Any authentic sutta or part of sutta from any tradition that gives guidance on what kind of sexual relationship partner to choose?

I'm thinking the Vimalikirti sutra should say something about such layman concerns.

Specifically things like what kind of partner would an ideal layman choose for family purposes if choose at all?

Should one find a companion who already understands the Dharma and is thus highly capable of being a companion and teacher to children?

Or is the proper bodhisattva action to practice the dana paramita by bonding and inspiring someone who lacks the dharma--but is ready to receive it--and thus help to transform their karma as well as the whole universe's (through increasing Dharma quotient in a "lower denominator")?

[The Taoist tradition (which I highly honor) has some insights into this matter and for me is very connected to Buddhism and according to my learning would imply that a cultivated woman choose the latter and a cultivated man choose the former.]


2 Answers 2


Here's a summary of Chapter 5 of The Buddha's Teachings to Laypeople: Practical Advice for Prosperity and Lasting Happiness.

  • If you fail to find suitable associates it's better to be "like a solitary rhinoceros"
  • Leave aside unproven traditional criteria: including race, caste, gender, and external appearance (and creed)
  • A person's inner development is more important than their birth
  • Be cautious of first impressions and initial understandings

    People cannot be know well by their appearance
    Nor can they be trusted after brief impression.
    Yes, the undisciplined may roam in the world
    In the attire of the well displined.

  • Associate with a person, observe and evaluate their words and actions

  • Be wise and rational in order to obtain a clear picture of the person you're evaluating
  • Find wise people who cause no fear or worry
  • Look for someone who is compatible in four ways:

    • Similar confidence in spiritual development
    • Similar respect for self-discipline
    • Similar respect for humanistic practices
    • Similar level of wisdom

    These similarities are "so important for a peaceful marriage".

Spiritual development: if one person respects spiritual believes and practices, and the other holds them in total disregard, then the two people are simply incompatible.

Self-discipline: if one partner is well-disciplined and the other unscrupulous then their incompatibility will become obvious and cause problems.

Humanistic practices: includes dana, also caga (generous acts).

Level of wisdom: i.e. samapanna, includes knowledge, skill, emotional maturity, reasoning power; doesn't mean that both should have same education and intellectual ability, but wide difference in these areas could cause incompatibility and lead to conflicts.

Chapter 6 is about how to treat your partner after you marry.

  • 2
    Thank you for such a good answer and reference. So the suggestion here seems to be to find someone compatible, not necessarily to find someone incompatible and guide them become more disciplined, humanistic, and spiritual.
    – Ahmed
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 17:17
  • 2
    Yes: advice about how to be a parent isn't until chapter 7. The book is written by a bikkhu in Texas. Its premise is that laypeople should be happy, prosperous, and not suffer. I don't know but finding someone incompatible might be an austere (and useless/fruitless) practice.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:39
  • 2
    I suppose that a harmonious/compatible couple can do more good for/towards the society in which they live.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 18:44
  • 2
    This was a great answer containing direct references and guidelines.+1.
    – user2424
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 10:18
  • I wonder ChrisW, how different is this answer from the checklist that people make for the "perfect" partner. I see how wide-difference can lead to "incompatibility" but acceptance and love doesn't discriminate. It is funny how clinging onto these guidelines can lead to suffering even though its purpose is to lead to more peaceful relationships.
    – user29568
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 10:44

There is some guidance from the Sigalovada Sutta on the responsibilities of the husband and wife. So, by extension, a suitable partner is one who can fulfil these responsibilities.

"In five ways should a wife as the western direction be respected by a husband: by honoring, not disrespecting, being faithful, sharing authority, and by giving gifts.

"And, the wife so respected reciprocates with compassion in five ways: by being well-organized, being kindly disposed to the in-laws and household workers, being faithful, looking after the household goods, and being skillful and diligent in all duties.

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