Marriage is a partnership in which two individuals of opposite sexes but equal worth as human beings choose to live together. A happy and lasting marriage requires a lot of hard work and commitment where love is fed with shared experiences, joys and sorrows.
Marriage is the culmination of love by two individuals committed to one another by a common bond. ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach …'(Robert Browning). We believe as Browning does, that love is the essence of life itself, something which transcends boundaries, race and creed.
Marriage has failed to fulfill its purposes today because people have failed to recognize the importance of equality and respect for women. These privileges are enjoyed by many women in a large number of areas of human activity. Strangely when it comes to marriage, women are still treated badly. The importance of the role of women in society was undoubtedly widened after the advent of Buddhism in India, giving them a wide scope to venture into vacations besides house-keeping. In spite of this, for the vast majority, to get married and rear children remained the normal choice of career. But there was a difference: married life was ennobled by the noble position given to it by the Buddha himself to such an undertaking. He lifted the married women from a state of servant to a state of responsibility and importance. As an indication of the Buddha’s concern for maintenance of happiness through marriage, he laid down specific instructions for the guidance of husband and wife.
The Buddha was full of praise for happy couples. Among his lay disciples were Nakulamata and Nakulapita who were considered most eminent for having lived together amicably for a long time. The Buddha praised them and gave instructions to others as to how they too could live happily in marriage. These instructions given over two thousand five hundred years ago hold good even to this day. Much misery has been experienced in modern times by men and women in married life because they deviated from these instructions.
The institution of marriage in ancient India was governed by the concept of caste, the position of women, the rights of men and the four stages of the individual’s life. The Buddha’s rejection of the concept of the caste system meant that the Buddhist institution of marriage was emancipated from these rigid and inflexible rules, regulations and rituals which had become a great obstacle to the free and unprejudiced behavior of the members of society both male and female.
The discourse of Fundamentals of Buddhist Social Ethic, (Sigalovada Sutra) generally lays down the basic pattern of relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, and enumerates the reprisal duties that bind them together emphasizing the most essential aspects of their common life.
The comprehensive study of the Buddhist institution of marriage outlined in the Buddha’s teaching clearly shows that was intended for the enjoyment, promotion and moralization of biological needs, psychological satisfaction and material well-being of both husband and wife without any reference to specific customs, sacraments or any kind of ideology, religious or otherwise.
According to the Buddha, cultural compatibility between husband and wife was considered as one of the factors of successful married life. Many of today’s problems in marriage arise from the inability of the parties concerned to recognize the sacrifices involved. Marriage is not simply lust and romance. Romance is not a bad thing in itself, but it is emotional and has limitations.
There will be less disillusion and heartache in marriage if we understand that, from the illusions of romance, a deep and abiding love may emerge. Love is a passionate and abiding desire, on the part of two people, to produce together conditions under which each can express his of her real self and to produce together an intellectual soil and an emotional climate in which each can flourish, far superior to what either could achieve alone.
In the past we heard of blissfully married couples who shared the sweetness of love earned through years of being together, for better or for worse. For most who have been long-married couples, ‘happily ever after did not just happen. Couples in long, happy marriages mentioned this fact of life when asked what made their relationships a success’. ‘We worked to keep the romance alive. We enjoyed our differences and learned from them.
‘We voiced our discontents freely and deal with them right away instead of letting them build into thunderclouds’. But in a way, the thing all successful couples have in the common was reflected in this observation: ‘Even when things were really bad, we were both too stubborn to quit’. Perhaps what characterizes modern couples with problems is that they want things to work out too easily as it happens on television. No, everything good must be earned through hard work.
For many the road to marital longevity has not been soothe. The bumps included many things: inability to have children, the death of a child, a disabled child. a difficult economic crisis and highly stressful career changes.
Although none of the couples surveyed said so specifically it was obvious that two other factors were important to their marital success. Firstly, even though some couples forced considerable differences in personality and sometimes carried heavy emotional baggage, they maintained respect for one another always and refrained from trying to remake their partners. A wife once told her husband: ‘You married me for what I am’. He retorted, ‘No, I married you for what you would become’. Now of course both parties were wrong because their expectations were different and they were unwilling to compromise. Secondly, none of the marriages was marred by psychological disturbances too severe to preclude a true partnership. There was a wife who always used to insult her husband even for a minor mistake stating: ‘You are a stupid man’. The husband on the other hand was a tolerant man. However, one day when he was scolded by the wife using the same word the husband retorted: ‘ I think you are right. If I were not stupid man, do you think that I would ever marry a woman like you?’ From that day onwards she did not repeat that insulting word.
To achieve a successful marriage, couples also need to understand and accept the differences between the two genders. Couples sometimes become frustrated with each other and wish that their partner was more like them. Knowing and being able to tolerate the differences between men and women helps a lot in marriage.
