How can a newly married couple new to bhakti strengthen their relationship?
Duration: 10 min
Transcribed by: Sundarinath Das
Question: If we are newly married and new to Krishna consciousness, how can we move to improve our relationship with our spouse?
• As devotees, we see all our relationships with Krishna as the center to that relationship.
• In close relationships, people generally follow emotions and not logic. Hence small things can easily become big.
• If we have a strong relation with Krishna, emotions cannot blow things out of perspective because Krishna provides us emotional security. Hence, stronger our relationship with Krishna, more stable will be our relationship with our spouse.
Answer (long): All relationships are founded on a set of mutual expectations. I expect something from the other person, the other person expects something from me. To the extent those expectations are fulfilled, the relationship becomes stronger; we may feel, that this person cares for me.
The problem is that nobody can fulfill our expectations because no one is perfect. We often have an expectation of perfection from the other person but we ourselves are not perfect.
When we practice bhakti-yoga, we understand that every relationship that I am in, there is a third person also involved. That person is Krishna. We have a relationship with others in this world, but we also have a relationship with Krishna. Sometimes, other people may not behave in a way we expect. Sometimes they may behave in a way that is opposite from what we expect. At such time, we need patience and tolerance. All of us go through bad phases in our lives. We may have bad moods or some other things going wrong in our lives and we may behave in irritable ways. Moreover, all of us have certain sides to our personality which may not be so attractive for others. This is just the way human beings are. If we approach our marital relationship with the idea of tit for tat (the way you behave, I will behave in the same way), then the home becomes Kurukshetra. There would be “cold wars” or even “hot wars” in the relationship. However, when we have Krishna as the third person in our relationship, we understand our eternal relationship with Krishna. Then everything that we do in our other relationships, that helps us to move closer to Krishna. When we focus on “what will please Krishna” and act accordingly, we can act with much more maturity in relationships.
An example can be given here. Suppose there is a person who is an attendant in a cloth shop showing clothes to customers. Now, some customers could be very fussy. They will look at hundreds of dresses and will not purchase even one after that. For such customers, the attendant may have to labor hard by packing and unpacking all the clothes in respective place. Big work! The attendant can get irritated, but if the attendant thinks, “My salary is not coming from this customer. My salary comes from the boss. My boss is watching and he also knows that this is a difficult customer.” Although, the attendant may not make the sale, but if the attendant is courteous and well-behaved, the boss will take note and will appreciate, “You are a cool-headed person. You know how to deal with difficult people.” Despite not making the sale, the boss may well promote the person from an attendant to a supervisor of attendants.
Success of such interaction is not just in making the sale. That is, off course, one dimension of success. However, another important aspect is whether the boss is pleased or not. Similarly, as aspiring devotees, we should see our every interaction as, “This person is behaving annoyingly. I am feeling irritated. How can I respond to this person so that Krishna is pleased?”
It does not mean that each time we have to just accept the “neglect” or “rejection”, but what it means is that we do not let our response be determined by other person’s actions. Our response should be determined by our principles. Sometimes, a strong response may be required. Sometimes, we may have to just tolerate and neglect things. When tolerance comes in the relationships, then small things stay small. We can overlook small things, focus on big things and move forward in that relationship. Having Krishna as the third person in our relationship can help us bring a substantial amount of stability.
One of the biggest problems in relationships, especially in close relationships, is that people are not always logical. Emotions don’t follow logic. That is why, something might be small, but because of the emotions involved, it might become very big. If we have a strong relation with Krishna, emotions cannot blow things out of perspective. In a strong relationship with Krishna, we get our emotional security from Him. Hence, stronger our relationship with Krishna, more stable will be our relationship with others.
Spending due amount of time on our vertical relationship with Krishna will help us. While doing this, we also have to be more understanding of each other. Our spirituality should make us more understanding of each other, not more judgmental of each other. That means, if we are becoming spiritual, we should not think, “I am right, you are wrong.” No. We have to understand that, “For me doing this right thing might be easy, but there are other right things which I am not able to do. Similarly, for somebody else doing this right thing, which is easy for me, may be very difficult.” For example, one can be very cleanliness conscious, but the other person may not be. They may want to change, but old habits take time to change. Cleanliness can appear a very simple thing to one person but for the other- “It is not so simple!” We can understand other person’s perspective by looking at some of our own conditionings. By doing so we can become more sympathetic towards others. Our spiritual practices can help us to become more sympathetic and thus become more understanding to others.
We should learn to see our relationship with others, even our marital relationship, as a service. We should understand that we have come together in this relationship, not just for material gratification but for our spiritual evolution. Sometimes the other person will help us evolve through their nice behavior, but sometimes they help us evolve through their bad behavior as well. If we expect material gratification from our marital relationship, it will not work out, there will be frustration. However, if we keep our purpose of spiritual evolution central in our relationship, then it will bring a substantial amount of stability, maturity and eventually proximity in our relationship with our spouse.