Radhanath Swami says, “It’s not so difficult to be respectful, to be caring, or to be forgiving, but the mind makes it appear that way.” The solution is in putting our intelligence to use: understand that what we are resisting against is the actual path of dharma. Then it becomes easy to surrender our ego to the Lord. We can thus overcome the lower nature of the mind and the senses, and we can do the right thing. A wife’s dharma is to be respectful towards her husband. But many a times, our endeavor and life’s mission is to change the husband! Isn’t it? Expecting my husband to understand me, to appreciate me, and to give me few minutes of undivided attention, many a time I’ve fallen trap to what I call a vicious circle: unfulfilled expectation, anger and resentment, harsh words inadvertently provoking the husband’s anger and the battle begins! What seems like an innocent beginning ends disastrously. I learnt the hard way that this is what happens when I take shelter of my mind instead of my dharma (duty).
A wise woman once told me, “If you want a truly fine husband, respect him at the level at which you want him to reach.” Strong evidences indicate that a woman holds great power to make or break a man.
In his book His Needs, Her Needs, Willard Harley amends the saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman” to “Behind every great man is an admiring wife.”
A man usually likes to be respected. That’s the male ego and when he doesn’t get it, often times he becomes frustrated or violent and there arises a domestic problem. But when his wife gives him due respect, something wonderful happens. He thrives and grows toward godliness. When his need to be respected is fulfilled, something more amazing happens, something that every wife ever craves for! He tries to fulfil all the needs of his wife, lovingly. I’ve known a couple who seem to be perfectly leading their married life even after many years of marriage – no fights but cooperation, harmonious dealings and very much happy to be with each other! I kept wondering the secret of their success and bingo, one day it dawned upon me when I was intimately speaking with the wife. She was very respectful whenever she spoke about her husband and in her day-to-day life, was careful to fulfil his minute needs as well, even at the expense of bearing personal inconveniences. For that matter, I’ve never seen her speak disrespectfully about her husband, even to her closest friends or family members. Mahabharath narrates of Queen Draupadi advising Queen Sathyabama on how to please ones husband. She concludes that the behaviour of a wife based upon regard for the husband is the eternal virtue for women.
Of course, the husband has his part to play. The Manu-Samhita (the laws of all social classes of Hinduism) declares that it is the duty of the husband to satisfy the wife by riches, clothes, love, respect and pleasing words. The husband should never do anything displeasing to her. In Srimad Bhagavatam we see that Lord Krishna Himself was acting even as a hen-pecked husband, just for the pleasure of his surrendered wives. He even fought with the demigods to get the parijata flower and hence please his wife.
I’m including a self-help kit (Appendix 1) which I borrowed from a Christian missionary organization helping people discover Jesus. It gives practical step by step tips for wives, so it can be a useful instrument. And for those who want to raise their benchmark, there is more about Queen Draupadi’s advice to Queen Sathyabama at Appendix 2. Read on and happy respecting!
Appendix 1: 10 Steps Towards Respecting Your Husband
1. Pray for him daily and trust the Lord to answer your requests.
a. Pray for his well-being, wisdom, protection, blessings, guidance, knowledge, spiritual maturity, success, purity, strength in temptation, etc.
b. Look for God’s answers to your prayers.
c. Thank God for working on your family.
d. Thank God for your husband.
e. Pray for your attitude.
2. Remember that the Lord has put your husband in a position of leadership, and He will lead you through your husband.
3. Make a list of your husband’s qualities that you appreciate. Review and add to your list regularly.
4. Tell your husband what you appreciate about him. Tell others what you appreciate about him.
5. Don’t criticize your husband to others – especially to your children.
6. Look for the positive side of things that you may find irritating. If you find it boring when he spends time telling you about his bad day, remember that at least he is talking to you, spending time with you, sharing his concerns with you, bringing you into his confidence, and giving you the chance to be an encourager and helper.
7. Respond to his requests with enthusiasm.
8. If you are concerned about a decision your husband has made, ask him the following:
a. “I’m confused about _________. Can you explain it to me?”
b. “Can we talk about _____? I feel uncomfortable about ______.”
c. Don’t ask: “WHY in the world would you do it that way?” or ask “Why?” in any way that implies you think he is foolish.
9. Respect his likes and dislikes.
10. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about your husband, stop and choose to think of something else – especially things from your positive quality list. (or refer to my previous blog article)
Remember, God is working on you and your husband. You can both learn from your failures as well as your successes. Give God the freedom to teach your husband through failure. In the same way, give God the freedom to teach you to trust Him through your husband’s failure.
Appendix 2: Excerpts from Queen Draupadi’s advice to Sathyabama-
“…Keeping aside vanity and controlling desire and anger, I always serve with devotion my husbands and their other wives. I wait upon them with a deep devotion of the heart, by restraining jealousy and relinquishing any sense of degradation or humiliation that may arise due to the services I perform. I never use angry or fretful speech and I never imitate wicked women. I always do what is agreeable to them and I am never idle.” “I always discharge without idleness of any kind those duties my mother-in-law imparted to me. My husbands have become obedient to me because of my diligence, alacrity, and humility with which I serve superiors. Every day, I personally wait upon the revered and truthful Kunti, that mother of heroes, with food, drink and clothes. I never show any preference for myself over her in matters of food and dress. And I never verbally reprove her. I never speak ill about my mother-in-law.” “Such behaviour, which is based upon regard for the husband, is the eternal virtue for women.” “I used to serve the Kuru princes day and night, bearing hunger and thirst so that my nights and days were the same to me. I used to be the first to wake up and the last to go to bed. This, O Satyabhama, is the charm that has made my husbands obedient to me.”