I am afraid many of us have a rather shallow and superficial concept of love and marriage. We look upon love as something romantic—a thing of the heart. We regard it as something intangible, ephemeral, something which we can’t even find words to describe.
When I hear people talk of ‘love-at-first-sight’, I express the silent wish that this may include insight and foresight as well as hindsight! ‘Love happened in a flash!’ young lovers often claim. If you don’t want it to be just a flash-in-a-pan, you must grow in understanding and knowledge of each other.
If love is to grow and endure, it must be constantly nourished by understanding, shared experiences, sympathy, patience and compassion. Such love is powerful—it has the power to heal, unite, enrich and restore. This is why a great European thinker said, “Love is the driving force for the highest values of human life: to the power of truth, knowledge, beauty, freedom, goodness and happiness.”
A dollop of understanding
“What is the best way to understand?” someone asked me. I could only reply, “The best way to understand is to be understanding.” Did you know that the word understand is actually related to its literal meaning—i.e., stand under something? You have to observe something from the bottom to the top.
Unfortunately, we are losing the ability to understand others. We rush into snap judgments. We develop strong opinions on everything and everyone—even when we really don’t know about them. Understanding helps you to grow in the spirit of humility. To understand is to stand under. But, no one is prepared to stand under anyone else today. Everyone wants to stand above everyone else—no wonder then, that the divorce rate is increasing, and our homes are breaking. Parents say they cannot understand their children; children claim they cannot understand their parents.
A drizzle of humility
Humility and understanding are the keys to harmony and happiness. When you learn to love and respect your spouse, when you begin to appreciate his/her special qualities, then your marriage bonds are strengthened.
I am often disappointed and grieved when married men or women use the word ‘my’ instead of ‘our’. How often do people not say, ‘my car’, ‘my house’, ‘my son’, ‘my daughter’, ‘my bank account’ etc. What is the purpose of marriage if you can’t begin to substitute us for me, ours for mine?
We must work constantly to remove egotism and materialism from love. “If you really love me, you must buy me a diamond ring for my birthday,” a wife demands of her husband. “If you really love me, don’t contradict anything I say,” a husband tells his wife. This is a very narrow selfish notion of love. Such people are not interested in equal partners: they only want someone who will constantly glorify them, pamper them, flatter them and reinforce their ego. When their partners disagree, or offer a differing opinion, this is regarded as ‘unloving’ behaviour.
A pinch of empathy
would call for a little more empathy among marriage partners. Empathy is nothing but understanding the other person’s point of view. The golden command ‘do-as-you-would-be-done-by’ is a splendid instance of empathy. It is an excellent technique for strengthening marriage bonds.
Do you consider yourself to be sensitive, vulnerable and very, very special? Think of your spouse too, in the same way. Do you feel that you should never be hurt or upset or let down or disappointed by your partner? Extend the same courtesy to him/her. For empathy is based on mutual respect. We will develop the spirit of empathy when we learn to step out of our rigid, inflexible positions and view the world from another’s perspective.
Egocentric love demands that the other person should live, act and do everything for our benefit alone! I’m afraid that it is demeaning and degrading to regard a partner as someone who can be possessed and controlled. Absolute control over another person is inhuman and undesirable. As the wise saying goes, ‘The bird of paradise alights only upon the hand that does not grasp.’
A dash of tolerance
Tolerance is a great virtue in this age of individuality and self-assertion. Tolerance is nothing but the sincere effort to understand, appreciate and respect your partner’s beliefs and habits. This does not mean you simply accept the other’s point of view. It only means that you make an effort to understand it!
There was a husband who constantly put his wife down in the presence of friends, guests and even strangers. “Oh she’s practically illiterate,” he would sneer. “Fifth-standard-failed” Or “She is really clumsy, my wife,” and so on and so on.
One day at a party, he uttered one of his snide remarks, “She can never get anything straight, ever!” She turned round and said to him, loud and clear, so that everyone heard her, “Honey, if I am so awful and worthless, why did you marry me in the first place?”
The husband was rendered speechless, for he had no answer to that question.
True love enhances; it does not degrade or devalue. True love builds up the spouse’s self-respect and does not diminish it in any way. If you truly love someone how can you belittle that person?
This was first published in the February 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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