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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
19 spring 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Send your queStionS by mail or to teaCherS@thebuddhadharma.Com PHOTOSBY(l-R):BARBARAwENgER,MARYEllENMCCOURT,MARYlANg I am a recent practitioner of the dharma. For the past ten years I have been living in a harmful marriage in a country across the ocean from my birthplace. My husband is a very angry person, and he takes out his anger on me, criticizing me and punishing me. It’s very hard to even discuss splitting up, because he im- mediately brings our children into things. I just read on your website that it is foolish to stay in a bad marriage, but I am worried that our children will be damaged by a divorce, and I know my husband won’t let me go easily. It’s quite possible he will become even more spiteful and abusive. To some degree I think everything I’ve been through led me to the buddha- dharma, so in a sense, I am grateful for my suffering. But I do need more peace in my life ultimately. Can you please give me some advice? Zenkei Blanche hartman: When I read your letter, all my old, habitual, feminist alarms went off: “Angry husband!” “Abusive marriage!” “What are her rights with regard to custody and child support?” etc. Then I remembered that you had presented this question not to a militant feminist magazine but to Buddha- dharma, expecting a response from a dharma teacher. I asked myself, where are the dharma teachings of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity in my response? What is the most com- passionate response for this whole family? Certainly I agree that remaining in an abusive mar- riage is not healthy for you or your spouse or for the children. First, your husband’s anger is in itself an af- fliction, and by indulging it through abusing you, he causes you suffering, sets the stage for unwholesome karmic retribution, and sets a very bad example for the children. However, there are two ways to end an abusive marriage. One is to end the marriage; the other is to end the abuse. There must have been some shared af- fection when the two of you decided to marry, and when you conceived the children. Sometimes the de- mands and responsibilities of supporting and caring for a family, or different cultural expectations, can overshadow the love and affection that created the ask the teachers Zenkei Blanche hartman is former abbess of the san Francisco Zen Center Geshe tenZin WanGyal rinpoche is a lineage holder of the Bön Dzogchen tradition of tibet narayan lieBenson Grady is a guiding teacher at Cambridge insight Meditation Center