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Learn Buddhist principles that can help enrich your romantic life, your life in general, and the lives of those around you.
Surely a happy marriage for a normally adjusted couple is a simple matter of give-and-take—some patience, tolerance, and just trying to be cheerful as often as possible. There is no shortage of books providing relationship advice that can help us with these matters. But Buddhist teachings address more than just surface knowledge, and guide us to delve deeper into our psyches.
With an emphasis on self-compassion, Buddhism for Couples explains how to apply Buddhist teachings to your relationships to patch things up, hold things together, and, even on good days, scale the heights of relationship happiness. Written for both men and women, this book tackles the loaded subjects of housework, anger, sex, conflict, and infidelity, and introduces Buddhist strategies that can enrich a relationship.
Humorous and informative, Buddhism for Couples provides a fresh approach to living as a couple, persuading us to leave behind stale, habitual ways of relating that don’t work.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
In a domestic partnership for nearly twenty years, Sarah Napthali is the mother of two teenage boys and a long-term practitioner of Buddhist teachings. She is the author of several parenting books, including the bestselling Buddhism for Mothers, which has been translated into ten languages to date.
Read an Excerpt
THE DIFFICULTY OF LIVING AS A COUPLE
Picture this scene. A real estate agent is conducting a small group tour through a cluster of attractive homes in a recently constructed suburb. After half an hour or so, there is uniform excitement among the group members, who are all impressed with these spacious, modern houses set in carefully manicured gardens. The homes are even in the right price range for most of the group and all feel the elation of being close to finding the right home after a lengthy search.
“There is a catch, though,” says the agent.
Hearts collectively sink.
“These homes are built on reclaimed swamp, so about half of them will eventually sink completely into the mud. It will take a few years, though.”
“You can’t be serious,” says one of the women.
“I’m afraid I am. And I should also add that an additional 20 percent of the remaining houses will sink quite far down into the mud without completely going under.”
“That’s outrageous!” cries one of the men. “Who in their right mind would buy one of these houses?”
The members of the group all return to their respective homes feeling angry and disappointed. Some decide to write formal letters of complaint to their local government, protesting that a scheme with such a high failure rate should even be allowed to exist.
Many an astute reader will have already guessed where I am headed with this tale of real estate woe. The statistics quoted in this scenario are roughly the same as those we hear about the success of modern- day marriage. Here is a rather mind- blowing sample of the proportion of marriages ending in divorce across the Western world:
• United States: 53 percent
• Australia: 43 percent
• United Kingdom: 47 percent
• Germany: 49 percent
• France: 55 percent
• Belgium: 71 percent
• Portugal: 68 percent1
For de facto relationships, separation rates are even higher, the world over.
These statistics capture only the marriages where couples were prepared to go through with a divorce, a procedure widely recognized as one of the most stressful experiences. This begs the question: how many of those not divorced are happily married? A study from the United States suggests that at any given time 20 percent of those still married are “in distress.” So an additional 20 percent of houses sink halfway into the mud without completely going under. At least such sinkage is not always permanent.
In the face of such a high failure rate, the lengths we all go to in order to find “the one” seem curious. Even those who have suffered a divorce remarry at a rate of 75 percent.3 Why do we keep signing up for this fate? One reason we often hear is that our quest is a biological drive: without two adults committed to child care, the species would not have thrived. Study after study does reveal, beyond all doubt, that a two- parent family is still the ideal arrangement for raising children.
So although this book may include some depressing stretches, such as most of this chapter (it does brighten up as it goes along), I would argue that knowledge is strength. If we are aware of the reality of what we have all got ourselves into, its pitfalls and traps, then we are in a position to prevent the worst. If we can use Buddhist teachings to reflect on the state of our relationship, then we can protect ourselves from that most stressful of events: relationship breakdown. Not that we are only interested in avoiding the worst: Buddhist teachings can also help strengthen our connection with our partner so that we experience more love and friendship.
Cultivating a Buddhist practice has required me to be honest about my own role in relationship problems. Couples therapists claim that most couples come to counseling in the hope that their partner will finally see their faults and change. In distressed couples, individuals typically blame each other and fail to see their own role in any problems. I remember asking a friend how she was finding the book she was reading on the topic of emotional intelligence. I could only laugh at her answer: “It’s fantastic, I’m really enjoying it,” she enthused. Then with a straight face she added, “There’s just SOOO much in it my husband could learn.”
It’s much easier to consider the faults in someone close to us than to see our own. As I have trawled through the literature on relationships, I, too, have found myself thinking, “I wish Tomek would read this.” I have even photocopied and bookmarked passages to show him the next time an issue arises. Meanwhile, I suspect I may have overlooked the message in the passages that relate to the parts of me I am reluctant to own up to, my shadow side.
Yet many a couples therapist tells us that while both partners play a part in causing problems, more often than we think it takes only one member of the couple to start making an effort before both benefit and change. I can certainly vouch for this phenomenon in my own relationship with Tomek.
Table of Contents
1 The Difficulty of Living as a Couple 1
2 Letting Go 17
3 Mindfulness of Our Thinking 30
4 Battling Negativity 43
5 Anger 54
6 Housework 75
7 Communication 89
8 Reducing Stress and Anxiety 99
9 Who Is Our Partner? 115
10 Sex 131
11 Infidelity 144
12 Tolerance of Difficult Behavior 154
13 Forgiveness and Understanding 168
14 Turning Things Around 183
15 Being Authentic and Present with Our Partner 200
16 Cultivating Love 211
17 Sorting Out What Really Matters 225
Some Concluding Points 237
What People are Saying About This
“Buddhism for Couples should be required reading for couples contemplating long-term relationships—and would be a good wedding present! This book brings clarity to the limits of what we can expect from our partner in a relationship.”
—Joseph Emet, award-winning author of Buddha’s Book of Sleep, Buddha’s Book of Stress Reduction, and Buddha’s Book of Meditation