Youth in focus: I’m a married guy with one son. I have a good relationship with my wife, but recently I started hanging out with a woman who works in my office (also married). I am getting increasing drawn towards my co-worker. I feel guilty, but don’t want to turn back.  What should I do?

Confused Guy, Thimphu

Well, Confused Guy, I think you need to take your responsibility seriously. Having a family is not a joke.  A child is not a toy that can be discarded when we see something that appears more attractive.

Actually, all of us need to recognise that our action has consequences – not only for us, but also for our family, friends, community and even our planet – and so we sometimes need to apply breaks to our impulses. That does not mean that we become boring people who are always cautious and scared to step into unknown territory. Definitely, there are times when we should leap into situations with curiosity and have the courage to face whatever comes up. At the same time, our thoughts, words or deeds should not be the cause of other’s pain and misery.

Actually, we all find ourselves in situations where something momentarily attracts our attention and we are tempted to grab it, but we need to look at the bigger picture. How many people, for example, are regularly confronted with the possibility to steal money? How many husbands or wives are momentarily tempted to date someone else’s partner? How many people just want to lie in bed and not turn up for work? Each day we are tempted by short term gains, but we need to consider the long term consequences.

Actually, grasping at desires is like taking a drug – there is an immediate high, but it is soon followed by a down and then there is a craving for another high. This is how it is with your situation. Once the initial excitement of your new relationship subsides, you will again need stimulation. Pandering to desires to gain happiness is like drinking salt water to quench a thirst.

Now, I’m not saying that people have to stay in relationships that are not working. In fact, it is perfectly acceptable to end a marriage that is creating misery for both sides and cannot be saved. However, the decision to do so should come only after a long deliberation and be of mutual consent, not because one of the partners is feeling bored and wants to play around.

So, how can you solve your dilemma or similar ones? Well, everything starts in the mind. If you want to visit Siliguri, for example, you must first have the thought to go there and then that thought needs to be developed. If you do not have the initial thought to go to Siliguri or it is not developed, you will not even begin the journey. It is the same with all our action. A thought appears in the mind and then we build on it until it becomes a reality.

Therefore, to prevent future problems, I suggest that you deal directly with the source – your thoughts. Basically, once you recognise that a specific thought is leading you in a negative direction, don’t play with it. Don’t fantasise about the results. In your case, that means you don’t start imagining yourself with your co-worker or day dreaming about her.

However, it is difficult to stop fantasising or day dreaming about things that bring us pleasure, and so you should use the antidote of considering the consequences of your action – basically, as soon as thoughts of your co-worker come to mind imagine the crying face of your child as he’s sees his dad permanently leave the home. Feel your wife’s pain when she finds out that you are having an affair. Consider your own loss of self-respect.

So, to answer your question, I suggest that you do not let temporary pleasure blind you to the reality of long term consequences. Instead, at the very moment a negative impulse arises in the mind, be aware of it and then sever its development by seriously thinking of the consequences.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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