I never promised you a rose garden. –Joe South. In the material world, especially among young girls, the hope prevails that marriage will be a pleasurable affair and that the pleasure will never end. “Happily ever after” is a favorite phrase at the end of practically every romantic fairy tale. The reality is, however, that although pleasures exist in married life, those pleasures are intermittent and short-lived. Because this is the world of dualities, the pleasures of married life are offset by pain. This is the arrangement of the all-merciful Lord.
Such pain manifests in different forms. Besides the pains of old age, disease and death, most couples have children. Thus, not only the woman but also the man experiences the pain of childbirth. The woman directly experiences the discomforts of pregnancy, labor and delivery, while the man experiences the lifelong responsibility of having to figure out how to provide for, protect, and educate his child(ren). Father and mother also both experience anxiety on behalf of their children when the children suffer, and suffer they must. This world is a place of suffering: dukhalayam asasvatam. Man and wife also experience the pain of being misunderstood by each other (married life is fraught with misunderstandings because man and woman think, feel and communicate differently), the pain of being falsely accused, the pain of embarrassment at having disappointed one’s spouse, or feeling the pain of our spouse when he or she is unhappy or frustrated, sick or hurt.
There is usually a strong sexual attraction between husband and wife in the beginning of their marriage which tends to cover over the couple’s perception of the fact that life in the material world is miserable. This intensity of attraction for each other can be misperceived as love, but it is actually a form of lust. Aspiring Vaisnavas who enter into marriage generally experience this strong sexual attraction for their spouse, just as non-Vaisnavas do. Even though Vaisnavas are philosophically aware that they are not their bodies, that marriage is ultimately meant for giving up sex, that sex is meant only for procreation and that Krsna, not our spouse, is the ultimate object of adoration, still, when aspiring devotees are newly married, they usually experience this intense feeling of attraction for one another.
The anticipation of enjoying sexually with each other provides intense mental pleasure to the couple, and as we said before, that sexual magnetism can temporarily cover or dull the couple’s perception of the miseries of life. This strong sexual attraction can last for some number of hours, days, weeks, months, or even years. Eventually the intense attraction lessens, though, and each begins to notice the annoying idiosyncrasies of the other. There are disappointments, and expectations go unmet. The passion of sexual attraction eventually wears down—in some cases it wears off completely—and the reality of what living closely with another person of the opposite sex is all about becomes obvious. The pain, frustration and aggravation concomitant to life within a material body relating with another soul encaged in another material body of the opposite gender in this material world slowly becomes perceptible to the previously enamored couple. This reduction of passionate lust is sometimes a test as to the commitment of the husband to the wife and the wife to the husband, and the joint commitment of both of them together to their marriage as a service to Krsna.
Before we enter into the sacrament of holy matrimony, we should educate ourselves as to the purpose of Krsna conscious marriage. Srila Prabhupada explained that marriage is a sacrifice. He described how a man serves his wife by helping her become Krsna conscious. A woman serves her husband by encouraging him in his efforts to become Krsna conscious. And both of them together serve Krsna and try to please Him by their every thought, word and deed. After some time of being married, when we reach the point of realizing that marriage is not a bowl of cherries or a rose garden, if we’ve made service to our spouse for the pleasure of Krsna the purpose of our marriage, we can more easily accept the reality that our spouse no longer attracts us as he or she did when we first met. We can more easily accept that Krsna is our real lover and that no one in this material world is ever going to completely fulfill us—not a spouse, not children, not grandchildren, not even our best girlfriend or guy friend. Only our eternal, loving relationship with Lord Krsna can completely satisfy us.
If we married couples work on…
1. Always remembering Krsna and never forgetting Him
2. Dedicating our thoughts, words, actions—our very life—to pleasing Him
3. Chanting and hearing His holy names with attention, love and devotion
4. Surrendering to the sound of the holy names with absolute dependence
5. Calling out to Krsna like a child crying to its mother
6. Praying to the Holy Names to give us a taste for His sweetness
7. Reading Srila Prabhupada’s books daily with a sincere desire to understand
…then when the strong sexual attraction between husband and wife wears off and the kleshas of this material world again become apparent, we will be able to maintain our strong service attitude to each other and to Guru and Krsna.
If, on the other hand, a couple has not strived diligently to remain Krsna conscious during the initial days, weeks, months and years of their marriage, they will begin to have trouble relating to each other at the point of losing their sexual attraction for one another, and this can lead to distancing, separation, and in some cases, even divorce.
Dear Lord, please help my husband and me to realize what Krsna conscious marriage is all about. Help us to both have the attitude of encouraging each other in Krsna consciousness. Let us both develop an attitude of service to each other as our service to You, and please increase the desire in our hearts to follow our Guru’s instructions regarding Krsna conscious married life. Lord, please purify our hearts of lust and let our love for You shine through so that we can truly love each other and our children, for Your pleasure.