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Beware of the Three Poisons for Relationships

LindaIn the Buddhist tradition, there is an image known as the wheel of samsara. That wheel is a symbol of the cycle of conditions that go round and round and round.

What the Buddhists say drives the wheel to spin continuously, they call the three poisons: craving (greed), aversion(hatred), and ignorance(delusion). And poisons they truly are because they pollute our mind. If we don’t cleanse ourselves of their effects, they can destroy our relationships.

Craving shows up as demands. Our normal desires to be close can morph into clinging too tightly to our partner. Our ideas and vision for how we want our partnership to be can become encrusted and rigid if we hold too tightly to them. This is not wholesome desire; this is desire driven by attachment. Our greed can push us to attempt to control our partner towards goals that may not be their goals. We are preoccupied with obsessively striving towards the goals we think we must have to be O.K. in the future. While we are coercing our partner to achieve with us that striving prohibits us from enjoying what we have right now.

Aversion comes in the form of resistance, anger, defensiveness, resentment, rage intolerance, hatred, fear, being pushy, controlling, and bullying.We can start to see our partner as an enemy rather than a friend and ally. Instead of drawing our partner more closely to us, our judgmental attitude breeds chronic conflict that pushes them away.

Ignorance shows up as being distracted, spaced out, confused, preoccupied and lacking in being present. By not realizing how crucially important tending to our partnership actually is, other things in our life take the priority position. Common examples are: work, kids, addictions (alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, eating) social media, video games, and even meditation.

What is your growing edge?

When considering the three poisons, we may come to the conclusion that we need to do work in all three areas, but there is usually one that stands out. When we identify the one that needs the most attention, that is our personal work to do to evolve. No matter which poison represents our growing edge, the same remedy applies to each one.

First Step: Mindfulness: The way to cleanse ourselves is to first bring the poison up out of the unconscious mind through non-judgmental awareness. Once we come to understand how much pain these poisonous patterns cause to ourselves and to those around us, we can’t continue to create such suffering any longer.

Second Step: Finding Motivation: It is only when we become aware of the price that we pay for being exposed to these potent toxins can we find the motivation to cultivate healthy patterns. As we are about to speak or behave from our unconscious patterns, we are empowered to make different choices. Then we begin to recover. As the Buddhists say, “the obstacles become the path.”

Third Step: Substituting Skillful Patterns. Once again, the same rules apply to heal any of the poisons. By cultivating alternative ways of being, such as generosity, gratitude, equanimity, compassion, and loving kindness, the relationship will begin to become more trust-filled and harmonious. When wisdom begins to take the place of the contaminating influences, the ultimate result is a deeply fulfilling relationship.

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Beware of the Three Poisons for Relationships


Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at:

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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2019). Beware of the Three Poisons for Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 14, 2019, from


Last updated: 31 Jan 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.