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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 09 20 family. Disappointment and old habits of fear or anger or blaming may all arise. If you can agree that your marriage, as it is, is not sustainable, and that you would like to find a way to save it for the sake of your own happiness as well as that of your children, you may want to work with a trained marriage and family coun- selor. My European friends assure me that there are counseling resources for couples who encounter these kinds of difficulties in Europe as well as here. For the sake of the whole family, in- cluding your husband, I think you have to be courageous and clear that if he is not willing to work with you on ending the abuse, your only option will be to end the marriage. He needs to under- stand that whatever he may perceive as your shortcomings, you cannot stay with him to work on mutually satisfying solutions unless he is willing to work on managing his anger, which is not only intolerable to you, but, as I said, an ex- tremely bad example for the children. I can personally attest to the value of asking for help when difficulties arise in a marriage. My husband and I ran into some difficulties in our marriage after some years. It was upsetting and embar- rassing and humiliating and all that, as I had thought of myself as a good wife and mother and so forth. But we had to admit we were in trouble and we bene- fited greatly from working with a trained counselor who helped us to identify un- skillful habits, communicate better, and restore goodwill and trust in each other. We each had to take responsibility for our own contributions to the difficulties and not just blame each other. It was also at this time that we began our dharma practice, partly driven by the fear that our marriage might be failing. We re- cently happily celebrated our sixty-first wedding anniversary. geshe tenZin Wangyal rinpoche: For anyone on the spiritual path, a partic- ularly valuable question to ask is, “In what ways do I contribute to this diffi- cult situation?” In Buddhism, we believe in interdependency. We are all interde- pendent. Reflect and see how much of the disturbance in your marriage has to do with you. We are all conditioned, and our conditioning causes us to see limited possibilities. Often we become stuck in our view of a situation and look outward at a problem wanting the other person to change. Self-reflective work can open your view, and this work can be done either by yourself or with the help of another. It is necessary to do this before coming to the conclusion that a relationship must end. It is possible to contribute to negativ- ity by being silent and not acting, or by reacting to everything or taking every- thing personally. If your partner is sad, moody, or angry and you take it person- ally, this can contribute to the difficulty. As you begin to realize how you may be contributing to the situation, take care to create more space in yourself. Try to un- derstand yourself better in the relation- ship. What do you feel? Are you giving space to allow for your feelings or are you simply going over and over the same troubled thoughts? Who are you? What are your good qualities? Through finding space within your- self, you create more space between you and your husband. Give him more space to feel his bad moods without taking them personally. You may come to real- ize that some things he needs to express have nothing to do with you. This space may allow you to respond to a situation in a new way, allowing for a different re- sult. In addition, reflect upon any good qualities in the relationship that can be brought forth. Supporting those quali- ties to come forth may help the relation- ship to change for the better. That is the number one solution. However, if you feel you have taken the steps you need to take and find the relationship is still not workable, you must face this truth. Feel the openness in yourself to do so, and through that feel strength. Through that strength com- municate directly and clearly without fear, even though it might be unpleas- ant to do so. If your choice is between a strongly unpleasant interaction that is short in duration or leading a long, un- pleasant life, which would you prefer? If the situation is unworkable, moving on will certainly be better for your children, who will benefit from a more peaceful environment. narayan lieBenson grady: First of all, my heart goes out to you. Secondly, I think it is very important for you to find a qualified professional in your area with whom you can talk. It’s critical that someone help you to understand just what your options are and to support and guide you through this. You may be able to find such a person at a women’s shelter or hotline. This is not my area of expertise, but I understand that when one is in a domestic situation that is vio- lent, the period after leaving can be the most dangerous. Now is the time to ask for help. I understand your concern for your children; divorces can be so hard. How- ever, I would think it could be even more harmful for your children to be in an unstable and dangerous environment. Besides fearing for your safety, quite nat- urally they would fear for their own. As well, the qualities of heart that you are surely trying to teach them—qualities of dignity, respect, and kindness—may be difficult for them to embody when they are seeing so much of the opposite at home. Dharma practice opens our eyes to what is actually happening in our lives. We see our own suffering and the suf- fering of others more clearly. This can help us to look for the release of suffer- ing as well, which includes wise action. Continuing to practice during this time and the days that follow can help you to develop a steadiness within that will allow you to meet this situation with the greatest grace possible. One of the fruits of the practice is a growing capacity for equanimity in the midst of what is most difficult. Yes, you and your family do need peace. Perhaps your wise choices will encourage your husband to ask for the help he needs, which would lead to more peace for him, too. I wish you much courage and insight in this diffi- cult time. Please be careful.