The agonies of love are many and varied. Each person has their own character and personality; they have different backgrounds and circumstances. So there is no set rule that applies equally to everyone . . . Whom a person dates is also a matter of personal choice. No one has any right to meddle in your private affairs.
However, I would like to stress at the outset how important it is not to lose sight of pursuing your own personal development.
Love should be a force that helps you expand your life and bring forth your innate potential with fresh and dynamic vitality. That is the ideal but, as the saying “Love is blind” illustrates, people often lose all objectivity when they fall in love.
If the relationship you’re in is causing your parents to worry, or making you neglect your studies or engage in destructive behavior, then you and the person you’re seeing are only being a negative influence and hindrance to each other. Neither of you will be happy if you both just end up hurting each other.
If you are neglecting the things you should be doing, forgetting your purpose in life because of the relationship you’re in, then you’re on the wrong path. A healthy relationship is one in which two people encourage each other to reach their respective goals while sharing each other’s hopes and dreams. A relationship should be a source of inspiration, invigoration and hope.
Love is a complex matter that is a reflection of each person’s attitude and philosophy toward life. That is why I believe people shouldn’t get involved in relationships lightly.
The bottom line is that, without respect, no relationship will last for very long, nor will two people be able to bring out the best in each other.
Rather than becoming so love-struck that you create a world where only the two of you exist, it is much healthier to learn from those aspects of your partner that you respect and admire, and continue to make efforts to improve and develop yourself. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, once wrote, “Love is not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead together in the same direction.” It follows then that relationships last longer when both partners share similar values and beliefs.
Furthermore, please don’t succumb to the view that love is the be-all and end-all, deluding yourself that as long as you are in love, nothing else matters. Nor, I hope, will you buy into the misguided notion that sinking ever deeper into a painful and destructive relationship is somehow cool.
All too often when a relationship ends, the great passion it once inspired seems nothing more than an illusion. The things you learn through studying, on the other hand, are much more permanent. It is important, therefore, that you never extinguish the flame of your intellectual curiosity.
Far too many people nip their own brilliant promise in the bud because of their blind pursuit of love.
Much of daily life tends to be ordinary and unexciting. Making steady efforts day-to-day can be trying. It’s not always going to be fun. But, when you fall in love, life seems filled with drama and excitement; you feel like the leading character in a novel.
But if you lose yourself in love just because you’re bored, and consequently veer from the path you should be following, then love is nothing more than escapism. What you are doing is retreating into a dream world, believing that what is only an illusion is actually real.
Even if you try to use love as an escape, the fact is that the euphoria is unlikely to last for long. If anything, you may only find yourself with even more problems along with a great deal of pain and sadness. However much you may try, you can never run away from yourself. If you remain weak, suffering will only follow you wherever you go. You will never find happiness if you don’t change yourself from within. Happiness is not something that someone else, like a lover, for instance, can give to you. You have to achieve it for yourself. And the only way to do so is by developing your own character and capacity as a human being; by fully maximizing your potential. If you sacrifice your own growth and talent for love, you will absolutely not find happiness. True happiness is obtained through fully realizing your own potential.
I would also like to add that to embark on a relationship as an escape from something is extremely disrespectful to both your partner and yourself.
Each of you has a precious mission that only you can fulfill . . . To neglect one’s mission and seek only personal pleasure is a sign of selfishness. It is impossible for an egotistic, self-centered individual to truly love another person.
On the other hand, if you genuinely love someone, then through your relationship with them, you can develop into a person whose love extends to all humanity. Such a relationship serves to strengthen, elevate and enrich the inner realm of your life. Ultimately, the relationships you form are a reflection of your own state of life. The same is true of friendship. Only to the extent that you polish yourself now can you hope to develop wonderful bonds of the heart in the future.
Excerpted from Discussions on Youth Vol. 1 by Daisaku Ikeda (SGI-USA, 1998)