How to love your partner
According to Buddhism, there are four elements of true love.
The first is maitri, which can be translated as loving-kindness or benevolence. Loving-kindness is not only the desire to make someone happy, to bring joy to a beloved person; it is the ability to bring joy and happiness to the person you love, because even if your intention is to love this person, your love might make him or her suffer.
Training and patience is needed in order to love properly; it does not just happen as many people think it does! To give happiness and joy, you must practice deep looking directed toward the person you love. Because if you do not understand your partner, you cannot love properly. The true essence of love is understanding.
How can you love if you do not understand? Many people think that they understand, but what they really mean is that they have interpreted their partner’s problems and thoughts in their own style.
If a husband, for example, does not understand his wife’s deepest troubles, her deepest aspirations, if he does not understand her suffering, he will not be able to love her the right way. Almost every time, he will offer solutions instead of understanding. He will try to ‘fix’ her instead of simply standing in her shoes and viewing life from her perspective.
How can we understand our partners? We must be there, attentive; we must stop ourselves from thinking about what we think they should feel, or do. We can simply observe until we begin to understand what it is that is truly going on inside their hearts and minds. How do they feel? How do they see the world? What is it like to be them? Ask questions, keep listening and observing until there is some compassion.
This is the second element of real love – karuna. This is not only the desire to ease the pain of another person, but the ability to do so. Knowledge and understanding are always at the root of the practice. The practice of understanding is the practice of meditation. When there is compassion, there is a new element that arises, and that is joy. There is joy in the knowing that somebody knows you, really knows you.
This joy is the third element, mudita. If there is no joy in love, it is not true love. If you make the person you love cry, or feel unloved, criticised, misunderstood, there is heartache, not love. When you have a feeling of joy of being understood, you are more able to give understanding. This leads to a wonderful freedom to be yourself.
Thus, the fourth element is upeksha, equanimity or freedom. This loving partnership is safe. You love in such a way that the person you love feels free, not only outside but also inside.
I just love the inner question that is suggested: “Dear one, do you have enough space in your heart and all around you?” (Do you have the space around you to be yourself? To feel emotionally safe and free? Do you feel trusted, respected and loved?)