How to deal with expectations of other people

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
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How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby puppha » Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:41 pm

Dear All,

I am looking for some advice on how to deal with expectations of other people, especially a non-buddhist spouse.

My non-buddhist wife has a lot of expectations from me that are often in conflict with the Dhamma. For example, she would like me to experience stronger emotions (of joy or sadness), enjoy wordly pleasures, or do all sorts of things "out of love" for her (but that's really romantic love or emotional dependency).

I feel that complying with her demands and making efforts to meet her expectations will distract me from the path. She is a fundamentalist born-again Christian and she does not understand the teachings of the Buddha. She would not make any effort to acknowledge them and flatly considers wrong whatever remotely contradicts her religion.
Generally speaking, I thing she views certain aspects of Buddhist teachings as right (eg: 5 precepts, compassion, tolerance, etc.) but everything else beyond the surface wrong (eg: renunciation, calming the passions, anatta, seeking nibbana, not enjoying wordly pleasures, not seeking romantic love, etc.)

This could also be extended to any non-buddhist person. Usually, at a superficial level, non buddhists are often sympathetic to Buddhism. But when they learn that Buddhism essentially means renunciation, they start to consider those people who put the teachings into action in their lives alien and unnatural.

The gist of my post is the following: non-buddhists often have expectations from their buddhist friends/spouses/relatives that are divergent from the path of the Dhamma. How should the buddhist friend/spouse/relative handle the situation?

So I would be happy to hear about any other people in a similar situation, with spouse or close relatives who do not understand the renunciation aspect of Buddhism.

Any comment is welcome!

Metta

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:50 pm

You are a husband, not a monk. I don't think some romantic love is an unreasonable expectation from her. Renunciation is great, but has a time and place. As lay people we can still practice forms of renunciation, for example, going on a retreat for our work-vacation time instead of a cruise and other things. However, at this time you are a husband, not a monk.

As Tilt has been hammering down in some recent topics, Buddhism is not about puritanical prudishness (certainly not for lay people).

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby puppha » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:15 pm

Dear David,

David N. Snyder wrote:I don't think some romantic love is an unreasonable expectation from her.

I am sorry if I gave the impression in my OP that it was unreasonable to have some romantic love. That was not my intention.
When I mentioned romantic love, I meant a relation based on emotional (co)dependency, which is often accompanied by violent emotions and passions. But that was definitely not the point I wanted to make.

What about if she is unhappy because I don't drink alcohol? I have been reproached that many times...

David N. Snyder wrote:Renunciation is great, but has a time and place. As lay people we can still practice forms of renunciation, for example, going on a retreat for our work-vacation time instead of a cruise and other things.

That is definitely the sort of things she would have problems with. I went for the first time away from home for a couple of days to stay in a monastery. She was quite upset about that before and after. When I came back home, she had many slanted remarks and sometimes plain reproaches that I spend too little time with the family. As far as I can see, apart from the 2 days I spent at that monastery, I spend as much time with them as before, but for some reason it seams that her perception has changed...

I would still be interested to hear about people having to deal with non-supportive friend/spouse/relative.

Metta

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby lament » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:23 pm

puppha wrote:What about if she is unhappy because I don't drink alcohol? I have been reproached that many times...

This sounds like the story of a certain Adam and Eve...

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby SDC » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:40 pm

Out of curiosity, which one of you discovered your chosen practice first? Was it during the course of the relationship or before?

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:06 pm

Not letting you abstain from alcohol or to go on retreat does sound unreasonable to me.

When drinking with friends or family, you could always drink soft drinks, iced tea, or something else. Most people are reasonable and understanding and don't make a big thing out of it.

Since she is practicing another religion, you could perhaps do some compromising by going on some vacations with her / family and others to a retreat, not all one way or the other. Instead of attending worship services separately, you both could go to the church and also the temple (together), but it sounds as if she may not be okay with that?

If you started the Buddhist practice after marriage, you may need to do more compromising, since it's "not what she signed up for" so to speak, but that still doesn't mean you can't follow and progress on the path you have chosen.

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby SDC » Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:35 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:If you started the Buddhist practice after marriage, you may need to do more compromising, since it's "not what she signed up for" so to speak, but that still doesn't mean you can't follow and progress on the path you have chosen.


Exactly what I was getting at with my question. This is significant I believe.

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby Ben » Tue Sep 04, 2012 12:09 am

Greetings Puppha,

I am reminded of the following quote:
A balanced mind is necessary to balance the unbalanced minds of others.

