“An ideal husband and wife are generally called Lakshmi-Narayana to compare them to the Lord and the goddess of fortune, for it is significant that Lakshmi-Narayana are forever happy as husband and wife.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.1.6 Purport)
“Doesn’t the high divorce rate in the modern world reveal that people can’t really be happy together? I’m not speaking of only men and women; it’s a human nature thing. You might be happy in the beginning, but eventually the other person gets on your nerves. It’s only natural. Familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t see it being any other way. The people who do stay together must be used to the suffering. They must resign themselves to the life of misery.”
These sentiments are quite common. After all, the romantic comedy film fails to show you what happens after the couple gets together. The two try so hard to overcome obstacles in the way of their budding romance. Yet after the problems are removed, does life continue smoothly? It is in the nature of kama to leave a person unsatisfied.
dhyāyato viṣayān puṁsaḥ
saṅgāt sañjāyate kāmaḥ
kāmāt krodho ‘bhijāyate
“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)
From the Bhagavad-gita we learn of the dangers of unsatisfied lust. The situation relates to marriage very well. For years the wife has tolerated the husband chewing his food with his mouth open. She has subtly brought up the issue several times in the past, but on this day she can’t stand the sound anymore. She lashes out. “Why don’t you chew a little louder? Are you a pig or a human being? How do you not understand how rude that is?” She gives in to her frustrations because her desire has been for her husband to correct his ways.
The husband, meanwhile, has his own frustrations. He has wanted his wife to stop talking on the phone while he is watching television. This is one of his desires that has gone unmet since they got married. Since she has just lashed out at him, he feels it appropriate to retaliate. He yells at her about the phone issue, and soon enough the situation has escalated to a full blown argument. The two don’t speak to each other for a week.
From Vedic philosophy we learn that marriage should be in dharma, not kama. Actually, all of life should be in dharma, which is duty or religiosity. The idea is that within marriage each party has their role to fulfill. The roles are for reaching a specific destination. There is a reason behind the recommendation that the wife remain satisfied in all conditions. For the husband to satisfy the wife with food, ornaments and clothing is to bring peace to the home. From a peaceful home, wanted and loved children come about, which is a boon to society.
The ideal husband and wife are compared to Lakshmi and Narayana. Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune and Narayana the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Interestingly enough, a marriage in dharma looks to satisfy Narayana. Kama is for satisfying the senses. Lust is always about me, though I may sometimes say that I love someone else. Dharma is about Narayana. It is about what He wants. Since He is the root of the entire existence, His satisfaction automatically pays dividends to the worshiper.
The couple who worships Narayana gets help from the goddess of fortune. She brings the necessary prosperity to ensure that the life in devotion is a happy and peaceful one. Kama has limitations. There is only so much sense gratification available. Then there is only a short time that the engagement remains satisfying. I like to eat pizza, but if I had it every day of the week for dinner eventually I would get sick of it.
The same is not true of life in dharma. The dharma for this age of Kali is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The husband and wife pair who try their best to maintain a routine of chanting and hearing about the Supreme Lord have the best chance to be like Lakshmi and Narayana in happiness. Bhakti-yoga is above even the dharmas specific to stages in life. It is the one way to transform the material nature. Bhakti-yoga transforms ordinary desire in kama into transcendental desire in bhakti, which brings all happiness.
With so many divorces to see,
How husband and wife happy can be?
Is not the errand of a fool?
Since each in desire wanting to rule.
A way to not grow sick eventually,
See how Lakshmi-Narayana happy perpetually.
Not kama, but in dharma live,
Seek for pleasure to God to give.