If there is strong attraction in the relationship but a conflict erupts around nearly every topic, does the relationship have any future?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If arguments happen too often and too loudly, then we can certainly get along better on our own or with another partner. If we always have different opinions and fight over every little thing, there is always a loser and a winner. We cannot build anything on this in the long term.

You and your partner should have a common foundation and shared goals you can agree upon. Otherwise nothing can develop.

If a relationship falls apart, should people stay together for the children’s sake?

Lama Ole’s answer:

This depends on the quality of the relationship between the partners. Nobody benefits from ill-tempered, joyless parents who feel like victims because they had children together at some point. In my opinion, this is an escape from life. Neither the partners nor the children feel good about that. Children get along better with a single parent than with parents who argue or even play their children against each other. This way, they can be together with one parent and then the other, as they like.

If the children are small, it is best to try to stay together at first. If this doesn’t work, they should separate rather than gluing together something that doesn’t fit. They should never forget to speak nicely about each other, and for that, a certain distance is essential.

Sometimes people come together only as a result of their shared karmic debts. They make love on a hot summer night, the woman gets pregnant and has the child, and all of this is because of old karmic debts that need to be paid to another being. In this case, they have to work with it as well as possible, but the situation shouldn’t make them and everyone else unhappy.

I would check whether my partner is my friend—whether we are developing together and making good wishes for each other, or whether he or she can only see me in a restricted role. On this basis, you can decide what you want to do. This life is only one among countless lives, and since that’s the way it is, one has to think beyond the present lifespan. What matters in the long run is real development.

No doubt, for the spiritual development of the partner and the children, it’s best if both parents are around and share the work. One parent might look after the children while the other has time for meditation. This way, we don’t have to cut back in any way. We can even develop well, which in turn benefits everybody.

My husband has allied himself with his parents against me and everybody is nagging me. I really want to leave, but I’m afraid they have already influenced the children so much that they won’t want to come with me. Could you give me some advice?

Lama Ole’s answer:

What I am going to say may sound wild, but I would like to introduce a few new thoughts—to add a few keys to the piano so that you have more options to work with. Maybe you’ll make the usual choice of quarrelling with the husband and the parents-in-law. But I’d like to offer you a wider range of ideas, and you can decide what to do.

Basically, I’m of the opinion that one should suffer as little as possible and cause the least possible suffering to others. I suggest you set up your own life with your own friends. Treat your husband like the weather, which you cannot influence. If it rains, at least the grain is growing, and when the sun shines it’s nice. That is, enjoy what you want to have and swallow down what you don’t like.

If he speaks badly about you in front of others and behaves in an unacceptable way, kick him out. Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. One shouldn’t waste time dealing with difficult things. Children prefer to be alone with their mother instead of constantly seeing their father speak badly about their mother.

If the children don’t want to come with you, then consider this an advantage. You can start over again and build yourself a new life. The children will come back when they are old enough and able to think for themselves. There will be some days when your husband plans on doing something but cannot leave the kids with their grandparents. Then maybe he’ll ask you to take them for a weekend.

For the children, it is better to remain in one place until they are able to think independently. At three or four years old, they already know very clearly what they want. If they can be corrupted by their grandparents, who have a lot of money and who can do everything for them, then this is simply their personal karma, which might be stronger with the grandparents than with you. But at least you can be sure that you have done your best.

I want to break up with my partner because the relationship has been deteriorating for a long time, but I know this will hurt him deeply. What should I do?

Lama Ole’s answer:

For relationships that are structurally dysfunctional or have a misdirected path of development, I would like to quote the most elevated English post-war prose: William Somerset Maugham said that a relationship is over the moment you wouldn’t want to use the other person’s toothbrush any longer.

For me, this is the crucial point in love. As long as you are still happy to use their toothbrush, the foundation of the relationship is alright. If you can’t do this any longer, then the relationship is over and it’s best for you to withdraw in a friendly way. End the relationship as well as you can to enable both of you to meet as friends in future lives. It is of no use to either him or you if you hold on to the relationship out of motherly or protective feelings. The quarrel that follows will be ten times worse.

Don’t sacrifice the most beautiful years of your youth for somebody who isn’t open or whom you cannot share anything with. You will waste year after year thinking of Handsome Hans while sharing your bed with Eric. Be honest with yourself. If you stay, it won’t help him either since he won’t be confronted with situations he has to take a stand on. He won’t have the chance to become a better person.

What is the best way to deal with a separation?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It is very important to understand that if we separate, we don’t get back the years spent together. This is why we should consider them a success from the outset.

In a relationship, there is always either development or purification. If we have shared a lot of good things together, such as empowerments, then this positive energy definitely has to be maintained between the two of you, while wishing the other person all the best. Then the separation is no longer a breakup but just a change in relationship. Then the former wife can turn into the sister, mother, or daughter, or the former lover into the brother, father, or son.

