There is an interesting item at

The general drift is that marriage is broadly good for men but not for women and that having children brings a lot of stress that can have unfortunate consequences. This is not the first time that researchers have come to this conclusion.

The article ends with the important remark that this is a subject hidden under a strong social taboo which makes honest discussion virtually impossible. People say very different things when their spouse is in the room and when he/she is not.

The happiest group turns out to be childless spinsters. If you are female and want to live long and be happy don't marry and don't have children is the basic message. This, of course, flies in the face of what everyone is supposed to say and believe. When somebody gets married or has a baby we all say congratulations, but according to the research they have probably shortened their life and set the scene for a lot of misery that they might otherwise have avoided.

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Another example of social conditioning backfiring and producing more repression and insanity!! makes me feel a bit better about being celibate though!!(  ,

Namo Amida Bu,

It depends. Having a child has been both the most difficult and the most rewarding experience of my life. The love engendered by my son is a treasured gift. I consider myself very lucky as there are absolutely no guarantees of that love so it is always possible that one can pour ones heart into raising a child only to be bereft of any positive results.

Yes, nothing is guaranteed and research only shows what comes out most frequently, leaving many exceptions. A woman aged 107 was recently asked to what she attributed her longevity and she said "Eat Italian and don't get married."

Yes, I think that's very true for women especially.

Any kind of intimate relationship (any ages, any sexes, any numbers of partners involved) becomes intensive work at times. Even for an “unmarried and childless women” life can be utterly challenging.

I have often talked with people who feel profoundly lonely. Some suffer from an alienated relationship, others from not having a relationship at all, again others (women and men) painfully suffer because they have no children.

Many people are unhappy because they feel alienated from their own needs and dreams. In a way, they miss a place of inner home and belonging. Therefore, I do not believe in the importance of the question “Marriage or no marriage?” and “Children or no children?” We will never be able to create the perfect outer circumstances for happiness and keep them unchanged.

Relationships and intimacy are a challenge, because it is so easy to fall into some old destructive or deadly boring patterns (particularly when we become parents…) But what would a marriage / relationship look like, if the partners make it a field of awareness? Exploring intimacy? Exploring fears? Exploring the depths and varieties of love?

The article contains the remarkable sentence “many parents might secretly agree with a famous academic colleague who “said that he liked the existence of his children but not their presence”. This is not my experience. I love my children (15 and 17 years) and enjoy spending time together, as we always have. And yet, bringing them up is one of the most challenging aspects of my Dharma practice.  


Tineke Osterloh said:

Any kind of...

Thank you for this comment, Tineke. Many interesting observations. If I pick out one phrase...

“Many people are unhappy because they feel alienated from their own needs and dreams.”

Do you mean that they are unable to attain their “needs and dreams” or do you mean that they have “needs and dreams” but reject or distance themselves from them? Also, is there a difference between feeling alienated and actually being alienated? Is it a delusion that one is alienated? Also, are “needs” actually “dreams”?

I know of instances where the worst thing that happened to a person was that they attained their dream. While they were working toward it they had purpose. When it was attained they had disappointment. Actually this “worst thing that happened” can sometimes turn out to be the best thing in the long run because the disillusion may lead to greater wisdom, but not always.

Perhaps this is why people sometimes alienate themselves from their dreams because to arrive might be devastating. It might be safer never to actually go there. The fantasy might be more soothing than the reality.

Also, the sense of need is a slippery thing. Is there anything that we reaally need in an absolute sense? Need is always related to a purpose - a dream. In order to fulfil one’s dream one needs this and that, which might or might not be to hand. So one then extends oneself trying to obtain the necessary resource. The woman wants a child, so she puts herself about to get a suitable man, for instance.

The man might like the existence of children (because it satisfies his wife) but not their presence (because they take her away from him). Dreams have needs and people only have needs inasmuch as they are captured by a dream. There must be many marriages where the centre of the man's dream is the woman, but the centre of the woman's dream is the child. The marriage then rests upon a tacit bargain which sometimes works well, but not always. Becoming consciously aware might destroy this unspoken balance.

Perhaps relationships actually form mainly to attempt a satisfaction of desires that are never fully admitted. If the truth were out completely the relationship might no longer serve any purpose.

These are just a few thoughts stimulated by your excellent contribution. Thank you.

Thank you for your interesting thoughts, David. I much appreciate your answer.

I agree, that, in an absolute sense, there is no “need”. However, from a psychological point of view, I find it important to be in touch with one’s needs and taking care of them. Of course, I do not only mean basic needs like sleep, food, water, but also psychological needs.

When I wrote “Many people are unhappy because they feel alienated from their own needs and dreams” I had particularly those women (and men as well) in mind who look after anybody else’s needs in the family or in a relationship. They tend to overlook what they need themselves in order to be in balance and flower in life. Some of them are so out of touch with their own needs, they might not even feel how exhausted they are – or despite feeling the exhaustion they ignore it and carry on.  

It might be a specific misunderstanding that leads to this situation: the belief that to love someone means to always be available to help and serve. From that point of view the other person’s needs will continuously be placed above one’s own needs. Taking care of the other person seems to be more important than taking care of oneself.

Subjectively one might see the uninterrupted readiness to help as a proof or expression of one’s own love for the other person. In addition, it might sustain the feeling of being worthy of the other person’s love in return, or even a feeling of deserving their love. Expectations can build up. Of course, this can lead to a lot of tensions with the partner or family members. Because the motivation behind this kind of altruism is the wish (or shall we say: subtle demand) to be loved in return for the endless help. It can (and will) put the other person under pressure. He or she might develop the constant feeling of owing something to the helper. So, may be, the helping is not quite as unselfish as it seemed to be in the first place?

It is remarkable and sad that the same women and men who are all too ready to always help their partner and family, often feel selfish and even guilty, when asked about their own needs. Perhaps it would be truly helpful for themselves and their relationships to actually open up to their own needs and get in touch with them. Not every need is a greed. It is just about taking care of oneself in an adult way. It is an endeavor to greater strength, freedom and love.

Remember the story of Shakyamuni, at the point when he had been into ascetic practice, neglecting his most basic needs. Sujata, the woman who came by and helped him back into balance is like the personification of selfcare. She just sees the need for food and kindness, and she comes back with a bowl of sweet milk rice and feeds the sadhu. (Actually, I interpret this story in the way that the strong-willed Shakyamuni and the compassionate Sujata are personifications of certain powers in our mind, rather than seeing them as man and woman.)

I think it is important for each partner (men and women) to take care of their individual needs as well as offering help to each other.

Thanks again, David, I hope we continue this interesting exchange.



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