Marriage, understood and lived expansively, is a path to transcendent love—to realization of one’s higher spiritual potential. This book is a practical and inspiring guide to help you follow the deeper call of your relationship. It will enrich not only your marriage, but your life.
An advocate of simple living and high thinking, Swami Kriyananda was an internationally known author, lecturer, and composer—and founder of the worldwide network of Ananda communities. Widely recognized as one of the foremost authorities on meditation and yoga, he taught these principles and techniques to hundreds of thousands around the world.
- The purpose of marriage
- How to develop intuition to strengthen your marriage
- Sex in Marriage
- Expansive child raising
- And much more . . .
Chapter One: A Direction, Not an Ending
Chapter Two: The Need for Expansiveness
Chapter Three: Why Marriage?
Chapter Four: “You Just Don’t Understand”
Chapter Five: Intuition
Chapter Six: Growing Together
Chapter Seven: Commitment
Chapter Eight: Sex in Marriage
Chapter Nine: Communication
Chapter Ten: Keeping the Wheels Well Oiled
Chapter Eleven: Expansive Child Raising
Chapter Twelve: Expansive Marriage
Chapter Thirteen: For Those Who Are Seeking God
Appendix: The Ananda Wedding Ceremony
The reader, when presented with a book on marriage, will probably want to know the author’s credentials. Is he a marriage counselor?
Has he a Master’s degree, or a Ph.D., to show specialization in the subject? What other books has he written on the subject?
I have spent many years counseling people—forty-five years, so far. I have worked with people all my life, both publicly and in
private. I have lived in many countries, and familiarized myself with many customs and cultural attitudes, East and West. I have
written some sixty books, many of them on topics directly or indirectly related to marriage. I have founded and am the spiritual
leader of a large and thriving community called Ananda Village, near Nevada City, California, and of several branch communities
in America and elsewhere.
My most important “credential” by far is that I studied with one of the truly wise people of this century, Paramhansa Yogananda.
a life of travels I have met many of the great and famous. None of them had the impact on me that Yogananda had. I was fortunate
to study with him the last three and a half years of his life. If this book contains any wisdom, and if it proves helpful to you,
it is to Yogananda’s wise counseling above all that the credit is due.
One facet of his teaching was that he never imposed on others a system of beliefs. His central teaching was spiritual, yet he
met people where they were, psychologically. Far from trying to convert them, spiritually, he helped them according to their own
perceived interests and needs, offering them more if they wanted it, but not if they didn’t. By his attunement with people in
all walks of life and in every stage of mental maturity, he was able to help them in ways that were supremely practical.
I don’t say that the ideas in this book were his. Some of them were. Some may not have been. What he gave me was an approach,
not a system of set formulae. As he used to say, rather than give a person money, it is better to teach him how to earn money himself.
Chapter One: A Direction, Not an Ending
“They married, and lived happily ever after.” Isn’t that how most fairy tales end? But then, that’s all they are: fairy tales.
Romantic comedies, too, although they don’t always say it in so many words, usually end with the same beamish promise:
unalloyed wedded bliss, descending perpetually, like showers of rose petals, upon couples who, once they have tied the knot,
stroll carefree through life down lushly green mossy glades.
People are conditioned from early childhood to look upon marriage as Nature’s solution to the search for happiness. The
handsome prince marries the beautiful princess—she of the long, golden tresses. The poor shepherd boy wins the aloof and
unapproachable princess. Cinderella, after years of menial labor and of withering contempt from those closest to her,
is selected from among the fairest maidens of the land to marry the noble prince.
Such a view of marriage is two-dimensional. It suggests no road disappearing gradually into the distant future, and
therefore no future challenges. The couples in this picture do not walk down life’s road together: They merely step
into the canvas and disappear. How often has marriage, entered upon with such blithe expectations, proved disappointing!
It is natural to romanticize weddings. Brides want to wear white, and would feel deprived of something precious, if not
driven to open rebellion, were it Fashion’s decree that they wear tweeds. Guests want a wedding feast, and would feel
cheated if all they got in return for their gifts were tortilla chips and a spiced yogurt dip. The parents want the
congratulations (and perhaps the envy?) of their friends. The children want a chance to run amuck among the adults without
fear of a scolding. Everybody likes a good time. And the groom—well, yes, the groom: He’ll probably be happy enough,
once he can get out of that stiff costume—better suited to an operetta, he thinks—and into something comfortable.
It is perfectly normal that weddings be romanticized. Marriage, however, is another story. It should be viewed realistically.
For marriage is a human state; it can give people no more than they themselves bring to it. The function of marriage
is not to lift people “up to the stars.” Marriage is not a substitute for divine ecstasy. All it can give people is a new
recognition of what they are already, in themselves.
