Every intimate relationship I have ever had has ended in a lot of pain and grief. The last one lasted for 17 years but eventually broke down. That was a year ago and the pain is still very raw at times. My question is this. If attachment causes suffering then I was obviously very attached but how do you have an intimate relationship without becoming attached? It seems just like the normal human thing to do. You like someone, you fall in love and it hurts when they're gone. You kind of don't even realise it's happening until it ends and then you feel like you want to die. I'm not sure if it's possible to have a close relationship on the Buddhist path anymore but I also don't want to live life alone. I know Buddha left his family but in these modern times there seem to be plenty of teachers who have partners/spouses.


6 Answers 6


Impossible. When there's relationship, there's bonding. When there's bonding, there's pain when it ends.

The only thing you can do to minimize pain is to stay as independent as possible, and be your own source of joy and acceptance. Which means playing an active role in your life, instead of relying on your partner for initiative and values.


Buddhist guidance about how to have a relationships is provided at the following links.

THE PARTNER (A good spouse)

Samajivina Sutta: Living in Tune

Living Together (1)

Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala -- The Layperson's Code of Discipline

This guidance is not only used for any prospective relationship but also for reflection about where past relationships did not work out.

When painful separation occurs, instead of trying to practise non-attachment, it is wiser to investigate the causes & conditions that resulted in a relationship inevitably not working out.

Contrary to the contemporary method of getting the sex out of the way and then getting to know eachother, the Buddhist way is getting to know eachother's values & future aspirations before engaging in sex.

Generally, the sexual part is what leads to the attachment, striving to maintain the unsuitable relationship & pain. So in Buddhism, the mutual & suitable personal qualities are given priority.

  • Can you add anything about death?
    – ChrisW
    Sep 29, 2017 at 0:35
  • Why? Thanks.......... Sep 29, 2017 at 0:36
  • About losing a partner to death, @Dhammadhatu.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Sep 29, 2017 at 0:50
  • I think it is not relevant because the question is not asking about this & because successful relationships lead to meaningful lasting love that is often (but not always) impervious to death. Most widows I know only have a temporary period grief because the good thoughts of their past friendship (love) sustains them. I live in a small community with many widows & all I know are doing well. Sep 29, 2017 at 1:02
  • Because death too might seem to be a problem in life; part of the first noble truth, perhaps; the OP wrote, "You like someone, you fall in love and it hurts when they're gone". Your paragraph which started, "Instead of trying to practise non-attachment..." might have suggested you were aiming for a lasting relationship? AN 4.45 which you referenced talks about how "they will see one another not only in the present life but also in the life to come": given what you've said previously about rebirth, I asked! Your latest comment ("impervious to death") might belong in an answer.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 29, 2017 at 1:06

Your wanting to have a partner is causing you suffering. Meditate on that. There's no romantic relationship without attachment. Attachment leads to suffering. However, having a relationship is not discouraged for lay people.

Here are some criteria to find a partner who will cause you less suffering.

  1. Is her faith similar to yours?
  2. Does she have similar moral standards?
  3. Is she generous as you?
  4. Does she have similar wisdom?

After getting married you can make the relationship smoother by treating the wife in following ways:

  1. by being courteous to her
  2. by not despising her,
  3. by being faithful to her,
  4. by handing over authority of the house to her,
  5. by providing her with adornments.


If wishing to stay together, meet again and again, this Sutta might help: Living in Tune. How ever, it can be of course, but not need to make it to ones burden, be caused by previous, and present, actions, that longer lasting relations will not come to be, and it's maybe wiser to conform the 1. Noble Truth, that all related phenomenas are subject of breaking apart, do not last, are subject of suffering and not really worthy to seek for it, hold on it, making it yours.

Then investigate it's cause, of such a phenomena (2. Noble Truth). Seek for it's solution, in the 3rd Noble truth, and having won certain faith, following the 4. Noble truth, in going into relation with the Tree Sublime Juwels, beyound all relations and dwelling possible in relation with the Dhamma for the rest of this live comfortable and in ease.

Support and advices might be found also here: Into the Stream.

There is a lot of freedom in not having any relation, yet of course certain relation has to be seeked for to gain that.

