How Divorce and Abandonment Relate to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

Divorce, Separation, Marriage Breakup, Split, Argument

Commitment Is the Thing That Is Missing Between Infatuation and Abandonment

It happened to many of us. We fell into infatuation with someone or something [admittedly, the infatuation may have been with infatuation itself], and gradually, we found ourselves leaving or having been left. The people who leave have often found another infatuation to sprint toward, and the ones who are left are alone–abandoned, empty, shut out and down, and drained.

Dilapidated, Room, House, Disrepair, Decay, Aged

“Absence is a house so vast that inside you will pass through its walls and hang pictures on the air.” ― Pablo Neruda

The leaver’s final words are so very predictable that they have become the stuff of bad situation comedy, “I never loved you.”

The one who was left cannot believe her ears, but the leaver is probably telling the truth. The leaver probably never did love the one that he is leaving, but he doesn’t love her replacement either. Love has nothing to do with this drama. Infatuation is the name of this game, and as I recall the stages of my own having found someone, having married,  and having become alone once more, I can recognize that the missing ingredient in my own relationship was not that of love. I had only been infatuated, too. The missing ingredient in my marriage was that of a decent commitment.


Image Credit Robin Wright, Princeton Free University Course: Buddhism and Modern Psychology.

If you have been following my blog, you probably know that I have begun auditing a course about Buddhism and Modern Psychology from Princeton University. You can register for this course from Princeton Here

At the time of writing this post, I understand very little about Buddhism, but as I watched the presenter Robin Wright’s videos, I was struck by how very much the issues of divorce and abandonment are  like a part of the Four Noble Truths.

In a previous post, I discussed the first two of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths. Here 

  1. People suffer or long for something that they do not have.
  2. When they get those things or achieve those things, their satisfaction with them lasts a very short period and they begin to long again. This is the condition that causes people to abandon their marital partners and even their children.

Americans are infatuation junkies. We love being “swept off of our feet,” [the longing to be swept off our feet is part of the first Noble Truth], and to perpetuate the cycle of falling into infatuation, we marry and divorce many times [this is a result of what happens in the second Noble Truth].

Another aspect of the second Noble Truth is that of clinging. At least one of the marital partners will usually respond to the person’s leaving with a type of clinging.

Fight or Flight – The Dynamics of Dealing with the End of Infatuation

Every relationship that is based on infatuation is headed toward the rocks. We are distinguished by what we do once we get there.

We often hear that people can be distinguished by their tendencies toward either fighting or flying. In other words, when things get tough, people either run from the problem or they stick with it and work it out. When a fighter marries a flyer, disappointment is inevitable. For both members of a marriage, infatuation ends. It always does. If you will recall the second Noble Truth, once we get what we want, we begin losing interest in it. The end of infatuation can be the beginning of something more meaningful between the first couple, or it can be the time when one or both of the team simply pulls up stakes and runs. If only one member of the marriage runs, the other one is left with an assortment of questions, and he or she often responds by clinging.

“It’s strange how what drives us may abandon us midstream, how what tickles our ears with lies one moment may tell us truths that knock us on our emotional ass the next.
After all, it is an unbelievably real world, with Darwin scribbling his thoughts into books and telling us what monkeys we are. Each of us explores possibility, hungry for sustaining adoration, yet we know enough to render ourselves helpless.
We strive and strain, bellow and believe, we learn, and everything we learn tells us the same thing: life is one great meaningful experience in a meaningless world. Brilliance has many parts, yet each part is incomplete.
We live, heal and attempt to piece together a picture worth the price of our very lives.” ― Christopher Hawke

I write more about the issue of divorce and abandonment Here in a post that I created on May 4, 2016, which was more than two months before I began to learn about Buddhism. As I have begun to understand Buddhism, I am beginning to realize that many of the subjects of my previous posts had to do with any of several aspects of Buddhism, as a type of philosophy.

©Jacki Kellum July 22, 2016.


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