Peace Through Dialog 2007 - Dr. Anil Singhvi : Higher Consciousness In Marriage

Published: 18.02.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

Jaina Convention
Federation of Jain Associations In North America

Higher Consciousness In Marriage

Dr. Anil Singhvi

Phone: +91-94250-66266
Dr. Singhvi is the founder of Falcon, a self learning group formed in Indore, India 14 years ago with the objective of unfolding one's physical, interpersonal, emotional and spiritual potentials; in essence, to recognize the sacred in the ordinary. Dr. Singhvi has taken numerous talks on Jainism at various forums including JAINA 2005, YJl 2005 and YJP 2006. He is a Medical Oncologist by profession.

Marriage and dialogue are inseparable; but is there peace? Numerous proverbs and jokes are testimony to the turbulent nature of this sacred institution. Has it kept up with the changing roles and values of mankind over the years? Times have changed. But our attitudes and beliefs haven't.

The reality is that almost 45% of the marriages in North America end up in divorce. A large proportion of the rest continue to remain married, but just that. The relationship has already died. Why did this happen?

The answers are neither easy nor simple as many of us assume to be. If we are to ask any of the older generations about the reasons, they are tempted to make sweeping statements like, 'today's youngsters are impulsive; the money is going to their heads; moral values are deteriorating fast; this is going to happen if you do away with joint families; today's girls are too demanding and cannot adjust' and so on. All these remain over-simplistic statements. Marriage is for love and not for 'adjustment'. And love cannot blossom if partners have to 'adjust' to live together. Of course sacrifices are made, but they are out of love and not out of compulsion or compromise.

It is the common knowledge that couples tie the knot in search for love, especially romantic love. However evolutionary studies show that romantic love is a relatively new development and not much is known about romantic love in marriage in modern culture. There are stories of spouses finding romantic love outside marriage, but these have usually tragic endings. Researchers find that joyous sex and intimacy in marriage is rare and marriages continue to be arranged for social, economic and political reasons. Oscar Wilde put it quite aptly, "One should always be in love that is why one should never marry!"

The reasons for getting married

David Schnarch in his path breaking work Passionate Marriage says, "Quite often we get married for the wrong reasons because we haven't matured enough for the right reasons to exist. Struggling with the wrong reasons for getting married can produce the right reasons to stay married." Some of the wrong reasons why people get married include:

  1. Low self esteem in both
  2. Fear of loneliness
  3. The girl fearing facing the world as a single person
  4. The boy needing someone to take care of himself
  5. The girl needs to take care of someone in order to feel fulfilled
  6. Both believing that two people can live more efficiently than one

Two wrongs cannot produce a right. Two unhappy people cannot hope to complement each other in search for the elusive happiness.

Unconditional Positive Regard

Procrustes was an ancient Greek bandit. He used to build beds for his guests the same way we build a marriage, as per his own expectations. As soon as the guest lay down on the bed, Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too long. Likewise, we always try to change our spouses to fit our pre-conceived ideas of how our partner should be. In doing so, we reduce them to mere objects. We turn a person into a 'husband' or a 'wife', as though it was some commodity. Needless to say, this is a futile exercise and only results in frustration on both sides. Wouldn't it be much better if we had an unconditional positive regard for our partners. Your interaction with them should give an impression that they will be understood and not judged. This requires listening with a sensitive ear. We have a tendency to continuously weigh and judge a person while interacting with him or her. Don't do that. Judgment leads to conclusions, creates distance and is not compatible with love.

'Did I pick the right person?'

This question always torments us. We tend to say no, but actually it has nothing to do with the other person. We do not pick our perfect match because we ourselves are not perfect. We are like raw, uncut but flawless diamonds. It is only when we are willing to polish off every part of ourselves that cannot join with the other, that we find our soul mate.


This process of polishing has been referred to as differentiation or self actualization or individuation (Carl Jung). Differentiation as described by David Schnarch involves balancing two basic life forces - the drive for individuality and the drive for togetherness. Individuality wants us to follow our own directives to create a unique identity; whereas togetherness pushes us to follow the directives of others and to be a part of a group. Differentiation permits you to maintain your own course when spouses, friends or family pressure you to agree or conform to their wishes. You can agree with them without feeling like you are 'losing yourself or you can disagree without feeling bitter.

Differentiated people derive their self worth from their inner sense of values and not from outer circumstances. They try their best to have things as per their inner wishes, but if it doesn't happen that way, they just let go. They don't feel that their world has come to an end if their partner forgets a birthday or a wedding anniversary. They do feel bad just like any other person, but they convey this to the other using 'I' language and move on. They don't try to browbeat the other person or indulge in emotional blackmail.

