When I was about eight years old my parents were considering divorce. I remember my mother putting mascara on in front of a mirror and I was sitting on her bed watching her. I thought it was a very strange thing, women putting on mascara, so I was watching. And my mother said to me very seriously, “everyone likes your father and everyone likes me, but we no longer like each other, so we are going to separate”. I cried, it was very painful, just the thought of it. Some hours later my father came home from work and I knew my mother was going to discuss this with him. He went in the bedroom and they closed the door. I was so disturbed that I secretly put my ear against the door to hear what they were saying.

My mother told my father how much I had been crying, and I heard them both say that for the rest of their lives they would stay together because this is what was best for the children. They never separated. As the years passed, I can honestly say, I never saw any two people that loved each other so much. Their love was very deep. It wasn’t about romance, because romance, you know it comes and goes. It wasn’t just about personality, or having complimentary views on things. It was about heart to heart, sensible responsibility to each other for a higher principle. Because they chose to go through those difficulties together for the higher principle of their love for their children, I feel God awarded them with deep affection and love for each other.

Beside the higher principle of children is the principle of God, the principle of our vows before the Lord to help each other to become pure, to become enlightened within our lives. That higher principle is why traditionally, marriages of all different cultures involve taking vows in a spiritual place – so that the union is consecrated as a partnership in the service of the Divine. What is a diamond? A diamond is the queen of all jewels. But a diamond is nothing but a piece of coal that’s been under pressure for millions of years. Gold, the king of metals, is purified when it is put in fire. This is mother nature speaking to us. This is wisdom – that by faithfully passing through the good times and the bad times – the easy times and the hard with each other, and for each other, for this higher value – then marriage has the potential to make us spiritually perfect. It will do that if we just understand the yoga of marriage.

From a spiritual perspective one should feel that their partner is something more than just my husband or my wife. A husband should feel towards his wife that this is the daughter of God – this is God’s deeply beloved daughter that has been entrusted in my care. How you treat her is how God will receive you. How you speak to her, how you act toward her, how you protect her are all important. Protection is said to be on three levels – physical, emotional and spiritual. To give that protection, to be forgiving to each other and to honor your spouse as God’s property, God’s gift, is how you will make spiritual progress. And a wife should feel that her partner is not just her husband but he is God’s beloved child entrusted in her care to protect, to be faithful to, and to encourage. If you see each other in this light, marriage really is yoga. Your relationship will be yoga in essence and you will make great spiritual progress.

Feelings of affection may come and go but the foundation of a healthy relationship is respect. Respect for each other and care for each other. Through respect and care affection can grow into deep love on the level of the soul. Physically we care for each other by providing the basic necessities of life. Depending on the particular nature of your occupation and relationship one must provide housing, clothing, health care and other physical needs. But emotional care is very essential. Lack of emotional care can really send a marriage off track. Everyone needs appreciation and everyone needs encouragement. So many ladies come to me and say “my husband just doesn’t care about me – he doesn’t like anything I do”. When I go to the husband, I ask “do you care about her?”  And he will say “yes, of course”. I’ll ask, “do you like what she does”? “Yes I love what she does”. “Do ever tell her”? And he will say, “why should I tell her, she should know”. Communication is so important. Sometimes in a marriage we communicate with everybody except the person we are living with. Communication – honest communication where we really do express our appreciation for each other, express our affection for each other, and express it in such a way that we encourage each other is very critical for a healthy relationship.

Marriage shouldn’t be just something that we are tolerating somehow or other because we took vows. It should be something very dynamic, very flowing and very real. It should be and very connected to the Divine, so that the struggles are not just depressing -  the struggles are spiritual challenges that we have to meet together and every time we overcome those challenges we come to a higher spiritual platform. By following marriage in this way it becomes a path of perfection.

Radhanath Swami