By Krsnanandini Devi Dasi, CFLE
A few years ago, my husband, Tariq and I presented a seminar on the concept of what we term “Magnanimous Marriage.” In such a marriage, husband and wife are actual benefactors for one another. Benefactor is defined as a kindly helper, a person who benefits and supports another.
“A happy marriage is a union of two good forgivers.” (Ruth Bell Graham)
Each spouse in a magnanimous marriage makes a commitment with dedicated intention; the individuals in these marriages claim victory the moment they make their marriage vows or the moment they decide they want a marriage of depth and kindness. They claim victory of love over hate, victory of friendship over impersonal dealings, victory of kindness over meanness, victory of stick-to-it-ness over divorce, victory of forgiveness over resentment. Couples begin to manifest the magnanimous marriage when they each make a decision that the basic principle of marriage is loving service. Each sees him or herself as the servant of the other.
Now, when we speak about magnanimous marriage, we are speaking of the marital relationship as it ought to be, a union that is beneficial for the couple, for their children, for the community. Healthy, magnanimous marriages make happy families and, in turn, are the foundation for strong communities.
For some time now, in our society, marriage has been neglected or even maligned. Some couples are afraid they can’t achieve a successful marriage. This may be due to their lack of positive role models or the unfortunate inability of many individuals to have any experience in long-lasting healthy relationships. Or, perhaps it is the consequence of generations who grew up thinking, “as long as it makes me happy I’ll stay with it but……..” and “what can you do for me?” What my husband and I have learned from experience, and the often sad, bitter experience of couples we’ve worked with, is that for relationships to work, partners should appreciate that marriage is not about “me,” but “we.” That a healthy, loving marriage is a work in progress, whose ingredients include patience, honesty, kindness, cooperation, compromise, forgiveness, respect, adherence to spiritual principles, and a mood of loving service.
The basic principle of a materialistic marriage (the opposite of a magnanimous union) is that the husband and the wife are in it for their own personal gratification and selfish desires. In this kind of marriage, it is inevitable that there will be serious conflict and probably divorce.
“A good marriage is a contest of generosity.” (Diane Sawyer)
People in magnanimous marriages put more emphasis on having a life-long marriage than they do on a one day wedding ceremony. They commit. They endure. They love. They sacrifice for their family. They forgive each other (ahead of time sometimes) for the inevitable disappointments that occur in day-to-day life. They know, as John Maxwell said, that “teamwork makes the dream work.” Again, each spouse sees him or herself as the servant of the other. The questions held in their hearts are: “How may I serve you?” “What can I do to make your day better?” “How can I help you achieve your healthy goals?” With each partner thinking in this way, neither is left out.
Persons in a magnanimous marriage are eager to get better together. They are realistic and practical while at the same time claiming higher and deeper connections. And they are wise enough to periodically rejuvenate their marriage by going to couple retreats, communication workshops, and reading books about marriage and relationships. In other words, they invest in their marriage like they do other valuable things.
Although they are not under the illusion that marriage will make them happy, people in magnanimous marriages are generally happy, peaceful and caring. They understand that “we want to work on our marriages so that we can function well as parts of a unit, the family unit, and within the relative peace and mutual support of that unit find our own inner happiness, which is the only real happiness there is.” (Excerpted from the foreword of Heart and Soul Connection: A Devotional Guide to Marriage, Service and Love.)
Finally, magnanimous marriages, based on the principle of loving service, call for inner strength, for people of good moral and spiritual character.
Just imagine a society where most, if not all, children were raised by mothers and fathers in loving, committed, reliable, stable families, where adults were held accountable for keeping their word and maintaining their family responsibilities. Imagine what would happen individually and collectively if most marriages were magnanimous, based on the principle of loving service.