How important is maintaining one’s identity within a marriage? Women most of the time tend to take the back seat in a marriage and like water they flow and take shape as per their husband and his family. In India especially, a woman is expected to take care of the entire family and never expect any thank you or appreciation for her work. This is the ultimate form of sacrifice for the building of a stable nation. A housewife ensures the health, happiness, growth, stability, and nourishment of her family. She takes on a 24x7x365 days job till her last day, silently supporting and holding up the foundation on which her husband builds his career, her children study and build their personalities, characters, and their careers, and her grandchildren receive the showering of love, adoration, and guidance, her in-laws receive the support and care at their old age. Even working women in India go through this and they get no levy because they are working.
In doing all of this, she is known as Mrs so and so. Pseudo-feminism will tell you, that she is being exploited so she needs to not take up the last name of her husband, she needs to work and create her own career, she should not take care of her in-laws, and so on. All these are superficial and divisive and I strongly believe, a woman should decide on her own what she wants. If all women gave up this important role of nourishing families, slowly our society will lose its stability. So, we cannot give a blanket judgment of what is right or wrong. If a woman enjoys her role as the foundation of society itself, she should be allowed and encouraged to continue it with her head held high. The awareness should be within the rest of the family, we ourselves have played these roles, of children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, husbands, and in-laws, and hence we should ask ourselves, have we been compassionate towards that woman? As I write this, tomorrow is Mother’s Day and hence I dedicate this to all women, for me all women are mothers, does not matter if she has given birth or not. This day should salute the mothering, nurturing part of a woman’s personality. Even in men this part exists, and shout out to all single fathers out there.
The topic is the importance of maintaining one’s identity while playing all the roles mentioned above. What does that mean actually? Having your independent thoughts, opinions, likes, dislikes, hobbies, passions, emotions, and relations all is possible even while playing this thankless and invisible role of a mother, housewife, caregiver, partner, and more. Not losing one’s identity while giving importance to everyone else’s needs, wants, demands and desires is crucial. I have observed that as women age, children grow up and leave the nest, in-laws pass away, the husband retires and the demands of their daily activities drastically reduce, they suddenly find themselves without meaning and they enter into depression. Their identity is defined by being useful to their family, but once everyone else is self-sufficient they enter an existential crisis. Many women who were loving mothers suddenly become negative, start cribbing, complaining, and worst of all start bickering and finding faults with their daughters-in-law and sons. Their only expression of dominance or rather desperate means of gaining attention becomes toxic to the very children they so lovingly raised. Then they start demanding grandchildren from their kids because at least then they will get a sense of being needed. Young women of the new generation want to raise kids on their terms and do not like interference from mothers or in-laws, hence again another reason for disappointment, fights, and emotional drama. Some take it to such an extreme that their children are forced to live separately and then they feel abandoned. Marriage is becoming more and more complex and challenging for young couples. It is not that the new generation does not love their parents or does not want to take care of them, the balance of expectations versus reality, the need for validation versus freedom, and mostly of identity is driving these rifts.
What is the solution? Real empowerment of women. Protesting to enter sacred temples is a waste of time, that is not women's empowerment. Helping women appreciate themselves, value themselves as individuals, helping women dream, get skill development opportunities, helping women understand mental health, physical health, and hormonal changes, and so on, is real empowerment. We all go to school and get basic education, but that does not ensure empowerment. At the end of a woman’s life when she is free from her family’s responsibility to an extent, can she still find meaning in her existence? Can she still look forward to being a productive member of this society? Can she still be proud of what she brings to the discussion? A woman with a strong sense of self will be able to do all of this.
Let us look at a few examples from mythology to explain all of this better:
First, in the epic Mahabharata, King Dhritarashtra was blind from birth. He was physically strong, learned to fight, could use all weapons, and got educated, yet his blindness was the central part of his identity. When he got the opportunity to marry, he was happy, finally, he could marry someone who could see. His wife could serve as his eyes and she could fill this void that would make him stronger and be able to rule his kingdom with confidence. Alas, his wife, Gandhari’s perception was exactly the opposite. She thought if she could lose her sight, she will be able to relate to her husband deeply and could be better devoted to him. This is where I point out the inherent nature of women as a water element to mix into their other half, service, devotion and surrender come to the surface. So, she takes a vow to wear a blindfold all her life and lose her sight just like her husband. When Dhritarashtra comes to know, he is furious, and instead of being proud of his wife’s sacrifice, he starts to resent her. What could have been a powerful couple turns into two blind people, not just in eyesight, but in the purpose of life as well. Because of her decision, her children grow up under the corruptive guidance of her brother and thus the entire battle of Kurukshetra for property, ego, and revenge. In the end, her entire lineage is destroyed. I am not concluding that it was her fault that the battle took place, I am merely thinking, what if she had not decided to destroy her identity that day? What if she had decided to play the part of a devoted wife while acknowledging that she can see and that her unique thoughts, ideas, and guidance could have molded a better future for their kingdom? A woman holds the power to raise her family and those around her to express their highest potential, only if she first understands her own.
