The most important element of a marriage is maitri, friendship. Marriage is a relationship, a business, a cultural exchange and a social process. You can also consider it a spiritual event. Irrespective of how you see it, the basic factor in a marriage needs to be friendship, which many lack.
When two people consider themselves equal, then there is friendship between them. When there is equal responsibility, legal rights and social rights, there is friendship. If the legal system treats a husband and wife differently, if there are different sets of laws for each, then there is no equality and no friendship. If there is disparity of status between them, if one is considered senior and the other junior, there cannot be any friendship. A marriage can be successful only when two people consider themselves friends. This is true all over the world.
In Indian society, we have not allowed the status of a husband and wife to be that of friends. The social system considers one as privileged and the other as under-privileged. This is because many women here are illiterate. If the woman is illiterate and the man arrogant, there is no possibility of friendship between them. Friendship can exist only when there is a feeling of equality towards each other. This is something you must think about. If a marriage goes wrong, it is not necessarily the fault of the couple or their parents; the entire tradition is at fault, the national principles are at fault.
The academia today is trying to define the ideal behavioural relationship between a husband and wife. Should they be independent of each other? Should their property rights be different? If these things are properly addressed, then many marital problems will be solved. When the feeling of friendship pervades in a couple, everything else dissolves. They are able to tolerate each other’s mistakes because friendship is unconditional. Friends are sympathetic of each other’s faults. For marriages to have this quality, the entire tradition will have to be changed.
In a household, the husband and the wife are the two main pillars. The entire building of the household rests on these pillars and if they break, everything else will break. The father beam and the mother beam may have some differences, but there should not be any physical violence and they should not walk out on each other. The husband should support the wife in everything and respect her. The house where the woman is respected and protected progresses. Riches, knowledge and power come to such a house. A husband and wife whose relationship is based on respect become like rishis. They may have shared a physical relationship, but that does not define their equation.
The relationship between a husband and wife is made up of emotions and feelings. Unless there is parity of feelings between the two, the relationship is not established. They are like the two banks of a river and the flow between them is that of the household. The two banks remain separate, but together they allow the flow to move between them. If this is the kind of relationship between a husband and wife, then the house turns into an ashram. Here ‘ashram’ does not mean a place where rituals and worship are being conducted continuously; it is a state of mind.
A couple takes a vow to live together until they die, to give over their body, emotions and future to each other. There can be a difference of opinion between them, but there should not be any disrespect. The wife should not hurt the husband and the husband should not hurt the wife. If you can do this, then you don’t need anyone to guarantee moksha to you. In a household where the husband and wife live like Vasishtha and Arundhati, Atri and Anusuya, Shiva and Parvati, what need does it have for moksha? Moksha is ever present in that house. You need moksha when you are unhappy. Moksha means freedom. When someone is released from prison, he may say he has become free. If one has never been imprisoned, what need is there for freedom?