“By these seven steps we have now become friends. Let our bonds of love be there forever. I will never part your love. Let you also never part my love. Let us be together. Let us think together. By loving each other, let us live amicably well. Let us enjoy all happiness and good things together. Let our aspirations, ceremonies and minds come together. Let us have everlasting friendship. Let you be my first and best friend”
Ashwalayana Grhyasutra 1-7-19, Saptapadi mantra (Recited in every Hindu marriage ceremony)
Marriage should have emerged as institution in the good old times not on the basis of man overriding woman, but on the basis of friendship between man and woman. The saptapadi mantra that is recited in every Hindu marriage ceremony, as the couples go around the sacred fire holding each other’s hand, illustrates this concept of friendship above very well.
For a married man (Grhastha) his best friend should be his wife. For a married woman, her best friend should be her husband. If this friendship is not the basis of a marriage, then the ‘sweetness’ in the marriage will be totally lost.
Over several centuries, the Hindu marriage lost this ‘core’ aspect of marriage and became almost a ‘slavery’ of woman to man in the name of ‘morals and ethics’. This is not due to the Vedic culture, but more due to degradation of that culture, as could be seen from several mantras in the Rig Veda.
Western societies institutionalized a concept of ‘mutual commitment’ as the basis of marriage instead of friendship. In the modern age all societies including the Hindu society started aping this ‘mutual commitment’ model as it is better than the ‘slavery’ model.
Many people think and believe that ‘mutual commitment’ is the basis of a marriage. They are absolutely wrong. ‘Mutual commitment’ is not the basis of a marriage. ‘Friendship’ needs to be the basis of a marriage. Atleast that is what a Hindu marriage is supposed to be.
In most modern marriages, the partners do not realize this. Husband’s best friends with whom he can share all his heart is someone other than his wife. A Wife’s best friend with whom she shares all her heart is some other person than her husband. Hence the ‘sweetness’ in the marriage is lost. Often Husband becomes a mental burden to wife and wife becomes a mental burden to Husband. The problem with the ‘mutual commitment’ model is ‘On what basis persons will mutually commit ?’.
When we are in love, when the hormones are in a rage, our brains are ready to commit to anything. So we get ‘committed’. Once the initial love wears out or becomes regular or boring, the ‘commitment’ becomes a burden to carry.
It is simply impossible for humans to commit to something and remain burdened with it lifelong, unless something is seriously wrong with a person or person is emotionally blinded to a cause.
Hence making mutual commitments alone cannot be the basis of sustainable marriages. Similarly moral and ethical values continuously change and cannot be used to hold people bonded into a relationship like slaves.
It is from this angle, the question of marriage being arranged, love or live-in needs to be thought about.
Look at the ‘Love’ marriages. ‘Love’ is a genuine feeling or perception, no doubt. But it is a bit ‘chemical’ to some extent. It is situational, environmental and biological. When situations change, environments vary or people get older (biological changes), ‘Love’ may disappear. Once ‘Love’ disappears, in the ‘commitment’ model of marriage, partners are not willing to ‘mutually commit’. Life becomes a burden, if they live together (due to some reasons) or live apart.
Look at live-in relationships. Live-in relationships are a direct after-effect of the ‘mutual commitment’ model of marriage. Often partners want to check if they can ‘mutually commit’ to each other and try a live-in relationship. Even if we assume they are testing their friendship, actually they are testing their expectations and commitment capabilities.
More often than not these trials go off tangentially. Partners have no incentive to commit to each other unless there are some economic advantages. Even if they commit, that commitment wears out with time, as situations change.
Look at arranged marriages. Modern day arranged marriages often push people into a bond without having an understanding of what is marriage. Modern culture promotes a concept of friendship and marriage being totally two different things. Hence the couples are not the best friends to each other.
Hence it is no wonder that marriages fail whether they are based on love or arranged. Live-in relationships also fail as all of these are not based on being the first and best friend of each other.
Turn on any FM Radio or Television channel. Open any magazine. There are a huge number of psuedo-experts (not even married) masquerading as pscyhologists advising people on marriages and friendship. They ‘ingrain’ people with ideas that they need to look for friendships outside their marriage. In fact for these people marriage is different, friendship is different.
If you want to make your marriage a ‘success‘, make your partner your first and best friend, from day one. Your marriage may be ‘Love’ or ‘arranged’. It does not matter.
Once you are your partner’s first and best friend, you will not look for a match with him/her or commitment from him/her. You will understand your partner and walk along with him/her in every step.
In Hindu marriages (originally), there is no promise for a match between the partners. The only promise that is made is that the partners will not leave each other under any circumstance, in front of the sacred fire, from day one. They need to treat their partner as their first and best friend from day one and share their whole mind and heart with each other. Any other person comes later.
The whole concept of ‘tree’ marriages between Banyan and Peepal, Banyan and Neem are all the manifestations of this friendship of living together. If we carefully observe, these trees are from different species and they can probably not even ‘copulate’. But then they are married as marriage is all about an everlasting friendship.
Friendship does not sprout in a day like love or infatuation. It is the result of hard work and give and take. Partners need to work hard to understand each other, accept each other with all their shortcomings. They have to learn and adapt to each other, as any friends do.
We may often feel that we are not a match, given that we are ingrained with a concept of looking for a ‘match’. The ‘moment’ we stop looking for a match and make our partner as our first best friend to share our mind and heart and accept them with all their shortcomings, it will become easy.
Again both partners need to do that. One hand does not clap.
Essentially we need to return to our vedic roots in marriage and teach our kids that their partner has to be their first and best friend from day one of their marriage.
For the generations that is ingrained in the ‘commitment’ models that look for ‘match’ between partners and in the society where man and woman are equal, marriage is a tough challenge. It may be difficult for partners to treat their mates as their first and best friend, given all their moorings and concepts. But then unless they do it, they can never taste the sweetness of their marriage.