Marriages, are they made in heaven? What scriptures say about husband wife relationship.
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person”. Mignon McLaughlin
Arranged marriages were normal in Indian society for a very long time and it is still practiced by many Indian families irrespective of their religion or cast. Parents take an important role for the marriage and they choose prospective bride or groom for their son or daughter to marry. Marriage is not an affair between two individuals but that of two families including their relatives and friends. Religious practices, life style and economic compatibility also play a major part in successful marriages that lasts a life time. But love marriages are slowly changing that thought process in India. Once the couple enters into the bond of marriage, the relationship is considered sacrosanct and perpetual—till death does them apart.
The fast-changing social and family environment has thrown up new challenges, particularly to the young people. Assertion of freedom and the need for individual space, characterized by ambition and the fast pace of life; have created new pressures on marriage. Job opportunities for women have multiplied over the recent past, giving them economic independence. For many career-oriented girls, their career, success and money are more important and hence get more priority over family. This motivates them to choose out of a bad marriage, particularly when they have no kids. As many of the female spouses today are well educated and employed on good jobs, they have become quite conscious of their rights. They also expect cooperation and adjustment from their husbands. While women have tended to become assertive, many of the males, on their part, have not learnt to adapt to the new situation. Because of the greater societal acceptance of divorcees the sanctity of marriage is taking a beating in today’s society. If the wife is working, gender roles change. Conflicts arising from sharing the work load at home add to the stress faced at work. Tensions often arise if the husband imagines that the woman’s career is temporary or the woman imagines that her husband will lend a hand at home. All these have resulted in the lack of harmony among married couples. The decline in harmony can be associated with values that emphasize individualistic, materialistic and self-oriented goals over family well-being.
Our society is in transition, in a state of flux. While old values are getting uprooted, the new value system has not got sufficiently entrenched. The frequent ego clashes may be the consequence of this fluid situation.
In Mahabharata there are many references about marriages and husband wife relationship. If we can follow those instructions, even partially, one can enjoy a long and blissful married life. Some of the excerpts are given below.
The wife is a man’s better half and first of all friends. The wife is the root of religion, desire and wealth. Only those who have wife can perform religious rites and can attain salvation. Only those with wife can be cheerful and lead a happy domestic life. They act as mothers in sickness and woe. Men scorched by mental grief, or suffering under bodily pain, feel as much refreshed in the companionship of their wives as a perspiring person in a cool bath. He who has a wife is trusted by all. No man, even in anger, should ever do anything that is disagreeable to his wife, seeing that happiness, joy, and virtue, everything depends on the wife.
A house without the wife is as desolate as the wilderness. Even in the deep woods to a traveler a wife is his refreshment and solace. Even the foot of a tree is one’s home if one lives there with one’s spouse as a companion. Without one’s spouse, a very palace is truly a desolate wilderness. When one sets out for a strange land one’s wife is one’s trusted companion. It is said that the wife is the richest possession of her husband. A wife, therefore, is one’s most valuable possession. There is no friend like the wife or refuge better than her. One’s house is where his wife is.
Once Satyabhama, wife of Sri Krishna asked Panchali as to how she is able to make such powerful husbands as Pandavas obedient to her. Is she using any black magic or tricks? To which Panchali answered thus.
Keeping aside vanity, and controlling desire and anger, I always serve them with devotion. Restraining jealousy, with deep devotion of heart, without a sense of degradation at the services I perform, I wait upon my husbands. Ever fearing to utter what is evil or false, or to look or sit or walk with impropriety, or cast glances indicative of the feelings of the heart, do I serve my husbands. I never bath or eat or sleep till he that is my husband has bathed or eaten or slept,–till, in fact, our attendants have bathed, eaten, or slept. Whether returning from the field, the forest, or the town, hastily rising up I always salute my husband with water and a seat. I always keep the house and all household articles and the food that is to be taken well-ordered and clean. Carefully do I keep the rice, and serve the food at the proper time. I never indulge in angry and fretful speech, and never imitate women that are wicked. Keeping idleness at distance I always do what is agreeable. I never laugh except at a jest, and never stay for any length of time at the house-gate. I always refrain from laughing loudly and indulging in high passion, and from everything that may give offence. I always am engaged in waiting upon my lords. A separation from my lords is never agreeable to me. Whatever my husband does not drink, eats or enjoys I also renounce. Those duties that my mother-in-law had told me of in respect of relatives, as also the duties of alms-giving, of offering worship to the gods, of oblations to the diseased, of boiling food in pots on auspicious days for offer to ancestors and guests of reverence and service to those that deserve our regards, and all else that is known to me, I always discharge day and night, without idleness of any kind. The husband is the wife’s god, and he is her refuge. Indeed, there is no other refuge for her. How can, then, the wife do the least injury to her lord? I never, in sleeping or eating or adorning any person, act against the wishes of my husband, and always guided by my husbands, I never speak ill of my mother-in-law. My husbands have become obedient to me in consequence of my diligence, my alacrity, and the humility with which I serve superiors.
She is a true wife whose heart is devoted to her husband and is skillful in household affairs. Sweet-speeched wives are friends on occasions of joy. A wife should speak only what is agreeable to her husband. An ideal wife never eats before her husband eat, and never bath before her husband, never sits before her husband sit down, and never lies before he lies down. She rejoices if he rejoices, and becomes sad when he is sad. When the husband is away she becomes cheerless, and when he is angry she ceases not to speak sweetly.
Having read what is said in scriptures, many may think that these are not practical in today’s society. At the same time I am sure the essence of what is said can certainly be implemented. My suggestions are as follows.
Let the relationship between husband and wife be based on mutual respect and love. Loyalty to each other builds trust which is essential in any relationship. Being the smallest possible team, they should have common goals and objectives. Let the relationship be not based on one-upmanship or servitude as both should share the duties, responsibilities and rights equally. None should surrender their individual personality and creativity at the altar of marriage but support each other to grow and excel in their profession or chosen field. There are certain functions only the women can do such as child bearing and breast feeding and it puts high degree of emotional and physical stress on her. Nothing in this world can replace the joy one gets from their new born baby. Therefore the husband should be more than willing to compensate by taking on additional responsibilities to make the family successful and happy. It calls for great understanding and at times some adjustments and sacrifice to make a married life long, happy and enjoyable.
Let me end this with a quote from the great philosopher, Kahlil Gibran –
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.