How we can improve our relationships

Our relationships occupy a major place in our lives, whether in intimacy (our partner or companion, our children, our close friends, our pets), or on a daily basis (our neighbors, our line manager, our colleagues, the bus driver, the baker or the administration counter clerk). We would like all these relationships to be nurturing, rich, filled with love and benevolence, without any conflict: in a word, perfect. Unfortunately, more often than not, our relationships are not entirely satisfactory, they deteriorate over time: this companion, so great at the beginning, no longer understands us, this child in whom we had placed so much hope disappoints us. The question then arises: What should I do to improve this relationship?

Improve our relationships by developing love and lowering our expectations

The Buddhist teachings offer us to bring a clear vision of the situation. All our relationships are based on a mixture of 2 aspects that we find it very difficult to differentiate: love, which is a particularly pleasant feeling, and attachment (or our expectations), which is a source of our suffering. Yet, it is very easy to tell the difference between these two feelings. Love is the feeling of wanting the other to be happy without any reservations. As for the feeling of attachment, he considers that the other has the duty to make us happy and that this constitutes his life mission. If he doesn’t, he becomes responsible for our unhappiness.

Love is turned towards the other while attachment is centered on ourselves, our needs and our desires. It is in our romantic relationships that it is easiest to begin to distinguish between these 2 notions. Currently, these feelings of love and attachment (expectations) are so mixed up for us, that we believe that attachment is love. For example, we believe that love is measured by the pain we feel when we are separated from the loved one. Likewise, if we listen to so-called ”  love songs” we believe that the words come from a spirit of love, when ultimately they are the fruit of a spirit of attachment. These words which touch us so much reveal above all that our happiness or our well-being depends on the presence and attitude of the other towards us.

Remarkably improving our relationships is as simple as lowering our expectations and increasing our love. Indeed, “Happiness is a state of mind, its main cause can only be found in the mind“, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, in his book, Transform your life. We believe very deeply that our happiness depends on the other or that the other is responsible for our happiness. For example, if our beloved is present with us, we feel good and happy, while if he is absent, we feel bad or sad.

This view is incorrect, although deeply rooted in us, is difficult to dislodge. We can see this in our mood swings. For example, when we are in a good mood in the morning and our mind is quiet, then everything seems beautiful and pleasant to us. Even the announcement of the delay of our train does not affect our good mood and is therefore not a problem for us at this time. However, if this delay persists, we may become attached to this delay and do not accept that it can happen to US. Our mind then starts to get agitated and we immediately lose our good mood. This situation proves to us that the source of our bad mood is our expectation that the train is on time.

By lowering my expectations, I will forget myself and lose myself, right?

We may feel that lowering our expectations means blending in with each other’s desires and completely forgetting about ourselves. We think this because we know, sometimes from experience, that doing what each other wants, regardless of our needs, is unsustainable. We exhaust ourselves and we lose ourselves inside. However, this thought misleads us.

Conversely , the expectation that we must reduce is our belief that the other is the real source of our happiness and that he must outwardly be as we wish at all times. This shift in thinking is everyday practice. Thus, we will be able to experience true happiness, stemming from a feeling of peace and love in our heart, as well as a reduction in our expectations of the other.

When we try to meet all the demands of the other but we are not able to do so at the moment, it usually means that we are afraid of displeasing or that the other no longer loves us and leaves us if we we can’t. In this example, it is again our spirit of attachment that drives us and not that of love which is the sincere desire that the other be happy.

Improving our relationships by increasing our love for ourselves and for others and decreasing our attachment is a source of happiness in this life and in all our future lives. The more aware we are of our ability to be happy regardless of external circumstances, the more we will become accustomed to tasting the delicate happiness of a peaceful mind.

We can therefore have access to this happiness whenever and wherever we want. Our ability to welcome and fully love others, with their qualities and their faults, will grow. And since he often found that when a person feels loved by another, they naturally love him back, so we will probably be loved by others. Our life will thus be filled with rich and nourishing relationships, even if these relationships may be short-lived (people met during training, a holiday or even a simple bus journey).