » Sat Nov 15, 2014 6:44 am

Thanks for your reply Digity. This certainly rings true for me. Over time, I am having less and less desire for a relationship. It's incredibly alienating, indeed. On one hand, you want to go along with it and experience this thing people make out to be sooooo amazing, even though marriage and children are a lot of stress, assuming that we get to hold on to them. If not, then we have a whole new kind of stress. To me, I seem to be in the rough transition phase of renunciation. I see a better place to be, but I'm not quite out of the woods yet, and the woods look quite tempting. Thanks for sharing your experience :)
Keep your mind steady and rest within the winds of experience.
May I show unconditional love to all beings.

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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Anagarika » Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:48 pm

Wri wrote:Thanks for your reply Digity. This certainly rings true for me. Over time, I am having less and less desire for a relationship. It's incredibly alienating, indeed. On one hand, you want to go along with it and experience this thing people make out to be sooooo amazing, even though marriage and children are a lot of stress, assuming that we get to hold on to them. If not, then we have a whole new kind of stress. To me, I seem to be in the rough transition phase of renunciation. I see a better place to be, but I'm not quite out of the woods yet, and the woods look quite tempting. Thanks for sharing your experience :)
Wri, just give all of this some time. Practice the Dhamma as best you can each day, and adhere to the five precepts as well as you can. in time, your Path may take you more toward a renunciate life, and you will find that very satisfying, Your Path may also connect you with someone that you will partner with, and together you will follow the Path and raise a child in the light of this Path. In either case, your Path will be a good one.

I think, as Digity pointed out, external pressures to conform, or to partner with someone who may in the end not be a true partner, can be artificially intense. If you maintain mindfulness of the Eightfold Path, your journey in life will tend to be a very good one, and it may evolve into family life, or it may evolve into renunciate life. As a young person, you have the luxury of time. Take advantage of this, and see where your mindful journey takes you.

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Wri
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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Wri » Sat Nov 15, 2014 5:01 pm

Thank you Anagarika; that was very encouraging. :anjali:
Keep your mind steady and rest within the winds of experience.
May I show unconditional love to all beings.

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Re: Desire for Relationship and for Lack of Relationship

Post by Herbie » Sun Nov 16, 2014 7:33 am

Wri wrote:I would appreciate hearing how others here have handled this desire for sex and relationships and found comfort in a single and perhaps celibate life. Thank you very much :anjali:
I see the many drawbacks of relationships and therefore I prefer to live a single life. Sex is a different story which I do not want to elaborate on here.
Inspiration is based on the exchange of different linguistic expressions. But inspiration is best knowing how language relates to truth. :smile:

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