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What the Japanese Art of Kintsugi Taught Me About Relationships

In defense of fixing things rather than throwing them away

By Margaret PanPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash

If someone asked you where do you turn to for relationships/love advice what would you answer?

Your parents.

Your friends.


Articles written by psychologists/relationships experts.

These are the obvious answers. And although all of the above options can give you some valuable insight into the fascinating world of relationships, the truth is that we can learn a lot about love and relationships from even the simplest things around us.

For example, some time ago I read this article about growth, published in Psychology Today, that mentioned kintsugi— a Japanese art that has been practiced since ancient times. Kintsugi literally means “golden joinery”, and is the art of repairing cracked pottery with gold-painted glue and displaying them as precious works of art.

It looks like this:

Photo by Steenaire, CCBY 2.0, via Flickr

When a plate slips from our hands and shatters on the floor, most of us don’t think twice: we sweep up the pieces and throw them away. In Japan, however, rather than disregarding the broken piece of pottery as ruined, people put it back together and consider it more beautiful for having been broken.

In today’s society, where we so easily throw everything away — whether it is objects, plans, or people — this Japanese art is a revolutionary, beautiful way to look at things and a great example of how we should approach our relationships: instead of walking out when the first problems start surfacing, we should be patient enough to stick around and try to fix them.

For me, kintsugi is more than a form of art I admire: it has been a great tool that helped me reframe my mindset when it came to the way I approached my relationships, including the one with myself.

What follows are the lessons I learned from this lovely form of art that I hope will prove helpful to you, as well.

You Should Embrace Imperfection (Yours and Your Partner’s)

More often than not, a major cause for breakups is people feeling like their partner isn’t good enough.

I’m not talking about toxic relationships or scenarios where a person abuses, mistreats or neglects their partner. In these cases, the other person definitely deserves better. I’m talking about the cases when someone leaves their partner just because they have seen (and didn’t like) the latter’s flaws.

How many times have you heard something along the lines of “I know that my boyfriend/girlfriend treats me with much love and respect, but I just can’t stand the fact that they’re being *insert any flaw*”?

The first and the most crucial thing the art of kintsugi has taught me, is to embrace imperfection — both mine and my partner’s. I used to be a harsh critic and strongly criticize mine and other people’s flaws. It took me a while to fully accept that there are no perfect people (myself included) and no perfect relationships.

I’ve come to understand that we all have our broken parts — our flaws and weaknesses — but they are what make us beautiful and unique. When someone is brave enough to show you their weaknesses, you should accept and appreciate them — not run away in pursuit of someone “perfect”.

Affection is always greater than perfection.

When Things Get Ugly, You Should Fight Instead of Leaving

“A relationship is like a house. When a lightbulb burns out you do not go and buy a new house, you fix the light bulb” — Unknown

My mother used to tell me that when she was young, people always fought for their relationships: instead of walking away after the first fight, they worked together with their partners to fix the various problems that surfaced.

Now, it’s the other way around. Fighting to fix your relationship is the exception; when the initial sparks start fading away and the early bliss dies out we prefer to end things and browse for our next (potential) partner on the newest dating app.

My first thought when I learned about the art of kintsugi was, “If people put in that kind of effort to repair their cracked pottery, imagine the lengths they are willing to go to keep their relationship going”.

Kintsugi encouraged me to see the beauty of putting back together the broken pieces instead of throwing them away. To work hard, be patient, and try to put back together the things I care about, even if I have to start from zero.

Don’t take the easy way out. Remember, a “perfect” relationship consists of two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.

You Shouldn’t Hide Your Broken Parts From Your Partner

When we first start dating someone new, most of us want to appear perfect and tend to hide our broken parts, because we think they will make us seem weak or inadequate. Sometimes, even when we’re in a long-term relationship we might still be ashamed to reveal every part of ourselves — especially the wounded, broken ones.

Or at least, that’s how I used to feel. I grew up in a toxic environment, that resulted in me stepping into adulthood with a lot of undealt trauma — something I made sure to hide from everyone, for a very long time.

There’s one quote by Keanu Reeves that goes,

“Every struggle in your life has shaped you into the person you are today. Be thankful for the hard times, they can only make you stronger.”

That’s another thing the art of kintsugi taught me: to honor my broken parts and not see them as something I should be ashamed of — and hide.

It made me see that repairing a broken plate or bowl with golden filling makes the piece more beautiful, and is a way of showing that the piece has a valuable history. And that’s exactly how I should view my broken pieces: as something that reflects my unique journey and my ability to grow and heal.

Rather than hiding your scars from your partner, you should own them and be thankful for the lessons they taught you. After all, the right partner should accept and appreciate everything you are, with everything you have — and that includes your emotional wounds.

Final Thoughts

Transforming broken things into works of beauty is something we should all use as an example when it comes to the way we approach our relationships, including the relationship we have with ourselves.

In today’s throwaway culture, when something is broken we are encouraged to throw it away, instead of taking the time to fix it. We think that almost anything can be replaced with something newer, or better, and that includes our relationships.

Kintsugi challenges us to change our way of thinking and teaches us the following powerful lessons:

  • We shouldn’t look down on our partner’s imperfections and leave them for the sake of finding the perfect partner — that person doesn’t exist. Everyone is imperfect, including ourselves, and that’s something we should accept and embrace. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding our perfectly imperfect match.
  • When things start getting tricky and complicated, we shouldn’t take the easy way out and throw our relationship away. You can’t expect things to be always easy. It takes a lot of work, patience, and effort to build and sustain a successful relationship.
  • There’s no reason to hide your broken parts, scars, and emotional wounds from your partner out of fear they will make you look weak and good enough. The truth is, our scars are what make us unique, reflecting our individual journeys and our ability to grow and heal — and the right person will love you for them.


About the Creator

Margaret Pan

Words have power.

I write about relationships, psychology, personal development, and books.

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