A mate who is willing to weather the hard times and make the adjustments that come with children, job changes, financial difficulties or simply learning more about the person one is married to, is the real secret to a successful marriage.
Another saying on married life: Wife becomes a mistress to a young man, a companion to the middle aged, and a nurse to an old man’.
Many couples with children are determined to stay together at least until their children are grown up. With just a little effort these years can be among the most fulfilling times in a marriage.
Marriage is a blessing but many people turn their married lives into misery and a curse. Poverty is not the main cause of an unhappy married life. Both husband and wife must learn to share the pleasure and pain of everything in their daily lives. Mutual understanding is the secret of a happy family life.
In a true marriage, man and woman think more of the partnership than they do of themselves individually. Marriage is a bicycle made for two. A feeling of security and contentment comes from mutual efforts.
A wife is not her husband’s servant. She deserves respect as an equal. Though a man is generally regarded even today as being the bread winner helping out with household chores do not demean his masculinity. At the same time, a nagging and grumpy wife is not going to make up for shortages in the home. Neither will her suspicion of her husband help to make a happy marriage. If her husband has shortcomings, only tolerance and kind words will get him to see light. It is important in marriage to keep tolerance alive throughout. Little things can mean a lot. Right understanding and moral conduct are the practical sides of wisdom.
From time immemorial, flowers have been considered the language of love. They don’t cost much. Wives, or for that matter all women, attach a lot of importance to birthdays and anniversaries, and caring husbands should never be too busy to keep love alive with little tributes and attentions. Trivialities such as these are at the bottom of most marital happiness. Wives do appreciate such little attentions from their courteous husbands and it is this lifelong goodwill that keeps the home fires burning.
A carefully developed family affection is a simple formula that works both for keeping marriages together and bringing up children of good character. True love means being willing to value ones’ partner and being unwilling to devalue him or her in the presence of other people. This willingness has to spring from the heart. The key difference between marriages that work and those that do not is how much a couple value each other. Criticizing, putting down or belittling a spouse particularly in the presence of other people, erodes a relationship. And even this is not enough as each still has to value the other as he or she is a rare gem.
Sometimes words are not necessary if there is understanding. An elderly father one confessed to his children that he loved their mother very much and told them to take care of her always, even after he was no more. He confided to them that she was the best woman in the world and that the family as indeed lucky to have her around. The wife, now in her 60’s, has seven grown children and as many grandchildren. Yet she confessed that she never once heard the endearing words ‘I love You’ ever uttered or whispered to her- not even a variation of it. The wife, who belongs to the old school of Chinese philosophy, is quite content with her husband’s own caring ways and concern for her happiness in their blissful married life. Her female intuition somehow tells her that deep down in his heart he truly loves her and that she could not have been dealt a better deck of cards. It is in the nature of some people not to speak out their feelings, but they care. We have to watch out for their actions. The next key to a harmonious marriage is to work towards achieving one’s objective. It is a law of nature that if no effort is put into, for instance, a garden, weeds will grow instead of beautiful flowers. The same goes for marriage.
Faith, not necessary in the religious sense, (though it helps tremendously if a couple shares similar religious beliefs) is another vital ingredient in a lasting relationship.
How important is sex in a marriage? Sex is a natural instinct and if enjoyed within its proper boundaries can bring about great happiness. Sex helps to keep a marriage glowing, and is an important and vital area that keeps a marriage together. It creates intimacy, a shred experience between two people which no one else is party to. It makes the relationship precious and private. The important thing to appreciate here is the fact that men and women see sex differently. While men may view sex as an intense physical activity, women do not. For her, it involves an interaction with the man she loves, that is with gentleness, his care and concern. Understanding the fact that women need intimacy and closeness makes the sexual activity a lot more meaningful and fulfilling.
Sex is much more than the gratification of an appetite. It is the basis of an intimate lifelong companionship, and the means of bringing into the world children whom we love and cherish as long as we live.
Through the ages we have learned that love and mutual respect must be the basis of close intimacy between the sexes. Sex, like any other tendency in man, must be regulated by reason. Man, not being governed by instincts like lesser animals, would find his tendencies running wild were he not to regulate them with reason.
There a saying:’ Like fire, sex is a good servant but a bad master’
A society grows a network of relationships which are mutually intertwined and inter-dependent. Every relationship is a wholehearted commitment to support and to protect others in a group of community.
Marriage plays a very important part in this strong web of relationships of giving support and protection. A good marriage should grow and develop gradually from understanding and not impulse, from true loyalty and not just sheer indulgence.
The institution of marriage provides a fine basis for the development of culture, a delightful association of two individuals to be nurtured, and to be free from loneliness, deprivation and fear. In marriage, each partner develops a complementary role, giving strength and moral courage to each other, with each manifesting a supportive and appreciative recognition to the other’s skills.
There must be no thought of man or woman being superior – each is complementary to the other, a partnership of equality, exuding gentleness, generosity, calm and dedication and most important of all, self-sacrifice.