Confirming the old adage that money cannot by happiness, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, with a net worth of $137 billion, is divorcing from his wife of 25 years. On the other hand, extensive research by the Gottman Institute has shown that one of the traits of a successful marriage is affluence, but of a much different type; that of a hefty emotional bank account. Results showed, that for a marriage to endure there must be a minimum of five positive interactions to one negative. The greater the positive ratio the more contented the marriage. Great marriages often have at least a 20:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.
We would expect that as Vaishnavas with a philosophy expounding the highest values of compassion, kindness, equal vision and respect for all that positive interactions would be a given. In reality we often see individuals with poor relationships either in their marriages or in their community. Why is our practical application not in alignment with our philosophical understanding? After all, it is stated that one who engages in unalloyed devotional service automatically develops all the qualities of the demigods. (SB 5.18.12)
Automatic advancement comes by diligently endeavoring towards unalloyed bhakti by following the process of hearing and chanting and learning to control the mind according to standards of Vaishnava behavior. As Krishna says, “One must deliver himself with the help of the mind and not degrade himself.” (BG 6.5) In other words, increase deposits and reduce withdrawals and stop making offenses. As one small boy succinctly responded when asked how to solve relationship problems, “They should just be nice to each other.”
Srila Prabhupada often commented that conditioned souls have been in contact with material nature since time immemorial. That’s a lot of conditioning to overcome. It can be overcome (automatically so to speak) “by constant practice and detachment” as Krsna says in Bhagavad Gita 6.35. Learning to see how, in each event of undesirable stimulus, we have an opportunity between provocation and response to unconsciously react negatively, and make a withdrawal from our emotional account, or choose to make a deposit, by consciously responding from our higher self with compassion.
Marriage affords one many potentially prosperous opportunities to practice the qualities of pure devotional service: mutual selflessness, forgiveness, asking forgiveness, patience, kindness and love. These actions build emotional bank balances.
With compassion, even our differences can become an asset. We often advise ladies, who react by complaining that their husbands never talk to them, to rephrase this as a compassionate request. Express to your man how meaningful it is to you when they listen. That you feel understood, loved and protected when your husband emphatically listens . And also, ask your husband what he needs to feel connected. Is a positive result more possible from a complaint or a compassionate request?
Healthy couples nurture the beneficial exchanges of bhakti in each other, enabling them to live a life of true fortune, in a Krishna consciousness grihastha ashram, in any economic situation, rich or poor. $137 billion cannot buy this.