A dramatic paradox of marriage is that qualities which originally attract a couple, in time can become a source of irritation. Is this a hopeless flaw of the creation or an enigma beckoning our understanding?
Scene one, Everything’s Perfect, We’re in Heaven. Rama had become attracted to Manjari, a carefree extroverted life of the party, who brought him out of his shell. Manjari, who also tended to be a bit disorganized, became attracted to the soothing atmosphere of the organized introvert, Rama dasa.
In Scene Two, Everything Will Be Perfect If You Change, unfolds in Rama dasa and Manjari’s marriage as the honey moon stage wears off. Previously unnoticed differences become progressively prominent. Qualities originally attractive now cause exasperation. Rama, the introvert feels a need to stay home and read and starts to resent being dragged out to social events. Now, Manjari feels stifled by his insistence on staying home and resentful of the constant complaints of the “mess” she leaves everywhere.
In Scene Three, the drama devolves as the waves of discord become stronger. Each feels devalued, that they are not accepted, and criticism reigns.
If not checked, this type of behavior could turn Scene Three into a cacophony of resentment and contempt and could possibly trigger the tsunami of a divorce. Let’s stop things here, edit the script and put a twist in the plot.
We can rewrite these elements of discord to become a catalyst for deeper and more meaningful connection. Couples often feel solace in discovering it is normal to have growing pains in marriage and that it is possible to acquire skills to navigate the storms, learn what they can change and to become respectful of their differences.
In marriage there are forces that create harmony and generate discord. In successful marriages there is a third element of synergy, which brings the disharmony back into synchronization. This energy comprises elements of humility, tolerance and respect intertwined in loving devotional service. Do I hear someone chanting, trinad-api sunicena….?
We have the wonderful example of relationship repair in Srimad Bhagavatam, when Arjuna apprehended Asvatthama, who had committed a horrendous murder. Bhima wanted the culprit to be severely punished where as his wife, Draupadi wanted him spared. Bhima and Draupadi during the tense situation, both gave valid sastric evidence supporting their positions.
Finally Krishna gave Arjuna a unique hint for a resolution. The hint was to encourage Arjuna to find a solution in which Bhima, Draupadi and Krishna Himself would be all be satisfied. Now that’s something to remember in the heat of disagreements. Everyone should come away satisfied.
Arjuna took this clue and by his astuteness, severed the jewel from Asvatthama’s hair, which was so insulting; it felt worse than even death.SB 1.7.55
Thus Bhima, Draupadi and Krishna were satisfied. Dissonance was brought into harmony via keeping the center point that it is Krishna’s desire that everyone should be satisfied.
A big aspect of Krishna consciousness behavior, is respecting every one as part and parcel of Krishna. This respect builds trust. If our partner is not satisfied in a situation, we need to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate to find a win-win situation.
The most powerful element to harmonize discord is Krishna consciousness, which Srila Prabhupada described as the panacea for all material problems. SB 4.11.31 The simple realization that Krishna will be satisfied if we jointly collaborate can greatly help to resolve our challenges.
So here is the edited variation of Scene Three of Manjari and Rama discussing their challenge with humility, compassion and respect.
Manjari dasi sensing the increasing tension in their relationship decides to draw on some skills they learned in premarital mentorship.
She approaches Rama, “Can we sit down and talk about connecting, I am worried we are getting a bit distant. I don’t think Krishna would be satisfied with this.
Rama, “For sure, I was hoping you would ask.”
Manjari, “I am guessing you’re getting a bit burned out from me wanting to go out to every event and you would prefer to stay home.”
Rama, “Not exactly. I appreciate that you have helped me to become more social. It’s just that sometimes I need a bit of quite time.
Manjari, “So you do like going out but at the same time you need to balance that with your quite nature.”
Manjari, “What would work for you?”
Rama, “Well, I like to socialize for an hour or two but after that I start getting impatient and need a quite space.”
Manjari, “And I get wrapped up in one conversation after another after you’re ready to go home and you must feel trapped”
Rama, “You nailed it.”
Manjari, “How about you giving me signal when you would like to leave. I really lose track of time when I am talking and I would actually like to get home earlier.”
Rama dasa, “That would be great.”
“And I am sensing that you are getting frustrated with me getting on your case about leaving things all over the house.”
Manjari dasi, “I do feel a bit discouraged and judged when you complain. I am trying to become more organized. When you say things like I leave my stuff ‘ALL over the house,’ I feel hurt.
Rama dasa, “I am sorry for using a generalization like that, it was wrong because I can see that you are making an effort. In the future I will be more careful with my words and also try to be appreciative of the efforts you are making. Please forgive me. Is there anything else I could do?”
Manjari dasi, “It would help if you would request rather than complain. What if we come home earlier from the social events and you help me clean up the house? Then we could sit down together and have some quiet time, reading together.”
Rama dasa, “Super awesome idea. Deal?
Manjari dasi, “It’s a deal.”
As the final curtains close, Rama and Manjari learn the enduring dance of communication. A much nicer ending than having the vehicle of their marriage perpetually stuck in the ruts of discord.
Rama and Manjari’s scenario was condensed for theatrics. Quite likely, due to their different natures it will require an ongoing communication dance to broker a working agreement. The key is to be patient and to keep trying while finding a solution where everyone is happy.
By the Krishna consciousness qualities of compassion, humility and respect a couple can work to become more connected to each other and grow closer to Krishna.