I went through my first breakup last November, around the time of Thanksgiving, and anyone who has been through a breakup knows what that feels like. For those that don’t, I felt like my mind split into two halves: one side able to understand the situation and why it was the best for both of us to end the relationship mutually while the other side cringed in misery over missing him and wondering if things could have turned out differently “if only I had ____”. I couldn’t sort out the thoughts driven by emotional angst from those formed from reason and logic. I felt like I had no control over my thoughts or emotions, which as a practicing Buddhist can be a frightening experience. As with many problems and frustrations that arise in my life, I sought to try and find an approach to deal with this through Buddhism.
And yet, the mere thought of turning to Buddhism for relationship advice seemed laughable. Getting caught up in a relationship seemed to break the golden rule in Buddhism: that attachment leads to suffering. And I knew what Buddhism would say: (1) true happiness starts with non-attachment , (2) attachment causes suffering, (3) I became attached to him, therefore, (4) I would suffer. Everything seemed to play out just like the concepts in Buddhism claimed they would. Without really even trying, I turned away from Buddhism as a source of advice, expecting the dreaded feeling of “I told you so”.
Just a few weeks ago at the library, I came upon a new book from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh called Fidelity. The brief synopsis on the back cover of the book asks questions like “How can we get a new relationship off to a strong and stable start?” and “How do we take care of our jealousy, restlessness, and loneliness?”. For many Buddhist-themed self-help books, I find the information esoteric and difficult to actually apply to my own personal life. Buddhism itself is very complicated and can even upon understanding the teachings, application can require whole other stage of fluency. What I found pleasant about this book is that for a subject that seems so distant from what Buddhists “should” be thinking about, there is actually a lot Buddhists have to say about how not to think about it.