Since differentiated people derive their sense of identity from inside, they do not feel consumed when they are close to the other. Undifferentiated people feel they are losing their identity when they are very close to their partners and as a result are forced to increase the emotional or physical distance.
They frequently feel, 'I got to be me by getting away from you.' We see many examples of how partners maintain physical distance, have infrequent contact or take up consuming jobs just to maintain their separate identity. Such people often stamp their feet and scream, 'I got to be me, don't fence me in, I need space!' They keep the relationship in constant turmoil so as to keep their identity alive and kicking.

Being in the here and now

This is one of the most important aspects of consciousness, not only in marriage but also in other walks of life. Partners in marriage often start a 'stamp' collection. This consists of memories and recollections of unpleasant events in the past. Whenever there is an argument, even a minor one, these 'stamps' are brought out and traded actively!
'You let me down the last week when you were late for dinner!'; 'You are always putting me down in front of other people, don't you remember the party at the Sharmas, and what about the one six months before where you said that I look like a clown in that shirt!' These never ending allegations to events of the past do not allow us to live and learn in the present. We keep on holding grudges. It takes an inordinate amount of time to recover from past arguments. And if that were not enough, most of our present is used up in thinking about what we will do to our partner when he or she 'misbehaves' again in the future. We fail to understand that. Now is the only moment we have to live our lives. What stops us from being totally in the present moment? Obviously, unfinished business. So the way out is to not let any businesses remain unfinished. If we are seething inside with resentment at something our partner did or said in the past, we should voice our feelings using ‘I’ language. Our partner may understand and say 'sorry' or he may not. That is totally his or her prerogative. If he or she is willing to change, it is great. If not, then we have to accept that too. This is the basis of the Serenity Prayer: God give me the courage to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot and the wisdom to distinguish between the two.

Communication & Intimacy

Let me ask you a question. You go to a restaurant, take a look around and you can instantly make out whether the couples sitting there are married or dating. How? Answer: Married couples don't talk to each other. Why? Because they don't want to hear what the other has to say, because they already know what the other will say! Isn't that an example of 'great' communication?!

Many of you might be going through a period of courtship where there: mutual exchange of personal likes and dislikes. Intimacy is the goal of any loving relationship. Intimacy, as we know it, appears to be akin to mutual understanding, validation and acceptance of the other's point of view. We like to disclose information about ourselves once we know for sure that the other is going to endorse it and give positive feedback. This is 'other validated intimacy' and not true intimacy. True and vibrant intimacy requires disclosing not only familiar and comfortable parts of yourself but the whole of yourself with no guarantee that the other is going to like it. This is possible when you have a solid relationship with yourself; your foundations are so strong that you don't fear revealing yourself in totality.

Other validated intimacy sounds like this: "I will tell you about myself, but only if you then tell me about yourself. If you don't, I won't either. But I want to, so you have to. I will go first and then you will be obliged to disclose - it is only fair." Self-validated or true intimacy says: "I don't expect you to agree with me. You weren't put on the face of this earth to validate and reinforce me. But I want you to love me and you cannot really do that until you know me. I don't want your rejection, but I have to face that possibility too if I am ever to be accepted by you. It is time to show myself to you. One day when we are no longer together on this earth, I want to know that you knew me."

If you were to say what you feel without asking for endorsement from your partner, your partner is more likely to hear you out and not silence you. Such a relationship can remain intimate even in times of conflict. Such marriages are geared for growth because the partners have unique strengths. The understanding that both are essentially unique but different persons is important. This leads to respect and giving space to the other. For example imagine that you and your partner are in a small boat named marriage in the high seas of life. The question arises, who is going to steer? You feel that you are in the middle of the sea with a lunatic who sees everything differently. You tend to brow-beat the other into steering in the same direction as yourself. Now consider the reality that spouses are always in two separate boats and could sail away in different directions. You will then be more kind and friendly to your fellow captain!

Enjoy the journey, flow!

This means flowing with life and its directions. Let us imagine a river flowing towards the ocean. Similarly, life too has its flow. Like the river, life too seems to move in a meandering way at times; and we tend to resist these seemingly useless twists and turns. Little do we realize that life's treasures are hidden in these nooks and crannies! So let us not resist this flow of life, and learn to flow effortlessly. Savor the journey, and as someone said, the beautiful journey is the destination! It is possible that marriage may take a turn in reverse direction for sometime, may seem go through twists and turns, but just be aware that all of these might give you hidden insights if you are open to them. So flow with life, flow with marriage and you might just end up discovering love!


All of the above are precursors to the ultimate state, love. Yes love is possible in marriage too and that is good news indeed. Love is what unifies, and when you see God in each and every human being including your partner, you are not only in love, but you are love itself. And then relationship to your partner is like a prayer to God!


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        1. Anil Singhvi
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        4. Federation of Jain Associations in North America
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