Given the unregenerate condition of most human beings, the self-recognition marriage bestows is not always easy to bear.
Marriage should not be approached as a beautiful, but motionless, painting. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity
for ever-further growth and development. It should be recognized as a challenge and an opportunity to make someone else
happy, rather than pursue selfishly throughout life one’s own happiness. Marriage should be undertaken creatively, as an
art. Couples should seek fresh ways every day to express their love for one another, and to bring out the best in each other,
and in themselves.
“Creativity” is a key word. For marriage is not, in itself, a solution. It simply provides new opportunities for finding
solutions to life’s problems. We may say, also, that for every solution marriage provides it also presents fresh problems to
be faced, multiplied by two, and then three or more as the “blessed events” begin piling up.
Any couple who think to live “happily ever after” once the wedding bells have stopped ringing are destined for a rude
awakening. Hardly will the ringing have ceased than other, strident sounds intrude themselves: the bustling traffic of
other people’s priorities; the dreary exigencies of bills; life’s daily routine; the growing realization that marriage
alone has provided no perfect fusion of two human beings, as diverse expectations manifest themselves, along with diverse
tendencies for meeting those expectations.
The mere fact that marriage is not really likely to fulfill the roseate dreams of many romanticists doesn’t mean it
cannot offer deep fulfillment—deeper and more valid fulfillment, indeed, than the common two-dimensional expectations of
it. What people entering marriage must do is stop dreaming and face their joint adventure not only hand in hand, but open-eyed.
Life’s true fulfillments are never static. Truth itself is not static. Any definition of reality, including the highest
truth, should be an attempt to point a direction. Even the greatest human fulfillment can provide only a hint of Ultimate Perfection.
It is a weakness of human nature to want to define things absolutely. Definitions serve a purpose to the extent that they
stretch the mind. But they are limiting if, after stretching the mind, they impede further growth.
Years ago I gave a series of lectures in Kuranda, Queensland, in northeast Australia. At the end of the series a man came
up to me and said, “I didn’t attend all your lectures, but I happened to catch the end of this last one. I’m not familiar
with your philosophy, but I noticed that you kept on referring to God. Well, I’m an atheist. What can you say about God that
will be relevant to me?”
After a moment’s thought I made a suggestion: “Why not think of God as the highest potential you can imagine for yourself?”
He paused in astonishment, then nodded in that tentative, eyebrow-raised sort of way that Australians affect to indicate
a combination of wonder and approval. “I can live with that,” he concluded.
Perfection in marriage, as in everything else in life, should be seen, not as a still photograph, and not as a plateau,
but as continuous movement in a forever unfolding direction—movement accompanied sometimes by struggle, but movement also
holding a promise of great heights to be attained.
Points to Remember
- Marriage can give no more to people than they themselves bring to it.
- Marriage should be viewed, not as fulfilling a desire, but as an opportunity for inner growth and development.
- Marriage should be made an ever-creative experience.
- Marriage is not, in itself, a solution. It simply provides new opportunities for finding solutions to life’s problems.
- Life’s true fulfillments are never static. The greater the fulfillment in marriage, the more it will point a direction toward
heights as yet unexplored.
- Perfection in marriage should be seen as continuous movement in a forever-unfolding direction.
This was the book for which I had to edit the introduction at the time of my heart surgery. The book answered a great need:
Far too many people equate personal fulfillment with self-gratification. In truth, however, fulfillment is virtually synonymous
with something very different: self-expansion. I wrote the book in hopes of getting people to see marriage as a path, ultimately,
to God. Marriage as a way of expanding one’s sympathies from the ego to one other person, then to a family, and then from every
self-narrowing definition to embrace all humanity as one’s own in God: Such is the basic theme of this book.
“A compassionate and truthful approach to marriage that allows couples—and families—to move beyond the clash of egos to expansive love and joy. We highly recommend this wonderful book.”
—Hugh and Gail Prather, authors of Notes to Each Other and I Will Never Leave You
“I very much appreciate Walters’ vision of marriage as a means of bringing out the best in each partner. In the past, most marriages have been comfort-oriented, not expansion-oriented. Partners need to aspire in themselves, and to inspire one another, to live at their highest potential.”
—Susan M. Campbell, PhD, author of The Couple’s Journey and Beyond the Power Struggle
“Having taught marriage courses in colleges and universities for thirty years. I regard this as the best short marriage book I know. Its soft, loving, teaching, caring tone impressed me very much. The content is excellent, the writing is excellent, all of which adds up to a successful formula for a number one book.”
—William E. Hartman, PhD, Director, Center for Marital and Sexual Studies, Long Beach, CA