Furthermore, in a difficult relationship, you can learn a lot about what you don’t need to repeat in the future. If you experienced something painful, then remember that mutual karma is dissolving here. You might have done something similar to the other in a former life. The principle of cause and effect is at work in everyone’s lives at all times. If one performs a harmful deed, one will certainly have difficulties afterwards.

And to avoid generating new suffering, it is very important not to create any new negative connection by breaking up in anger. Otherwise, you will meet again and again in future lives, always repeating the same mistakes.

Please always make good wishes for the other person. Good wishes will help yourself and the other, no matter how badly you have been treated. A smart person forgives and cuts through—that way there is no bond left. Both partners can always decide to focus on what was good and to highlight what made sense. Everyone creates their own heaven and hell.

In my former relationship, a lot of negative things happened and the relationship ended in an argument. Is it possible to do something afterwards to dissolve the difficult karmic bond?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I only know of one good way to end a relationship so that both partners walk away enriched. We have to get used to wishing the former partner everything good all the time from the outset. If there is any win-lose thinking involved, nobody will be set free. Simply make good wishes as a matter of principle; give everything good and be really generous in sharing possessions. The only exception is if the other person is taking advantage of your generosity. In that case, negative habits would be encouraged in them, and it’s best to cut through instead.

But when two modern, talented, and humanistically minded people separate because their shared good karma is exhausted or they haven’t created new good karma together yet, then I would advise separating in such a way that both people win. Both should feel good afterwards and they should remain friends. Feelings of loss and restriction shouldn’t be connected with it, because then we carry along all the difficulties we experienced. If it has been quite a while since the relationship ended, you can wish the other everything good from a distance.

What should we do if we want to separate on amicable terms but our partner clings to us and doesn’t want to let go?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The best is to lead the partner towards meditation. Explain to them, “everything you see in me is nothing other than your own richness. You can only find good qualities in me because you already have them within yourself. And now I am going to show you how to uncover all that richness without having to deal with these difficulties with me.” Then you give them the Three Lights Meditation and advise them to go to the local Buddhist center. This will help them become independent, and you can gradually separate without hurting them.

In cases where the partner isn’t interested in meditation, I mainly advise looking around for a suitable man or woman who might be interested in becoming a new partner. If one can do this and it works out, it is really helpful. I myself almost always searched for a successor for my former girlfriends, somebody who could make sure that everything went well and that she was happy in the end. Naturally, a teacher can do this more easily. But still, one can at least try it. It’s our responsibility to make sure that our former partners feel as good as possible.

In certain cases, it is necessary to tell the other person that they are behaving like a child—that we are losing respect for them and that it’s better to break up in order to remember them and the time spent together in a positive way. But then you have to really mean it. Afterwards, we can advise them to become independent and to learn to stand on their own feet. We might even leave open the possibility of giving the relationship a second chance afterwards.

If the partner becomes angry and loses control, it is better to leave instead of stooping to their level. The same holds in a discussion where the other person is screaming and you start screaming too—no matter what, you will lose. Here, if anything, you should talk very quietly so that the other person has to stop screaming to understand what you’re saying. Screaming is stupid in any situation.

If your partner ever turns violent, then you call the police. We’ve got an enormous social apparatus that takes care of such matters. Fifty percent of your taxes go directly into this, so you can make use of it with a clean conscience.

If parents separate, which parent should the children stay with?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When taking a human rebirth, a person will be female if the karmic bond is stronger with the father or male if it is stronger with the mother. That basically means that girls feel more drawn to the father and boys to the mother.

This can change throughout one’s life due to other karmas. I believe that the simplest solution is for the children to live with the parent who has found a new partner with a good connection to the children. This is especially true if one parent doesn’t find a new partner. A family is certainly better than a single parent, unless the bond with that parent is particularly strong.

In most cases, I recommend having an extended family, the way the Nepalese live, for example. In their culture, former partners and their new partners create two families out of one, where the children can maintain a good bond with both parents. In this situation, it is important that the former partners do not feel anger towards one another for being left. Both have to be satisfied when they separate.

Why are break-ups so painful?

Lama Ole’s answer:

We mostly think of space as something that separates us—as a distance, a vast nothing between us. In this case, it is logical to experience separation as something unpleasant. My advice to you is to change this perception and experience of space.

Buddhists see space as a container. This is illustrated in a simple experiment: Imagine your eyes weren’t on the front of your head but rather on the back. You would notice that there is always much more space behind you than between you and others. Space is expanding around you by light-years, limitlessly and in all directions. And if you don’t just perceive the space between you and others but also experience the space around you, then there is no separation between you and the others anymore. Space is a container with both you and them inside it.

I myself work like this with my students, with our Buddhist centers, and with everything I am connected to. Every now and then, when I have time, I visualize landscapes and cities as though they were on a map in front of me. I perceive these locations around me. I cannot see exactly what people are doing, but I feel the vibrations and I know what they experience. I make use of space in this way. Space connects. Space is information.