While marriage is down to personal choice, the following are a few tips that may serve as signposts to help navigate the journey through the forest of searching for a partner.
Spiritual culture is more important than wealth or any other material consideration. A devotee usually prefers to marry a fellow devotee from the same spiritual family. This prerequisite also places limits on the pool of options because devotees amount to a small minority of the world’s population, who are spread out around the world, and many marriageable devotees are not registered on any marriage website or database, and are therefore difficult to find or identify. Devotees who want to marry devotees may therefore need to lower the bar and become flexible with some of their other preferences. Those who cannot find a suitable devotee from ISKCON to marry may choose to marry someone from a different sampradaya or from a different religion or spiritual path, and there are many cases of this. Such marriages can work provided that the partner is at least vegetarian, pious, a believer in God, and supportive of one’s spiritual practices.
While physical attraction is not the sole ingredient of a successful marriage, if some initial attraction is there, it is certainly favourable. It may not be important for those who are on the transcendental platform, but for most people it will help to keep a marriage together throughout the trials and tribulations of life. Attraction to the spouse protects the marriage by protecting the couple from becoming attracted to other members of the opposite sex.
Ethnicity and cultural background
Many devotees prefer to marry someone of the same ethnic and cultural background as they share a lot of common ground from the outset, making it relatively easy for them to understand each other’s social language and customs and to connect on many levels. It also helps their families to relate more easily to each other. Others may choose to marry someone from a different background. A joining together of two souls from different races or cultures is a journey that impels them to connect on deeper levels than the superficiality of social and cultural common ground. If couples have more in common spiritually than they do materially, this can help to strengthen spirituality in the relationship. Ultimately it’s down to personal choice, but it’s good to be open-minded rather than ruling out alternatives.
It is generally considered preferable for the husband to be older than the wife to enhance his traditional leadership role in the relationship, which is perfectly natural. The reverse situation may also be accepted in cases where a man has strong enough leadership qualities and a woman is flexible enough that they both feel comfortable with it.
While Srila Prabhupada mentioned that devotees are transcendental to astrology, he also commended in his books the practice of using Vedic astrology for marriage matching. We can conclude from this, and from the evidence of the collapse of many devotee marriages which were arranged without astrology, that for those who are highly advanced in Krishna consciousness, there may be no need to consult an astrologer, but for everyone else, it could be a good idea. It is helpful to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses in astrological compatibility before deciding to commit to a lifelong relationship. Many people use the kundli points system that is freely available online. While this can be useful as an initial indicator, it is not a comprehensive system of calculating compatibility. For those who are seriously considering marriage, it would be advisable to consult a qualified Vedic astrologer for a complete in-depth reading before going ahead. The astrologer is one of the guides who can help to direct an individual on his or her personal journey to choosing a life-partner.
Friends and family
By meeting our prospective partner’s friends and family, those who know him or her well, we can find out a great deal about the person. Of course it’s important to also get to know the person by direct association, but if we simply rely on our own experience and perception, it can take a long time to get to know a person deeply. Couples who drag out long courtships risk becoming so emotionally involved that judgement gets clouded and it becomes difficult to view each other objectively. So it can be really helpful to fill in the gaps by hearing from people who have known your prospective partner closely for a long time or for life. And if we are hearing similar observations from a wide range of people, then those are likely to be true.
Nowadays many couples meet for the first time online. If they are far apart geographically, they may associate for some time by email or phone or video chat. People can get to know a lot about each other in this way, but it is also important to spend time together on the ground, sharing experiences together and observing one another in a variety of social scenarios, before committing to marriage. The length of time that people need to spend together before they commit is very individual and is different for everyone. There are also questionnaires available that suggest which questions to ask, and these may be used for guidance, but again it is entirely up to an individual which questions are important for him or her to ask. To present a questionnaire to someone to fill in or to interrogate them with a standard list of questions seems more appropriate for a job interview than for a date. It would not set the right tone for beginning a sensitive and respectful marital relationship. If a prospective partner is to be questioned in this way, it would more appropriate to have it done by someone else, such as a family member or mentor. Otherwise, if one prefers to ask the questions directly, then it may be possible to do this, without making the other person feel uncomfortable, if questions are presented in a friendly and informal way by slipping them into a conversation naturally.
In the higher scheme of things, each one of us is destined to marry a certain person and, if we are trying to be devotees of the Lord, then He will make the arrangement. Otherwise karma will make the arrangement anyway. The more we take shelter of the Lord, the more He will guide us. In one stroke the Lord can fulfil our desires and also give us what we deserve and need, by bringing us together with someone who we are drawn to and who will also teach us many lessons along the way, either knowingly or unknowingly. So the most important element in finding a life-partner is prayer.
Choosing a life-partner is possibly the most important decision we will make in life. It therefore makes sense to take advantage of all available methods to help us to make the right decision, rather than focusing on one at the expense of others. By balancing and combining the methods of astrology, hearing from friends and family, becoming acquainted through personal association, and praying to the Lord, we can maximize our chances of achieving a happy outcome. Then, after requesting and receiving the blessings of gurus and senior devotees, we can proceed with confidence.