YOUTH IN FOCUS: I’m a 22 year old woman, and I’m planning to get married soon.  I have known my boyfriend for six months and I trust him, but because many of my friends have discovered that their partner has been be cheating on them, I want him and his family to sign a legal agreement that he will not cheat on me. Some friends think it is good idea but others think it is useless. Lam, what do you think?

PW, Thimphu

Well, I think a relationship should be based on trust, and not held together out of fear of legal repercussions. These days, I see everyone reaching for a legal stamp as a means to cement even the smallest kind of agreement. Of course, in some cases, a legally recognised document can save future misunderstandings. At the same time, we should realise that fear and force generally do not lead to positive results.

Take a work agreement as an example. It is not uncommon for employers to expect their workers to sign a one or two year contract before taking up employment. Of course, it is helpful if staff commit to a job for long periods. However, I feel that they should do so because they want to stay and because the owners want to keep them. If they merely continue in a particular job because they fear legal action, then they are unlikely to work well or with passion. Instead, I feel that an employer should offer good working conditions and a decent salary as a means to retain their staff. Likewise, an employee should use hard work and loyalty as a way to keep his or her job. In this way, the atmosphere in the work place will be positive and both sides will be happy to be in a long-term work relationship.

It is the same with a marriage. If both sides care for each other and there is mutual respect, then it is unlikely that one of them will get lost. And, even if one of the partners does contemplate cheating on the other, then what is point of threatening legal action to prevent this from happening or to pull them back? Basically, for a relationship to be healthy, both sides should stay together out of feelings of mutual respect and love. If they remain in a relationship only because they fear legal action, then there is no benefit of staying together and they may as well break up.

Personally, I think that rather than pursue legal options to hold onto your partner, it would be more productive to work on creating an environment where there is respect and trust. As a simple example, think of a relationship like the development of a tree. In order for a tree to be strong and to produce healthy fruit, it needs to be nurtured and given the right conditions for growth, such as sufficient moisture, warmth and nutrition. Using force in this situation will be useless and, in fact, may even kill the tree. Similarly, fear of legal action cannot be the basis of a successful marriage or positive work relationship. In fact, in the same way that force might kill a tree, too much mistrust and too many demands will damage the relationship. Instead of writing legal documents, I personally recommend that both sides spent their time and energy to develop a positive home environment. In this respect, they need to work on building mutual trust, respect and a sense of loyalty.

On a concluding note, I strongly recommend that you do not have a child with your partner until your relationship is stable and you have the financial means to take care of a baby. Unfortunately, it is very common these days to see a couple having a child within the first year of their relationship and then breaking up. In such scenarios, the child is the big loser. Personally, I suggest that you spend one or two years in a relationship before making it permanent. And, even then, I recommend that you do not rush into having a baby, but instead wait until both of you feel you are mentally and financially prepared to raise a child. Giving a child the love and care it needs to develop into a well-adjusted and caring adult is a full-time responsibility and it should not be taken lightly.

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.

Email to for any queries


Skip to toolbar