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No Bullshit Buddhist Advice: Heart Connections

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Two questions this week about connecting with another: one romantic, the other a deep friendship. NBSBA’s Cliff Notes version of this week’s addition is that a true connection to another is something to honored and cared for if you wish it to continue. To submit a question, visit this page.

Dear No Bullshit Buddhist Advice,

I’ve got a love conundrum.

There are two women I am attracted to in very different ways. They are both smart, compassionate, and beautiful. But one I am much more physically attracted to, and the other I am more emotionally attracted to. Complicating this is that I am recently out of a long-term committed relationship, and I am, how do you say, single and ready to mingle? I kind of want to mess around with everyone, and I also want the deep emotional connection of a committed relationship. What do I do?

Signed,
Single and Ready to Mingle…Mindfully

Dear SARTMM,

Oh goodness! The difficulty of choosing.  It sounds like a lot is going on for you–in terms of emotional needs, physical desires, the rational mind trying to integrate and negotiate all three. Let’s take a second to parse this out.

First things first: If you find yourself unable to choose, you probably aren’t ready to choose. At minimum, your head and your heart should probably be on the same page before proceeding. If your loins make it a hat-trick, that’s great, but so many people deal with desires that run up against their hearts and heads that it’s a lot to ask. Even in a happy and sated relationship, you may find yourself attracted to someone’s backside that doesn’t belong to your sweetie.  In other words, desire is inevitable, even if as practitioners of Buddhism we try to lessen its power over our existence.

Second thing: Heart connections are rare. I’m of the opinion that while there are plenty of people you might fancy, and that might fancy you, (physically at least), in this great big world, a true connection from one heart to another is pretty rare. Personally, I would be more inclined to pursue that. But again, see the first part of Point 1. This is your decision. I’m just here to offer perspective.

Third thing: I’m glad you aren’t just being a jerk and proceeding pell-mell into relationships with both women. Even if both of them happen to be fine with an open relationship, something is stopping you from engaging in that practice.

Fourth thing: I would also not discount the possibility of the heart connection growing with the extra-physically-foxy lady, nor would I discount the possibility of the loins being more and more inflamed for the extra-emotionally-foxy lady. All the more reason to reread Point 1.

In short, sounds like you need to ruminate more on this. I do hope that (soon) you have a good caucus of agreement between all your parts.

Much love,
NBSBA

Dear No Bullshit Advice,

I’ve had a good friend since the end of college. We bonded over being the “different” ones (aka queer and POC) in our small Deep South college town, being from the same part of the country (aforementioned Deep South), our family background, blah blah blah. In some respects I found our friendship my first true friendship. I could really be myself with her!

I moved to the West Coast following college but we stayed in close touch, visiting often.  I really consider/ed her my best friend.

Cut to the present–she moved to the Bay Area, near me, and I was totally ready and excited to resume our friendship in real life. But something was off…I could tell she was holding something back, and after a few months of her being super awkward with me, she tells me she is dating a dude, to my complete shock. I’m having trouble feeling okay about this, and to be honest I can’t quite tell whether I am more upset about the weirdness/dishonesty from her, or the fact that the thing that once bound us (queerness) is no longer a connection.

I’m having trouble moving past my anger, and feel conflicted about how to engage her. On the one hand, I feel very self-righteous about her just being an “ally” now. On the other hand, I’m happy she is dating someone she likes. On my third hand, I feel sad about our friendship weakening….

HELP ME MANAGE MY FEELINGS!

Signed,
Our Friendship is Different, Now What?

Dear OFIDNW,

Oh sweetie. All the feelings! My goodness. You know, it’s natural to grieve a change in a relationship, even if it isn’t a loss, per se. I won’t get all Elizabeth Kubler-Ross on you, but you appear to have touched on denial, anger, and depression in the stages of grief. There are two imperatives you need to consider in your situation: first, how to care for yourself and your feelings, and second, how to reconnect with your friend and clear the air–if you so desire.

For what it’s worth, I have published your question with the one above because there is a theme in common: heart connections are rare! There, I said it again. On the second imperative, I do hope you decide to try to clear the air with your friend (even if you think she should be the one doing the air-clearing) because the joy of having someone in your life who has known you for a very long time, who you were able to truly express yourself to and with, is special. Fondness builds slowly, and makes a strong foundation. Even if your friendship has changed, and you are not as close as you once were.

But first things first: how do you care for yourself and your feelings? How to handle your anger, your sadness, your shock, even your happiness? There are some strains of Buddhism that are emotion-negative, which I don’t particularly cotton to. For me, the beauty Buddhism sees in a new flower bud or the sky at dusk isn’t so different from a feeling of ecstasy or of grief–except in one crucial way: emotions can meld with ego. Ego upholds the illusion of separate self.

All that to say: feelings are real, feelings are valid, but they are best not allowed to become the controlling factors in actions and outlook, because of the way they operate in conjunction with ego. For you, this means caring for your emotions, especially the “negative” ones, so that they may simply exist and not vex you excessively. This is an exercise in equanimity for you.

Your second imperative is optional: how to “clear the air” with your friend should you choose to try. Beginning Anew is a Plum Village practice that sets out four steps that can help clear resentment and…begin anew, for lack of a better word. Be aware that this practice is not just about sharing what the other person did to hurt you–you also will have to examine yourself for any unskillfulness.  The four steps are: 1. Sharing appreciation for one another; 2. Share any regrets you may have for ways you have behaved; 3. Express your hurt arising from treatment by another, whether intentional or not; 4. Sharing any long-term difficulties or habit energies you may have, and asking for support from your friend/community. Beginning Anew is a non-judgmental way to handle any new or long term wonkiness in a relationship, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s kind of a Buddhist shit sandwich.

Good luck OFIDNW!
NBSBA

Comments (2)

  • Megan

    Wait, does she identify as straight now, and not as queer anymore? Being with a dude doesn’t mean her entire sexual identity changes.

  • Jane

    Hey Megan–I had the same thought. It was unclear in the original query I got, and I agree with you that queerness and being with someone of the opposite sex are not incompatible.

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