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Dear Rinpoche: My Husband and I Have Different Views on Family

A Buddhist meditation master provides guidance on readers’ real-life problems. Here is his advice on handling marital conflict.

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Buddhist Master
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Dear Rinpoche,

I’m having continued fights with my husband because we have very different views of family. To me, family is something that causes stress and anxiety and pain. He is close with his family and loves to spend time with all of its members. We are discussing having children, but I am having a hard time talking about having kids because I’m afraid our family will turn into the negative and unhappy family I was raised in.

Whenever the word family comes up, I feel stressed out, and now it’s causing big fights with my husband because he says it’s time I get over my past issues and embrace starting a family with him. He tells me I need to move on and not think about the past but instead imagine a happy future with him and my future kids. I love my husband, but I still feel very stressed out when thinking about our future family and don’t know if I see myself in a happy family. But I don’t want to divorce my husband, and I know he wants kids. What do I tell him? How can I avoid fighting every few months about this issue, to the point where we talk about separating?

Sincerely,
Divided by Family


Dear Divided,

Family is one of the primary social structures through which we grow, have meaningful experiences, and improve. Individually, we have different experiences, but generally the health of the family comes from our ability to communicate as well as actively develop respect and understanding. We especially need to improve our capacity for sharing. So what I’d like to say is that if you are having difficulty making decisions about this with your husband, you need to look into your own experience and improve yourself, so that you can understand yourself and share more effectively.

Whatever negative experiences you had while growing up do not need to happen in your family. You can decide for yourself what happens in your own family. But I think you clearly see that fighting and quarreling will not solve your issues. Therefore, you and your husband need to genuinely try to understand and listen to each other’s position and, though it may be difficult, make a firm commitment not to scold or fight.

I sometimes feel that being excessively patient is stupid because you don’t say what you feel and the problem grows within yourself. Therefore, it is important to share, but you need to share skillfully, with a respect for the balance in the relationship. Working on yourself as an individual can help you do this.

It may be helpful to do a little bit of meditation. Both of you should try, each morning, to sit in a chair or on a cushion. Keep your spine straight, but not tight, simply relaxing in an upright position. Then, with eyes open and your gaze resting slightly downward in front of you, bring a gentle attention to your breath. You don’t need to control the breath, just softly rest your mind on the sensation of it entering and exiting your nose. Practicing in this way can help bring stability and clarity and make it easier for you to negotiate the stressful ideas about starting a family that you hold.

Also, you can both cultivate loving-kindness by sitting in meditation posture and making the wish that all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. Make this wish again and again and really feel this in your heart. See what it does for both of you to practice this together. I think that loving-kindness practice is very important because in your relationship he wants something and you want something, and this practice can help you reach across to each other.

Sometimes, if your partner isn’t willing to share, the best thing you can do is manage your own mind, be strong, and organize your own thoughts.

With Compassion,
Rinpoche

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