Youth in focus: I have a few questions. My wife is always trying to find fault with whatever I say and I really don’t know the reason behind it. In addition, she often says that she wants a divorce. However, we have two children and her threats affect them and I really don’t know what to do if she leaves.  Is this karma? Should I just allow the karma to get exhausted and then get divorced?    

-Kota, Paro

Well Kota, domestic problems seem to be rampant these days. Anyway, you should honestly consider whether you are causing your wife to feel angry with you. It is always easy to find fault with others, but we often don’t see our own defects. If you identify your own failings, then try to change. As humans, we will always have faults, but at least we should take responsibility for our words and action, and be willing to admit our mistakes.

At the same time, it might be helpful to let your wife know how her criticism affects you. Don’t make it personal. Don’t be angry and don’t accuse her of anything. Instead, just stick to facts.

Basically, tell her that her constant fault finding demoralises you. You can tell her that perhaps some people can handle it, but you cannot. Apologise for that, but state that this is the reality of the situation and that you hope she can understand how it affects you and dampens the atmosphere of the household. As I said, deal with facts. Don’t start a slanging match. She may not change, but at least she will be aware of the affects of her words – for many people, speaking harshly and putting others down are habits and they don’t realise how their words are hurting others.

From her side, she should definitely not keep threatening to divorce you. She is a mother and the wellbeing of her two kids should be the absolute priority of her life.

In reality, when a parent constantly threatens to break up a household it really disturbs the children and can cause them long-term emotional problems. If your wife has irreconcilable issues with you, then you should separate. However, both of you should ensure that the children are protected throughout the entire divorce process.

In this respect, it is important for people to realise that once they get married and have children life is no longer about their personal happiness and joy, but about creating a secure and caring environment for their family. Actually, it is a common mistake to think that putting ourselves first will bring us happiness, when, in reality, the opposite is true. As a blueprint for life, these words of the Buddhist scholar Shantideva should be embedded in our minds: “All the suffering there is in this world arises from wishing our self to be happy. All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy.”

As I said earlier, it is difficult to change another person. However, your wife needs to know that her constant threats are not only disturbing you, but also hurting her children. If you feel that she will not accept advice from you, then ask a mutual friend to talk with her.

With regard to your last question, how can we know when our karma is exhausted and it is time for divorce? Perhaps this example of negative karma is helpful: You are in a boat and a storm is blowing. You cannot stop the wind nor can you escape from the boat. This is your karma. However, how you sail the boat is up to you. This is your freedom. Basically, you do not have to just let the storm sink the boat, but instead you can try your best to sail it skilfully. Finally, you may be saved or you might drown, but the way you responded to the situation will definitely have some influence on the outcome. It is the same with your marriage. You should not just throw your arms in the air and do nothing, claiming that the situation is the result of karma. Instead, you should try to make your marriage work. Like the boat, you might be unsuccessful in your attempts, but, on the other hand, you might save your marriage.

Anyway, whatever you do, the welfare of your children should always be at the forefront of your decisions. This is the most important point.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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