One evening, my girlfriend Daphne and I found ourselves confronted with red cardboard hearts and post-it love letters on the restaurant’s door after a dinner. We read all sorts of cliched phrases such as “I love you forever” and “I am always yours” written on the post-it notes and the experience forced us to look deeper into people’s strange take on love and romance. We realized how possessive people can get when it comes to ‘love’, and it is quite perplexing that our society continues to perpetuate such an unhealthy obsession.
As we walked out of the restaurant, we told each other how lucky we are to have a different point of view on love. We joked about writing a Buddhist Guide to Romance to enlighten other people and realized it’s probably not a bad idea after all. My girlfriend is a Catholic, but we just happen to naturally adapt the Buddhist mindset in our relationship because honestly, there is nothing in the Buddhist teachings that people don’t already know. Here are some of the lessons we can share with you presented in plain, non-proselytizing language:
Love is certainly not like fairy tales with guaranteed happily-ever-afters. Most people enjoy romantic novels and movies because the stories they tell preserve how they imagine romance to be. However, people should never base their romantic lives on works of fiction. Some people’s dissatisfaction with their love life is rooted from expectations that are simply impossible to achieve in real life. You should always remain realistic when it comes to love. Experience it for what it is, instead of forcing yourself to experience the love that you or others have defined. Unlike the movies, real life does not roll in slow-mo when the right one finally passes you by.
You complete yourself, not anyone else
Sometimes, people tend to look outwards when searching for love like its something physical that they can easily grasp. They look for someone to ‘complete’ them, when in reality, they are already complete as individuals. Love is all about sharing and being compassionate. Love should emanate from within. Remember the saying “love yourself before you love others”? If you love yourself, it should come natural for you to share your compassion with other people without too much effort. Your partner should complement your contentment in life, not be the missing piece in the puzzle. Real love is never about what you can get from other people, but what you can give to other people.
You may be in a relationship, but you’re still an individual
How many times has anyone hear people say “I need you” and “I can’t live without you”? We sometimes hear this uttered by even the most rational people we know. These phrases may sound very romantic to many, but people don’t seem to realize how wrong this actually sounds when deconstructed. Couples are two separate individuals that should be interdependent but not codependent. According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, codependency is the excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner. Phrases like “I need you” and “I can’t live without you” are manifestations of codependency. Sometimes when people enter a relationship, they stop being individuals and that ultimately hinders their personal growth. That is why some people feel inadequate after a break-up because they forget how to live as individuals.
There is no forever
It’s really all about seeing things without the delusions of ‘forever.’ You need to cherish your relationship because you and your partner are eventually going to cease to exist. Forever is an unrealistic notion that people need to stop thinking about too much if they are really serious about how they feel. No one lives forever, and so forever should be canceled out of the romantic equation. If you’re in a relationship, you need to continuously work on the present. The result will be much more natural if there are no delusions of pointless promises. People sometimes tend to plan out their future so much that they forget about the present. In return, the very future that they plan ends up not being realized. Cherish every moment you spend together, and you’ll eventually realize that hours turn to days, days turn to months, and months turn to years.
Look from within
Despite the various abstract definitions of love, people seem to have a general consensus on what love is really all about. Paintings, music, books, and movies provide strong evidence relating to our society’s convincing attempt to concretize the intangibles of love. Everyone can relate to Romeo & Juliet, or that classic scene with the rolling kissers from the movie From Here to Eternity, or even Taylor Swift’s sappy break-up songs. However, is our perception of love truly coming from our own selves, or is it in fact dictated by the outside world? If it is true that people are the product of their environment, then it would be almost impossible to delineate our personal definition of love from the definition we extract from outside elements. Love may be inert in all of us, but how much of this is purely from ourselves? Love has been labeled and mislabeled so many times that people forget what it truly means. People just have to let go of their preconceived notions of romance and fully submit to the real meaning of love by examining how they feel from within, not from outside. This may sound as vague as Mr. Miyagi’s “Wax in, wax out” philosophy, but it is something you will eventually understand when you get there.
These pointers are only a tiny fraction of what you will learn from your own relationship. The bottom line is to fully accept reality to avoid any misconceptions that could just lead to disappointment and frustrations. Love is not just a word, love is not just an emotion, it is a crucial spiritual element that will guide all of us to a better state of being if we only come to accept it for what it is. Learning how to balance emotions and looking into your inner self will allow you to keep your relationship healthy, because you will see things without the embellishments of idealized romance.