Happiness in marriage is more than just finding the "right" person. It is a deliberate act of will: noble, selfless, disciplined, and, in the end, blissfully fulfilling, far beyond anything mere romantic dreams of effortless love have promised you.
Here are a few tips to help you realize the happiness potential in your closest relationship.
1. Respect. People talk a great deal about love, but over the long term, respect is more fundamental. As long as you have respect for your partner, you can always be friends. Once respect is lost, even friendship is hard to maintain. To respect someone is also an act of will. Don't allow your mind to dwell on your partner's limitations, rather focus on their sincerity and the goodness within them. If their personality becomes difficult to respect, you can always respect the Divine Presence within them.
2. Courtesy. Courtesy is not dishonesty or hypocrisy. It is simply treating the most important person in your life with the consideration and respect they deserve. It is shocking to see how often people treat their partner with a rudeness they would never show even a perfect stranger! Many arguments start from a simple lack of courtesy. Even if the hurt doesn't escalate to a fight, lack of courtesy to those closest to you gradually eats away at the fabric of your relationship. Listen to yourself. Listen to those around you. Notice not only the words but also the tone of voice. See how different the interactions would be if everyone spoke courteously to one another.
3. Unique Individuality. Your partner is not an extension of your own mind. It may sound silly to state the obvious, but it has to be kept constantly in the forefront of your awareness: Your partner is a fully functioning human being with a karmic trajectory of their own that has to be fulfilled according to the unique flow of their energy. Don't just project upon your partner your idea of who they are and what they need. It doesn't mean you never speak your mind, or have to support behavior you don't think is right. But whatever future you have together will be more harmonious if you make a deep and sincere effort to understand how your partner sees the world and why he or she may think whatever they are committed to is a good idea. Does this sound a lot like respect and courtesy?
4. Be a Cheerleader. No one wants a teacher for a partner, not for the long haul. The relationship is too close to be a place of constant criticism and correction. Even silent, mental criticism gradually drains the joy out of being together. We need to be for one another a safe haven. Most people already know what they should do. What they need is the courage to do it. Nothing gives courage like knowing that there is someone who understands, cares for, and supports us. Don't be insincere. If you don't agree, you can express that disagreement, but kindly, carefully, and with respect for your partner's need to come to truth in his or her own way.
5. To Thy Own Self Be True. As long as you can do it cheerfully, support your partner in whatever he or she wants when it is only a matter of preference or opinion -- the color of the couch, where you take your vacation, hairdo, clothing style. But if principles are at stake -- including the principle of feeling valued as an individual in the relationship -- you must stand your ground -- respectfully, courteously, but firmly nonetheless. If you compromise your core values, you set in motion a dissonant wave that sooner or later will break your relationship into pieces.
About the Author: Asha Praver is a lecturer, teacher, counselor, Spiritual Co-Director of the Ananda Palo Alto Community, and author of Swami Kriyananda as We Have Known Him. Asha has been trained in yoga, meditation, and spiritual living by Swami Kriyananda, who was a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. Since 1969 Asha has been a disciple, a meditator, and an intentional community member. To learn more visit:www.TheJoyIsWithInYou.com
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