tataḥ tvan nāśajam śokam rāmasya akliṣṭa karmaṇaḥ |
lakṣmaṇo vānara indrāya sugrīvāya nyavedayat ||
There are arguments in marriage; it cannot be denied. If you are living in close quarters with someone day after day, year after year, you are bound to have disagreements. The saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” didn’t just appear from nowhere. The senses in the material world are such that they can never be satisfied. The more you indulge them, the stronger they burn. Bhakti-yoga is like taking a hammer to the teeth of the snake of the material senses. The senses remain, but they don’t exert the same negative influence.
“Shrila Prabodhananda Sarasvati Thakura says, durdantendriya-kala-sarpa-patali protkhata-damshtrayate. The sense organs are certainly our greatest enemies, and they are therefore compared to venomous serpents. However, if a venomous serpent is bereft of its poison fangs, it is no longer fearful. Similarly, if the senses are engaged in the service of the Lord, there is no need to fear their activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.1.17 Purport)
Are there scenarios that are more likely to lead to disagreement than others? Is there a way that a husband and wife can steer clear of the most aggressive forms of disagreement? So many books have been written on the subject, as relationships are more of an art than a science. There are no rules that are absolutely true. What works most of the time, may not in many cases also.
Reciprocation of affection is important in a relationship. One of the best ways to judge affection is to see how the other party deals with separation. In this light, one of the common mistakes made by husbands is to do something along the lines of the following.
“Honey, I had the most fun over the weekend. I played video games with my friends all night on Friday. Then we went snowboarding the next morning. The sun was out, the snow was just right, and there was hardly any wind. I must have gone up and down that mountain at least thirty times in total. Then at night we had the best meal, started with warm hot chocolate. I can’t remember having this much fun on a weekend trip. How was your weekend? What did you do?”
The husband has enthusiastically shared his joy in spending a weekend apart from his wife. It is not that the wife wants her husband to have a bad time when she is not with him. It is not that she is happy at his misery. She just wants to know that he misses her from time to time. Any person would want to feel that way if they have strong affection. The desire is only natural.
In the Supreme Personality of Godhead we find full compassion and empathy. He knows what is in the heart of every living entity, since He stays there through His expansion of the Supersoul. If someone is truly devoted to Him, He reciprocates in every situation. The above quoted verse from the Ramayana gives an example.
Here Shri Hanuman is relating past events to Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. Sita is known for her love and devotion to Rama. She would give up everything for His pleasure. Indeed, she had already done so, renouncing home in favor of following Rama into the wilderness. She always puts her husband’s happiness in front of her own.
Sita was separated from Rama due to the wicked deeds of a Rakshasa named Ravana. Hanuman is Rama’s messenger, and here he is relating how he came to meet Rama. Hanuman is the chief minister to the king of Vanaras, Sugriva. Hanuman arranged a meeting between Rama and Sugriva after meeting Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana in the forest of Kishkindha.
Here Hanuman relates how Lakshmana told Sugriva of Rama’s shoka, or grief, due to the separation from Sita. The Supreme Lord is very kind in this way. Though due to being atmarama, or self-satisfied, He is above anger, frustration, distress and agony, for His devotees He always reciprocates their loving sentiments. Just as Sita feels grief due to being separated from Rama, so too the Lord wishes to be by the side of His beloved wife.
The showing of grief also gives more impetus to Sugriva to offer help. It strengthens the friendship between the two, as Sugriva was also separated from his wife. It doesn’t take anything away from Rama, since His shoka does not hinder His ability to fight and defend. Rama still carries out the duties He assigns to Himself. In the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that He preserves what the devotees have and brings to them what they lack.
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)
If it is His association they want, He brings it to them. If they feel grief upon separation from Him, He lets them know that He desires an end to the separation as well. In this way the relationship with God the person is the best one to have.
How in separation from paramour to live,
Indication of level of affection to give.
Rama what is in the heart knowing,
So for devotees grief sometimes showing.
Lakshmana the shoka in Sugriva to confide,
Since Sita no longer by Rama’s side.
When serving without any expectation,
Rama to give every reciprocation.