“There are five ways in which a husband should minister to his wife as the western direction: by honouring her, by not disparaging her, by not being unfaithful to her, by giving authority to her, by providing her with adornments. And there are five ways in which a wife, thus ministered to by her husband as the western direction, will reciprocate: by properly organising her work, by being kind to the servants, by not being unfaithful, by protecting stores, and by being skillful and diligent in all she has to do. In this way the western direction is covered, making it at peace and free from fear.” (Ibid, p. 467)
This of course, describes the shared responsibilities between a working husband and a house wife. In our day, both spouses may be working and it would be unusual for most people to have servants. Still, the idea that married life demands shared labor, mutual respect and faithfulness is not too far off the mark. This also applies to other forms of domestic partnerships as well. One thing that should be added, however, is the idea that marriage requires commitment and hard work.
In the Buddha’s day, marriage was arranged and had nothing to do with romance or love. It was a business transaction more often than not. No one was ever under the delusion that marriage was about living happily ever after. In our day, however, love-matches are the rule and not the exception and couples expect the emotional high to carry them through all difficulties. Then, as soon as the realities of married life set in, modern couples often decide that they made a mistake and give up rather than try to put in the effort to work things out, even if children are involved.
If the Buddha were giving his advice today, I am sure he would point out that marriage is a vocation and not a fairy tale. True committed love is something that is cultivated through mutual caring and commitment, it is not a given that one can take for granted. In Buddhism, blind passion always leads to suffering, but mindfulness, right effort and the cultivation of loving-kindness are the elements of true happiness and peace. This is as true in marriage as it is in anything else in life.