—Sayagyi U Ba Khin


My advice is to do whatever you can to promote harmonious relations between yourself and your spouse. You may wish to take a good hard look at yourself and see whether you are unintentionally using the Dhamma or practice as a barrier to your wife. Essentially saying to her: "join me or I will exclude you".
You may also wish to keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your wife and nut out the core of the problem. Is it the Dhamma itself that she finds threatening, or is it resentment regarding time you spend by yourself? If it is the latter, then do you believe her expectation is reasonable or unreasonable? I am not suggesting you answer these questions here but for you to think about.
If things are still not going well then I recommend that you seek (secular) marriage counselling. All healthy relationships have respect as their fundamental foundation. Respect for oneself and respect for the other. Perhaps there is room for both of you to negotiate and compromise without giving up one's practice.
wishing you all the best,

Ben
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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby Magoo » Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:42 am

puppha wrote:For example, she would like me to experience stronger emotions (of joy or sadness), enjoy wordly pleasures,


Hi Puppha,

Something I have learnt in my journey which is constantly evolving, as the path does. There was a time when I too thought that I was not supposed to "enjoy wordly pleasures", so I renunciated a lot of pleasurable activities as I thought that this was wrong. I have since revised my view, which I think is summed up best by Ajahn Sumedho as the following quote illustrates:

"Desire can be compared to fire. If we grasp fire, what happens? Does it lead to happiness? If we say: ‘Oh, look at that beautiful fire! Look at the beautiful colours! I love red and orange; they’re my favourite colours,’ and then grasp it, we would find a certain amount of suffering entering the body. And then if we were to contemplate the cause of that suffering we would discover it was the result of having grasped that fire. On that information, we would, hopefully, then let the fire go. Once we let fire go, then we know that it is something not to be attached to. This does not mean we have to hate it, or put it out. We can enjoy fire, can’t we? It is nice having a fire, it keeps the room warm, but we do not have to burn ourselves in it.
When we really contemplate suffering, we no longer incline towards grasping hold of desire, because it hurts, is painful, there is no point in doing it. So, from that time on, we understand, ‘Oh! That’s why I’m suffering; that’s its origin. Ah! now I understand. It’s that grasping hold of desire that causes me all this misery and suffering, all this fear, worry, expectation, despair, hatred, greed, delusion. All the problems of life come from grasping and clinging to the fire of desire."


So from this, it is clear to me, that we shouldnt stop doing things that we enjoy, but we shouldnt rely on these pleasurable things to provide our enduring happiness. Just enjoy them while they last and then let them go when they are over.

This has helped me.

With MeggaMetta
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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby puppha » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:26 am

Thank you all for your answers. Thank you Ben, for your quote, that makes a lot of sense. Please note I am not looking for marital advice here, I took the example of my wife because that was the most obvious to me. Those interested can have a look at this thread for details about my story:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=11058&start=40

If the above thread is too long, you can get an idea by knowing that she says I am sending my child to hell because I am teaching her a false religion. You get the idea.

Don't get me wrong, I would appreciate advice regarding how to handle my marrige, but please do so in the above thread.

:focus:
My question is the following: someone has some expectations from you (either spoken or unspoken), you do not meet those expectations for whatever reason, the person is unhappy. Are you responsible for his/her unhappiness?

Metta

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:31 am

Puppha,

Quite simply: no. You are responsible, however, for your own actions and the intentions which underlie them. Sounds like a difficult situation and a delicate one at that. I wish you all the best. Metta. :heart:

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby SDC » Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:22 pm

puppha wrote:Are you responsible for his/her unhappiness?


Responsible? No. Happiness/unhappiness comes from how a person thinks and you cannot be responsible for that. An influence on their happiness or unhappiness? Absolutely.

With any relationship that you value, you should give it your best to make adjustments towards one another’s way of thinking if you want to prevent resentment and anger.

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby santa100 » Tue Sep 04, 2012 3:39 pm

puppha wrote:
"If the above thread is too long, you can get an idea by knowing that she says I am sending my child to hell because I am teaching her a false religion. You get the idea."

Maybe the root cause isn't your wife but because of the congregation she goes to. If the priest or the environment there constantly bombard her with the wrong messages, her thought WILL be influenced. To be safe, check it out for your self, go with your wife to her Church and investigate closely what they preach to her. If it turns out to be one of those churches with extremist viewpoints, switch to a different church that preaches tolerance and compassion for other religions. Good luck..

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby puppha » Thu Sep 06, 2012 8:57 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Quite simply: no. You are responsible, however, for your own actions and the intentions which underlie them.

That's a very sound and sensible proposition! I agree with that.

SDC wrote:Responsible? No. Happiness/unhappiness comes from how a person thinks and you cannot be responsible for that. An influence on their happiness or unhappiness? Absolutely.

I agree with that also. I think the first thing is to be harmless. to avoid doing any harm to other beings. Before trying to do good to other, we should try to avoid evil deeds, words and thoughts.

SDC wrote:With any relationship that you value, you should give it your best to make adjustments towards one another’s way of thinking if you want to prevent resentment and anger.

Indeed. Until I am very advanced on the path, I would have difficulties keeping my equanimity if it is not reciprocal, though (at least up to a certain point).

Thanks for your comments!

Metta

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby Hanzze » Thu Sep 06, 2012 9:44 am

puppha wrote:My question is the following: someone has some expectations from you (either spoken or unspoken), you do not meet those expectations for whatever reason, the person is unhappy. Are you responsible for his/her unhappiness?

Metta

One is always him/herself responsible for his own unhappiness.

So what makes you unhappy in this (your?) case? There are no musts but there are always wants.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Re: How to deal with expectations of other people

Postby ground » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:05 am

It is about marriage and its possible fruits. That is what karma and its fruition is about isn't it? You get married and you get the fruits of this karma.
How to deal with it? :shrug:


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