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The Best Choice: Mithya Advice
Terry: Dear James and Sundari, I trust this email finds you both enjoying all that Isvara is painting!
I am actually writing this note to the both of you for mithya relationship advice (a slippery-slope topic, to be sure!).
My wife and I have not been close for many years. We have a respectful and cordial relationship, but not a healthy one, as there is very little love and affection. We have lovely children, and my wife says that our relationship will improve “once the kids grow up,” but I’m not so certain. She has not been happy for quite some time (even before the kids arrived). I have suggested several times that we attend couples’ counseling, but she feels strongly that it is not required. I have shared my concerns openly with her (that our relationship was not a happy or close one) and have tried to find a common bond between us, but other than the children it does not seem to exist.
Ironically, given the clarity I now have of my true nature, I understand that she can only find her true ability to love by first loving/knowing herself as the self. But she is not yet ready to consider that (and we know that requires the appetite to investigate/change for oneself versus being pressured to). Because I come from a broken family, I have seen first-hand what an unhealthy marriage can result in. My father left the family for another woman, and I could see the regret in his eyes of that decision on his deathbed. As a result, I know that the grass is not always greener on the other side (it might appear greener at first, but will fade as every desire in mithya is destined to).
I have always thought that if I became “enlightened” trivial external issues (such as my relationship concerns) would go away and not disturb me. As I now understand my true nature and understand how the vasanas continue to work, I see the folly of my previous expectations. My true nature is sat, but I also realize that I continue to play a role in mithya.
I continue to perform my dharma duty and be a good provider and citizen, and ask Isvara for help in providing the right “opportunity” to present itself for my wife and I to better our relationship. I don’t know exactly what I am asking of you in terms of advice, perhaps just confirmation of what a healthy marriage looks like for you.
Sundari: Thank you for your wishes, Terry. We are indeed well, hectically busy and winding down things in the US as we leave for Europe on the 23rd.
I understand your situation very well. There is no easy solution to it, especially as your wife is in denial and does not wish to confront the situation. It sounds to me like this is about power on her part, which is why she refuses to agree to counselling. The self does not mind one way or the other what you do, as you know. It is already free, so why would it? It is not a doer, so it is unaffected by your staying or leaving and the consequences of either choice.
Freedom is for the individual, however, and obviously you want to live free and happy as Terry. However, what does freedom mean for the individual who is actually the self? As awareness you need nothing to be happy, but this does not mean that you should not take right action for Terry’s happiness. If there were no children involved it would be easier to avoid the consequences of winding up the relationship and (hopefully) parting on good terms. On the other hand, staying in a loveless marriage and living in denial simply gives the children the message that emotional dishonesty is okay. I have observed that this causes far more damage than anything else.
It seems you have two choices: stay, seeing your wife as the self pretending to be a person under the spell of ignorance. You can see your children this way too and educate them about who they are. Be honest with them. Tell your wife if she does not want to agree to counselling, you want to open discussion – and INSIST on it. Take your power back; don’t be afraid. Be totally honest about how you feel instead of living in potentia waiting for something to change. Why would she think it will get better when the children are grown up? You know it will not. She can’t always have it the way she wants it; she has to at least hear you out. Maybe you lack the confidence to assert what you really think and feel. If you do, now is the time to do so kindly and with clarity and strength. Don’t project, blame or accuse, just be straightforward. She needs to respect you. The root meaning of repect is “to look again.” She needs to see you and hear you. It sounds like she controls the relationship, so you need to ask yourself why. If you let her have all the power, expect this situation to continue and to live in misery.
This first approach could work unless your wife is more interested in power than being happy. Ask her this. Of course any action you take you would take with the karma yoga attitude. What is also enormously helpful is understanding the gunas and how they work. This fear that you are trapped in is tamas. You need to be careful to avoid rajas when confronting your wife and taking back your power. Referring to the past and how your father’s choices impacted him and your family negatively is also tamasic, i.e. fear-based. Your fear about the children’s well-being is also tamasic. Your wife’s uncompromising aggressive stance is rajasic. The solution suggested above is the sattvic approach. Rajas and tamas always work together (I call them “the terrible twins”) so observe them, as it will really help you understand what runs you and your wife better. And it is important to see that this whole situation is not personal, as the gunas run everything in the apparent reality.
To solve this problem, you will have to resolve (rajas) to get out of tamas. There will be short-term pain (rajas), but long-term gain, i.e. sattva. If you want to avoid replicating the situation that your father created, you are not doing so by avoiding (tamas) the issue. Maybe your mother controlled your father (rajas), so look at the gunas and how they worked for your parents, as that is where you picked up these unconscious patterns. Just keep watching out for these gunas. They are totally predictable and come with programmed ways of feeling, thinking and acting. This is because they are the governing factors in the creation of the vasanas. It seems to me that you have a deeply entrenched fear samskara (tamas), which is related to what happened to you as a result of the dynamics in your parents’ relationship. Every time you see a guna arise, you will find the thoughts and feelings appropriate to that guna. The feelings and thoughts belong to the guna, not to you.
You need to establish honesty in your relationship and take your power back. If you can do this while seeing your wife as the self and applying the yogas, you may transform your relationship. It is workable, although without acquiescence on her part to engage in honest communication it will be very difficult, if not impossible.
Your second option is to leave because you wish to live free in mithya. You do not need to look for greener grass, you are the greenest grass there is! You are free, this is true, but why remain in an unhappy and loveless relationship which is not the truth about you? Your father probably left without understanding and without being honest (tamas). Do not look at the results of his actions and deduce from them that it will be the same for you. You are not your father, and you know who you are. Also, you should know that it is not really possible to damage anyone, because they too are the self. My feeling is that we do more damage to ourselves and others by not being honest than by being true to who we are and acting on it (sattva). Sometimes we have to “fail” the ones we love in order to be true to who we are because that is the most loving thing to do. If you leave with honesty and kindness, no matter what happens, your children will learn from it and grow. The key is to be very honest with them; do not treat them like they have inferior intellects or emotional intelligence; they are the self.
It will be hard and they will appear to suffer. When I was in this situation I did this with my daughter, as I chose to leave rather that stay. We had some very difficult times, but she would not be who she is today if I had stayed or not been so honest with her. I was very criticised for treating her like an equal, but of course she is. I saw her as the self from the day she was born and that is what I taught her.
There is no wrong or right action here, there is only that which speaks the highest truth about you, the self. Remember that it is all a movie and your children are with you to learn from you. What will you teach them? There is great value to suffering if it is handled with integrity and honesty. You are not saving them by teaching them that it is okay to sacrifice yourself for others. You are condemning them to do the same one day. This is an opportunity to leave the old fearful Terry behind and enter into a brave new world of freedom and personal integrity.
I hope this helps, Terry. It is a tough one! We both send you all our love and best wishes and hope you make the choice that works best for you.
~ Much love, Sundari