The second example is Queen Mandodari, the wife of King Ravana in the epic Ramayana. She was a pious woman, God-fearing, spending time praying and completely devoted to her husband. Her husband on the other hand was the antagonist in Ramayana, against dharma and indulging in all his desires, full of pride. He was extremely powerful, intelligent, knew the Vedas, had done penance, and got a boon from Lord Brahma. He had defeated the god of death and all the planets and demi-gods were his slaves. His city of Lanka was made of Gold, he had all things one could possess and even in his bhakti to Lord Shiva he was arrogant. Mandodari was the only one in Lanka who fearlessly and tirelessly kept telling Ravana to correct his ways. She was always counseling him, always trying her level best to show him the light. It is said she was so pious that her purity provided protection to her husband and she went to Heaven to get the Amrit Kalash or the pot of immortality for him. She was a devotee of Lord Shiva too and despite being surrounded by distractions of wealth, power, status, addictions, and more she never let that part of her identity go. Yes, she was devoted to her husband but she did not follow his path or make choices against dharma. She stood true to her own beliefs and she continued to guide and warn her husband of his actions again and again. Holding true to one’s beliefs does not mean we part ways in a marriage, it is not about right or wrong in this discussion, it is about staying true to ones svadharma or personal dharma or identity.
The last example is that of Goddess Sita, Lord Rama’s wife. In the Ramayana, Lord Rama was asked to take vanavas or he was exiled for 14 years to the forest to live like a hermit. His stepmother wanted her son to become the king and as was the rule of the land, if any prince stays away from his kingdom for 14 years he loses the chance to stake claim to it forever. Lord Rama accepted his stepmother’s instructions and as per his father’s promises to her, he prepared to leave. Goddess Sita was the epitome of devotion, bhakti, surrender, and love towards Lord Rama, she also decided to join him. Everyone protested as only Lord Rama needed to go, how could they let the daughter-in-law of such a prosperous empire roam in the forests wearing plain sannyasin/hermit clothes? She was adamant and she appeared in front of the court in the sannyasin clothes ready to join her husband. She answered everyone’s questions about her decision and reminded them of the duties of a wife which are in sickness and health, the duties of a daughter-in-law to take care of her husband, and so on. The Guru of the kingdom, Guru Vashishta asked her a question, he asked her the real reason for her decision. He said sometimes decisions taken in the heat of emotions can make us regret them later. Her decision would need to stay put for the next 14 years and hence she needed to be certain of it. What she said next is amazing. She agreed that with time everything changes, even relationships change, and 14 years was a long time and she would definitely change and evolve over those years. But in her life, there was one thing that she could not change, the fact that she was a woman and this decision is firstly that of a woman, an independent woman who had faith in herself first and foremost. After that came the fact that she was a daughter, wife, sister, daughter-in-law, and so on. So even if circumstances changed in the future she would not blame anyone as it was her personal decision as a woman not forced by her other roles. How wonderful is this? This was the result of the way she was brought up, her father King Janaka was a raja rishi, he was a king who ruled with a service attitude to his subjects. He educated his daughters and taught them not just the shastras but politics, nature, warfare, and everything that he could teach them. Sita was well educated but she was empowered from childhood. Her father would encourage her to ask questions even in his court and never suppressed her individual expression. This is the crux of the entire discussion. Not many people share these facts and I also came to know through a TV series, the team had based this on their research of various ancient texts and references from different Ramayana versions. Goddess Sita is not given enough acknowledgment in the usual recitation of the Ramayana, her role was not limited to her abduction, she was the force behind Lord Rama & Lakshmana being able to destroy the demons through their 14 years of exile and survive. Her conduct while being surrounded by demons in Lanka was because of the base of her strong character developed from childhood followed by her devotion to the Lord.
Coming back to personal identity in a relationship, whether you are a man or a woman, if you lose yourself in a relationship and in your family it will not benefit anyone. Imagine how lonely that relationship is where there is only one person’s personality? Finding a balance of “YOU + ME = WE” gives rise to power couples. Power couples form a strong basis for an empowered family and society that grows and sustains. And a society that grows and sustains creates nations that can bring peace, harmony, and prosperity to this World. Zoom out of your closed visions, each of us has a significant role to play and we can only justify this when we bring our unique selves into each and every relationship.
Please do not debate the mythology aspect of what I have shared, I do not claim to be a mythologist. This is my perception of it and hopefully, it triggers you to introspect and inspires you to explore more. May you find balance in your relationships and attach yourself to a higher purpose.
If you need help in understanding your current relationship or deciding on marrying or divorcing, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am a decision coach, I have helped hundreds of individuals make decisions and understand their life situations with crystal clear clarity. I combine my management experience with the psychic art of Tarot to help you navigate life. You can also pick up my book “In Two Minds? How Tarot can help you decide” to learn about decision-making and how Tarot can serve as a tool. Follow me on: Instagram , Facebook and listen to my podcast- Soulfullythorvi for more interesting content.