To answer the question: "How to have a relationship" in short: to give food/nurishment (upadana) into it, so a constant required sacrify of what one hold, regards, took as self.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purpose or other wordily gains and nurishing relations with it, but for possible benefical relation for liberation]


Difficult relationships are certainly the greatest and most common source of suffering today. Fortunately, over the last century or so, a lot of insight has been acquired about the causes of such suffering. Our problems with relationships are generally related to having grown up in an abusive or dysfunctional family. If your parents were deeply loving people (being valuable friends and deeply sensitive to the needs of others), then chances are you will be able to seek a loving partner instead of a toxic partner simply because the difference between the two will be obvious to you. If your parents were unloving and emotionally abusive, then you may have very low self-esteem and/or be a very angry person. A stable loving relationship requires a great deal of interpersonal awareness, goodwill, insight, and genuine concern for the well-being of one another. Modern couple therapy can be a sophisticated approach to unraveling the complexities of a difficult relationship. I suggest that the concept of "attachment" in the context of this deeper and more scientific understanding of human relationships is a concept of little value when it comes to understanding the psychology of loving relationships between parent and child, between brothers and sisters, between friends, between lovers, and between husband and wife. It provides no insight and no remedy for the difficult times in a loving relationship of any kind. If you are in an emotionally painful relationship, you are better off finding a good psychotherapist or couple therapist rather than trying to apply the concept of attachment to a form of suffering that the Buddha never had to deal with because his students were all monks and nuns!!


The key to emotional relationship mastery is to have extremely high standards and have a practice partner.

I am currently in an intimate relationship with a girl and she is below those standards in terms of appearance, intelligence, and spirituality so I have no attachment and cannot form attachment but purpose the relationship to help each other out in life and also be loving companions.

I have explained to her that this is a temporary situation and I will be extremely happy if she ends up finding someone before we have to break up.

I believe it is good practice to be in this kind of less attached relationship because when you will find someone you really like--it will be harder to not attach. She is also good practice for me in terms of holding to my other tenets in spirituality and life.

The meditation parallel to this situation is doing sitting meditation until you are good at it and then working on doing active meditation when you have mastered sitting to some degree.

Coming back to the subject of relationships, when I find the "ideal partner": Buddhist, intelligent, fair, good career, healthy, etc. I will be better practiced at managing the dynamics in the relationship (there is management involved in everything whether you like it or not) and also within myself. I would not easily give away as much of my power and purpose as one normally would when committed to their ideal person.

So I know it sounds trashy but I would suggest finding a compliant and good person as close to your ideal person and to have a as a practice partner and to keep improving yourself (and helping them to improve themselves). At the same time you are searching for your ideal partner so you can have a mature form of COMMITMENT not attachment. Search for someone that is worth it to commit to--not attach to.

I suggest reading some dating manuals which will add tremendous value to your social and dating understandings and dispel certain illusions: The Tao of Dating, Sperm Wars, Sex at Dawn and other non-fiction by PHDs.

Sexuality is coupled with many of life's laws which are present in spiritual practice--I won't go into it too much here and need to write a book one day because it is something that can very easily be taken the wrong way and throw apart one's spiritual practice.

  • 1
    Please feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken but that sounds very judgemental and egotistical what you said about this girl being below your standard. Why would you be with someone you felt that way about? I don't believe that there is any perfect or ideal person. I believe that whoever comes across our path is the ideal person. You might think that she is below your standards spiritually and intelligence wise etc but maybe you're mistaken. Maybe your below hers. Maybe she is wise beyond your comprehension.
    – Arturia
    Oct 2, 2017 at 5:47
  • This is such horrendously awful advise. It's not trashy, it's just completely shallow and self absorbed. So you just go with someone and use them until you find this so called mythical ideal person who is more at your superior level then you just dump the other one. Yeah great advise!! Not.
    – Arturia
    Oct 2, 2017 at 11:23
  • This is the cutesy and romantic thinking that causes wives to stay with abusive husbands. It is a conditioned reality. See clearly.
    – Ahmed
    Oct 2, 2017 at 14:03
  • It's hard to square this answer with Samajivina Sutta: Living in Tune ("Lord, ever since Nakula's mother as a young girl was brought to me [to be my wife] when I was just a young boy, I am not conscious of being unfaithful to her even in mind, much less in body..") It sounds more like negging OSLT ("You're inferior, below my standards, we'll have to break up when I find Ms. Right but I'll date you for now."). Maybe that's not what you're saying but it's how I read it,
    – ChrisW
    Oct 2, 2017 at 15:20
  • 1
    You read it right and I expressed the same intent to her. She is expressedly happy and thankful enough (and many other women in their twenties who have been alone for too long) to have a partner for a couple years or so who is interested in helping them become a better woman. And I a better man. It is better than 100 other scenarios including FWB, being alone and pining, etc.
    – Ahmed
    Oct 2, 2017 at 15:30

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