By Visakha Dasi
Worse than being alone is to be with a person who doesn’t like you; too many people have experienced the anguish and chaos caused by an incompatible marriage. Such travesties are systematically avoided in Vaishnava culture because, besides training and restraint in behaviour prior to marriage, all care is taken in matchmaking: “Formerly, boys and girls of similar dispositions were married; the similar natures of the boy and girl were united in order to make them happy.” (SB 3.21.15) “The central idea is that if the boy and girl were on an equal level the marriage would be happy, whereas inequality would lead to unhappiness.” (SB 9.18.23) We want our life’s companion to be a true peer.
Compatibility also includes living with our spouse’s faults. It’s easy to live with another’s good qualities, but can you live with a person’s weaknesses? After the initial period of guarded good behaviour, the character flaws we brought with us into the marriage surface, and we face the pain of dealing with both our own and our spouse’s shortcomings and the conflicts those create. No two people are completely compatible and not all incompatibilities in marriage can be worked out. Sometimes inevitable differences can be laughed at, sometimes coped with, sometimes negotiated, sometimes accepted, and sometimes are c o m p l e m e n t a r y. Sometimes waiting and praying is the answer. It is rewarding when, after thousands of these tribulations have come and gone, you know and honour your spouse despite the differences between you. Focus on closeness and differences become manageable but if the focus is on differences, closeness disappears.
The more we advance in consciousness, the less affected we are by another’s shortcomings, and conversely, the less advanced in consciousness we are, the more the other’s shortcomings will irritate us. Not everyone can be like Mandodari, the chaste wife of Ravana, who was fully aware of her husband’s lowly nature and activities and yet tolerated him to the end.
Besides conscientiously matching a suitable young man with a suitable young woman, compatibility also includes the husband having like-minded male friends and the wife like-minded female friends. All our dialogue need not fall on just one pair of ears, but in confidence we reveal our mind to and have dedicated and loving ties with handpicked friends. Good friends smooth the bumps on this long journey. If at some point our marriage is rocky, qualified friends can help us learn from the difficulties and acquire skills to improve our relationship. Marriage is a process of changing and accepting change, of settling differences and living with differences that will never be settled, of drawing close and pulling apart and drawing close again.