I- THE WIFE:
In advising women about their role in married life, the Buddha appreciated the fact that peace and harmony of a home rested largely on a woman. His advice was realistic and practical when he explained a number of day-to-day characteristics which a woman should or should not cultivate. On diverse occasions, the Buddha counseled that a wife should:
- not harbor evil thoughts against her husband- not be cruel, harsh or domineering- not be spendthrift but should be economical and live within her means;- guard and save her husbands' hard-earned earnings and property;- always be attentive and chaste in mind and action;- be faithful and harbor no thought of any adulterous acts;- be refined in speech and polite in action;- be kind, industrious and hardworking;- be thoughtful and compassionate towards her husband;- be modest and respectful;- be cool, calm and understanding - serving not only as a wife but also as a friend and adviser when the need arises.
According to Buddhist teaching, in a marriage, the husband can expect the following qualities from his wife:
-love: A deep and abiding love is the most emotional and spontaneous expression of desire and self-fulfillment a husband expects of his wife. It is indeed the basis of an intimate life-long mutual relationship and the means of bringing into the world children whom they will love and cherish as long as they live. Here love is not limited to mere attachment (prema), but it is an all pervading quality of wishing for the genuine well-being of her husband.
- attentiveness: To be ever heedful, mindful and diligent, as well as to give her undivided attention to her husband's needs;
- family obligations: Besides fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the couple's own family, the wife should also honor and respect her in-laws and deserving relatives and treat them as she would her own parents;
- faithfulness: Is associated with chastity, fidelity and steadfastness of the wife. It also implies being trust worthy and giving her constant devotion to her husband;
- Child-care: Motherly love is the foundation of all love in the world. As a devoted mother she would through her maternal instincts, even venture out at the risk of her life, for the protection of her only child;
- thrift: As the wife is entrusted with the task of home management it is incumbent on her to be that household expenditure is kept well within the family budget provided by the husband. To accomplish this task, the wife has to economize on her expenditure and exercise thrift, even to the extent of being frugal in doing so;
- the provision of meals: As the mistress of the house, it is the duty of the wife to prepare good nourishing food for the family. The family meal is an important event each day as it develops goodwill and togetherness;
- to calm him down when he is upset: When the husband returns home in an agitated state, the wife has to express herself in a soothing manner so as to pacify and comfort him. This will ease the situation;
- sweetness in everything: Besides expressing her endearing and tender feelings, the wife should also possess a charming disposition, be always cheerful, pleasant and comely.
II- THE HUSBAND
The Buddha, in reply to a householder as to how a husband should minister to his wife, declared that the husband should always honor and respect his wife, by being faithful to her, by giving her the requisite authority to manage domestic affairs and by giving her befitting ornaments. This advice, given over twenty five centuries ago, still stand good till today.
Over the centuries, male dominated societies have perpetuated the myth that men are superior to women but the Buddha made a remarkable change and uplifted the status of woman by a simple suggestion that a husband should honor and respect his wife. Such a remark may be common today, but when we consider it was made 2500 years ago, it is no less than revolutionary!
A husband should be faithful to his wife which means that a husband should fulfill and maintain his marital obligations to his wife, thus sustaining the confidence in the marital relationship in every sense of the word.
The husband being the bread-winner, has to invariably be away from home, hence he should entrust the domestic or household duties to the wife who should be considered as the custodian and manager of their property and as the home economic-administrator.
The provision of befitting ornaments to the wife should be symbolic of the husband's love, care and appreciation showered on her. This symbolic practice has been carried out from time immemorial in Buddhist communities.
Unfortunately today it is in danger of dying out because of the adverse influence of the modern way of life.
The wife expectations from the husband are:-
- tenderness: Being gentle and respectful to the wife on all matters when attending to her needs;
- courtesy: Being polite, obliging, civil and modest in his dealings and consultations with his wife;
- sociability: Being genial, friendly, communicative and compatible at all times with his wife in the company of their friends and visitors to their home;
- security: The principal objective a wife seeks in her marriage is security to be provided by her husband.
In this respect the husband is expected to be a tower of strength so as to withstand any form of external threat to the family and to provide them with adequate protection and safety at all times;
-fairness: As a responsible husband, he should be giving , compassionate and merciful as well as being charitable to deserving causes needing his assistance. As a father, he has to be just and reasonable to the demands of his growing children;
- loyalty: As an understanding husband, he should give his undivided loyalty to his wife and stand by her, through thick and thin, under any adverse situation confronting the family.
He should be steadfast in his principles and one whom the wife could, with complete confidence, depend upon in facing any untoward eventuality;
- honesty: Being a responsible husband, he has to be upright in his character and be frank with his wife on all matters affecting themselves and their children. He should not harbor any secrets from his wife as this will ultimately erode her trust and confidence in him;
- good companionship: The husband should possess an amiable personality and be able to mix with people from all walks of life. He should be knowledgeable so as to be able to engage in intelligent conversation at all levels of society and be approachable to anyone needing his assistance. He also should possess a good sense of humour to enliven his listeners who seek his companionship; and
-moral support: As a responsible husband, he should be able to stand steadfastly by his wife's side to the very end, in the face of any untoward eventuality confronting her and lend her moral support and much - needed courage to overcome such a situation.
III- HUSBAND AND WIFE
The husband is the acknowledged head of the family, unless he is incapacitated from performing his duties as such. Both in common law and under modern legislation, the husband is legally bound to support his wife and family, notwithstanding the fact that the wife has her own property or income or is capable of earning her own support.
Even today where many wives work, the nurturing of a family should be a shared experience. Husbands have no reason to shirk household duties, to help the wife and train the children, especially when there are no servants to do such work.
Apart from these emotional and sensual aspects, the couple will have to take care of day-to-day living conditions, family budget and social obligations.
Thus, mutual consulations between the husband and wife on all family problems would help to create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in resolving whatever issues that may arise.