A happy married life the Buddhist way
Venerable K Sri Dhammananda
There are no short-cuts to happiness in marriage. No two human beings can possibly live together in an intimate emotional relationship for a long period of time without having some misunderstanding or friction from time to time. Understanding and tolerance are required to overcome any feelings of jealousy, anger, and suspicion. To think that one does not need to adopt a give-and-take attitude is to presume that love in marriage is just there for the asking without any sacrifice.
Building a successful marriage
Success in marriage is based on compatibility rather than just finding the right partner. Both partners must try to be the right person by acting out of mutual respect, love and concern for each other. Love is an inner feeling and a fulfillment arising from mutual healthy growth with and for the other person. In a successful marriage, a partner must not always try to get things his or her own way. This brings to mind a humorous saying - “Man has his will but woman has her way”. There is only one path to be trodden by both, it may be uneven, bumpy and sometimes difficult, but it is always a “mutual path”.
A happy marriage is not one in which we exist with eyes closed. We see faults as well as virtues, and we should accept the fact that no one is perfect. A husband and wife must learn to share the happiness and the pain in their daily lives. Mutual understanding is the secret formula of a happy marriage. Marriage is a blessing, but unfortunately, many people treat it otherwise due to a lack of correct communication and understanding.
Most marital troubles which arise are normally due to an unwillingness of one partner to compromise and be patient with the other. The golden rule to avoid a minor misunderstanding from being blown out of proportion is to be patient, tolerant and understanding. Human beings are emotional and get into angry arguments easily. Husbands and wives should do their utmost to make sure that both of them are not angry at the same time. This is the golden rule for a happy married life. If both parties are not angry at the same time problems can be easily resolved by adopting the noble spirit of patience, tolerance and understanding.
The husband should treat his wife with respect, understanding and consideration and not as a servant, nor as a doll in his hands. Although he maybe the breadwinner of the family, it is also his duty to help his wife with household work whenever he is free. The wife on the other hand, should not always nag or grumble at her husband over trivial matters. If he really has certain shortcomings, she should try to talk with him and point out his mistakes. A spouse should try to tolerate and handle problems without bothering the partner, including those related to his or her career.
If one is inclined towards jealousy, one must try to restrain suspicions over the partner’s movements since they may not be at all justifiable. In Buddhism, mutual respect and trust are of paramount importance in a happy union.
There is a story of a hot-tempered woman, who would always scold her husband for minor mistakes by saying, “You are a stupid idiot.” The husband was very tolerant and kept quiet when he was scolded. However, one day, when the wife shouted, “You are a stupid idiot,” the husband said: “I think you are right. If I am not a stupid idiot, do you think I would have ever married a woman like you?” From that day onwards she never uttered such words.
Sex in marriage
Sex should be given its due place in a marriage. Like fire, sex is a good servant but can be a bad master. It should neither be unhealthily repressed nor morbidly exaggerated. The desire for sex, like any other desire, must be regulated by reason. Although it is an important element in the happiness of most married couples, it is necessary to understand that one can be happy without giving sex a paramount role. On the other hand, one can have a good sex life and still be unhappy. Real love is not just physical, it is a spiritual communion, a meeting of minds. Sex is much more than physical gratification. It is the basis for an intimate life-long companionship. Down through the ages, love and mutual respect have been shown to be the basis for close intimacy between the sexes. Dr Helen Kaplan of Cornell Medical Centre says that without intimacy there can be no real love. Her definition of intimacy is the sharing of feelings, not information. Couples who are not intimate will tend to talk of frivolous subjects like the weather, the latest TV shows or what to eat for dinner. They never make it a point to find out how their partner really feels.
The married couple should make every effort to cultivate the timeless virtues of love, fidelity and decency. Real growth only comes through the development of these virtues. None can repeal the cosmic moral law of cause and effect. The hope of personal growth and harmony in society lies in the recognition of this basic law, rather than surrendering oneself to base and coarse animal instincts which only bring suffering to those we dearly love.
Having a good marriage
The Buddha says that a marriage between a bad husband and a bad wife is like a vampire existing with another. Marriage between a bad man and a good woman is like a vampire existing with an angel. Married life between a good man and bad woman is like an angel living with a vampire. Married life between a good man and good woman is like an angel living with another angel. Montaigne jokes about married life by saying: “A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband”.
In some religions, a man may marry more than one wife, while others insist on monogamy. In Buddhism, a marriage is a matter of personal choice which is subject to the laws of the country. But, in places where polygamy is permissible, there is enough evidence to show that a man having more than one wife only invites more worries and burdens into his life. As most of us already have enough problems in life, why go looking for more? There was once an elderly man who was not satisfied with the only wife to whom he had been married for some years. He decided to take on a second wife who was charming and beautiful. Now, this second wife felt rather embarrassed to be seen with such an old man. So in order to make him look young, she spent a lot of time plucking out all the grey hairs that had appeared on his head. When his first wife noticed this, she began to pull out his black hairs one by one, hoping to make him appear older. This contest between the two of them went on and in the end the man became completely bald, with neither a single grey hair nor black hair on his head.
When one partner attaches a lot of importance to birthdays and anniversaries the other partner should be mindful to remember these important days. Such little acts of attention show the person you love that you are thinking of them and that their happiness and welfare are very near and dear to your heart. Such little thoughts will keep the home fires burning and contribute towards marital happiness.
Married couples today can regulate the size of their family through proper family planning. Wise couples should plan their families according to their incomes and capabilities. There is no reason for Buddhists to oppose contraception and the practice of birth control which prevent the fertilisation of the ovum. However, once the embryo is formed, it must be allowed to take its full course during the pregnancy. Buddhism does not support or condone abortion which constitutes an act of killing.