4 Ways to Have Healthy Relationships, Part 2

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche • 5 min read


It all comes down to being aware

As we know, personal relationships can get stuck in an unhealthy pattern. Someone raises their voice in anger at you, and even though you don’t want to, you react by lashing out with cruel words. Of course, you want to change this reaction. To do this, you need to rely on the basic practices of awareness, love and compassion, and wisdom.

I have given many teachings on how to do different types of awareness meditations. Awareness of the breath, of sounds, of sensations of the body, mental recitation, and open awareness meditation.  If you get into the habit of automatically doing these meditations throughout the day, you’ll have an easier time catching yourself before you mindlessly react to a provocation. And as soon as you catch yourself in a bad habit, you begin to truly liberate yourself.

Of course, you’re not going to be free of all your reactive tendencies within a few days — the bad habit will come up again and again. But each time that feeling comes, you try to just watch it with awareness. You observe the sensations in your body, the images that arise, the beliefs and voices in your mind. But it’s not like trying to hunt down every bad habit and kill it. It’s more like catching a butterfly in a net and then letting it go – it’s just catching, observing, letting go. Eventually, this practice will really transform you.

Mr. Control Freak and Mrs. Worrywart

Now, I’d like to share a story that some of you have heard me tell before. This is a true story. Years ago, there was a husband and a wife whose marriage was in a lot of trouble. The main problem was that the husband always wanted to control everything, and the wife was always worrying about every little thing.  From the moment they woke up until the time they went to bed, they bickered and argued. They were really suffering. So they came to me, hoping that I could give them some type of blessing that would instantly remove their relationship problems. When  I broke the news to them that I didn’t have that kind of power, they were a bit disappointed, but they said, “Okay, we’ll take anything you can give us — just please help us.”

So I gave them an instruction: “From today, I want you to spend some time every day discussing positive things about one another. Each of you should try to appreciate qualities about the other, and express gratitude about it for half an hour, every day. Then come back and tell me how it’s going.”

A few weeks later, they came back, and they were like, “Oh, no, half an hour is impossible!” They had tried to follow my advice, but every time they’d begun to discuss each other’s positive qualities, it quickly degenerated into “… But then you do this, and it drives me crazy!” They were feeling like they couldn’t find much good to say, and the half hour seemed super long for them.

So I told them, “Okay, I will give you a discount. It’s not going to be half an hour anymore – only five minutes.” They were very happy with that discount, saying that yes, they could manage a five-minute discussion.

This time, a year went by before they came back to meet with me again. And when they did, they said a half an hour wasn’t enough! Because five minutes was easy, they had begun to find themselves discussing each other’s positive qualities in more depth. And they’d come to realize that actually, they liked each other, they loved each other, and they had kindness and caring for each other.

At the same time, they had really tried to understand one another. Both of them had their own specific, idiosyncratic personalities – and you know, sometimes a personality can’t simply change. But they’d begun to accept that they both had  personalities, and then they added humor to it. They even gave themselves special nicknames. So in their household,  the husband’s new name was “Control Freak,” and the wife’s new name was “Worrywart.” The husband would return from a long day announcing, “The most controlling person in the world has come home!” And the wife would reply, “The most anxious person in the world welcomes you!”

What a wonderful improvement! This couple really tried to be more kind with each other, and learn and grow from one another – the “peaceful and enriching” activities I talked about in Part 1 of this article. The more they did this, the more they inspired one another. They also created better boundaries and rules within the relationship, the “powerful” activity I explained about in Part 1. This was a really positive change.

We all have innate goodness, what we sometimes call our enlightened nature. This basic goodness is our original, pure, fundamental nature. We all have awareness, love and compassion, wisdom, skills, capacities — so much richness within ourselves. In reality, we are all more than what we think we are. To understand each other better, this is really important to remember.

If we could see the whole truth of any situation, our only response would be one of compassion.

– Mingyur Rinpoche –

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In this video, Mingyur Rinpoche discusses the one thing we all have in common: wanting to be happy. He describes how the expression of seeking happiness may differ, but that the fundamental wish is the same.

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About the Author

By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

In his approach to teaching meditation, Mingyur Rinpoche integrates traditional Buddhist practice and philosophy with the current scientific understanding of the mind and mental health – making the practice of meditation relevant and accessible to students around the world. Mingyur Rinpoche is the author of the best-selling book The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, as well as Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom, In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying, and many others.

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