[W]hat is . . . relationship generally based on? Is it not based on so-called interdependence, mutual assistance? At least we say it is mutual help, mutual aid and so on, but, actually, apart from words, apart from the emotional screen which we throw up against each other, what is it based upon? On mutual gratification, is it not? If I do not please you, you get rid of me, if I please you, you accept me either as your wife or as your neighbour or as your friend. That is the actual fact.
So, relationship is sought where there is mutual satisfaction, gratification, and when you do not find that satisfaction you change relationship, either you divorce, or you remain together but seek gratification elsewhere or else you move from one relationship to another till you find what you seek, which is satisfaction, gratification and a sense of self-protection and comfort. . . .
We talk about love, we talk about responsibility, duty, but there is really no love, and relationship is based on gratification, the effect of which we see in the present civilization. The way we treat our wives, children, neighbours, friends is an indication that in our relationship there is really no love at all. It is merely a mutual search for gratification and as this is so, what then is the purpose of relationship? What is its ultimate significance?
Surely, if you observe yourself in relationship with others, do you not find that relationship is a process of self-revelation? Does not my contact with you reveal my own state of being if I am aware, if I am alert enough to be conscious of my own reaction in relationship?
So relationship really is a process of self-revelation which is a process of self-knowledge and in that revelation there are many unpleasant things, disquieting, uncomfortable thoughts, activities and since I do not like what I discover I run away from a relationship which is not pleasant to a relationship which is pleasant. So, relationship has very little significance when we are merely seeking mutual gratification, but relationship becomes extraordinarily significant when it is a means of self-revelation and self-knowledge.
So what are our intimate relationships based on? What are marriages based on?
Two people meet, date, and decide to marry. Why? There are probably as many reasons for marrying as there are marriages. Some marry primarily for love, for children, for the steady access to a sexual partner, for the tax break, because they want a companion, because they’ve found “The One,” because they’re tired of being single, because they want to try something different than the single life, et cetera. People’s primary and secondary and tertiary, et cetera, motives for marrying will vary from person to person.
Krishnamurti’s point in the above excerpt is that relationships are invariably going to be about getting, receiving. We just can’t escape this. There’s no escaping that there’s no such thing as pure altruism: the giver always receives something in return.
K’s question is what are we primarily trying to get from our marriage or an intimate relationship? Sex? Comfort? Companionship? Security? Financial Aid? Gratification of one sort or another.
Or something different? Self-knowledge? An increase in our awareness/consciousness?
Self-knowledge & self-revelation, though, are not ends in themselves, but parts of a process that can either lead to greater self-centeredness, pettiness, manipulativeness, and narcissism/navel-gazing, or that can lead to greater virtue and growth.
When we value a relationship as a means of self-knowledge and self-revelation for the sake of growing up and becoming less self-centered and less petty, and instead becoming more Loving and generous and appreciative, then we are engaging in what in Buddhist terminology is “Right Relationship.”
But when we value the self-knowledge and self-revelation that we gain from an intimate relationship to become better connoisseurs of our own self-centered gratifications and hedonistic tendencies, then we are not engaged in right relationship. In fact, we are not even really relating to the other person, but rather using him or her, valuing the other person (our supposed “partner”) as a tool or prop or means, not an end-in-him- or herself.
And what about children?—isn’t that a valid reason to enter into a marriage or intimate relationship? Sure . . . But what kind of parents does any child want?—Two people who are highly dependent on each other and basically using each other for personal gratification, security, comfort—in short, two people who are using each other as substitutes for personal growth and self-development? Two people who are needy and dependent and underdeveloped and don’t have any real time or attention for their child, or even really know much about how to raise a child? Or two parents who are committed to trying to grow up and mature emotionally and spiritually, two people who are committed to becoming more aware of how selfish and petty and narcissistic they can, two people who are committed to seeing how manipulative and exploitative they can be, two people who are committed to becoming better parents, two people who are deeply intent on trying to love each other (and their child), be good to each other, respect each other, be responsible, financially disciplined (not good little mindless consumers), and to role model all of this for their children?
So why are you in the intimate relationship you are in?