How to Keep Loving in Marriage


The Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen

It seems very difficult for Western people to keep love in marriage forever. I have seen many examples of this problem, but I have the hope and wish that couples may overcome their difficulties and toward that end I give a few of my own ideas in this booklet. To the West my thoughts may seem very foolish, but I am just a person of the East and can talk only about the Eastern traditions.

It is said by modern youths, "Marriage is the grave burying all love!" Most of these youths have for a long time centered their thoughts and energies on fornication. Hence in one bed a couple has four minds, each person having two minds: one thinking about how to make love and fornicate again soon, the other thinking about how to get another lover or love. They do not want marriage. Especially nowadays there are many community groups which help give such people the opportunity to meet new sexual partners. Many religious centers utilize their members' sinful habits and gather young males and females together for meeting and choosing each other in order to collect more money from them. This kind of love is not really human love but animal love. The result of such love is only quarrels, fights, and suicides.

"The union of man and wife is from God, but divorce is from the devil," so said St. Augustine. It is also said in the Jewish holy book, the Talmud: "The very altar sheds tears on him or her who divorces his wife or her husband." If the couple is religious, their marriage is joined together by God. It is wrong to put such a union asunder. For those to whom God is a father, the Church is also a mother, hence divorce is born of perverted morals and vicious habits in public and private life. To help this problem it is very important to keep loving after marriage. This is the main principle I now wish to write about.

I. Appreciation

The first condition you must have is appreciation. According to Buddhist philosophy, among all the various kinds of human relationships, the partnership of husband and wife is the most important. Try to think of one's lifetime. The time spent with one's parents is only in early childhood, the first 6 years. After this the child goes to school and spends much time with teachers and professors for the next 12 years. The time spent with friends may last from a few hours, with eating and drinking friends, to a few years, as with friends who are fellow-workers. It is only the husband and wife who have a relationship which may last through one's whole adult lifetime. Let us think in terms of space, certainly the closest relationship is that of husband and wife. They live together, sleep together, play together, eat and shop together, and give "pillow lectures" to each other together. They share happiness and sadness together, they feed and educate their own children together. They seem to be two people, yet they are just like one body.

It is traditionally held that God created woman for man and said that man should not be alone. Woman and man should mutually help each other. It is said that God created Eve from Adam's rib. Ancient sages and scholars have three different explanations about this:

  1. The first explanation is that, since the rib is a little crooked, "if you straighten it, you will break it; if you leave it alone, it will always be crooked." This is written in the scripture of Islam. This is thought to be a good way to treat each other. I don't agree with it.

  2. The second explanation is that the rib is always covered, even when a man is naked. This explanation is also written down by Mohammedans. Hence, Moslems think their wives should be kept concealed and that a woman must be kept from other's sight, when out in public, by wearing clothing even over her head and face. This idea I also do not think is very good.

  3. The last explanation which I appreciate the most is that the rib is very close to the heart. It is written in the Talmud that "a wife comes from his side, that she should be near his heart." This is why marriage is really a partnership and spouses call each other sweetheart. If you appreciate your spouse as your own heart, then you will love each other forever.

If instead of from a rib, God had made woman from Adam's eye, she might always see his faults; if from his head, she would control him; from his arms, she might fight with him; or from his feet, she might run after and watch him and never let him work alone; from his belly she might ask him to share her difficulties in pregnancy. The rib is really the best part of the body which is close to the heart. I like this explanation. Please remember Robert Browning's poem:

If two lives join,
There is oft a scar,
They are one and one,
With a shadowy third,
One near one, is too far.
Because they are still two not really one.
One must melt into the other then they
become really one.

Hence, both should melt oneself into the other as one person, or as one looks at oneself in the glass.

It is said that one must be like a mirror image to the other. When one smiles, the other in the mirror must also be happy, when one is sad, the other must also share the sorrow. When one laughs, the other will smile. Always treat your spouse as if your were his or her mirror image and think of yourselves as one person, not two people.

However, the story of creation and its explanation is a myth and not reasonably based on scientific foundation. True talk on this subject may be found in Buddhism. All relationships are based on the accumulation of karmas (the results of one's actions) through many past lives of endless transmigration through which every person drives himself by his actions and ignorance. Among all kinds of relationships, the partnership of husband and wife results from the gathering of much more and deeper mutual karma than any other kind of relationship. And in this lifetime's marriage they gather more good karma or bad karma which will influence not only their happiness or sadness in their present married life together, but also in their future lives. It is not easy to get such a relationship, therefore one should deeply appreciate it.

A man and a woman in love are incomplete until they have married. It is quite true that wives are young men's mistresses, companions of their middle age, and old men's nurses. The opposite is also true, that husbands are young women's lovers, companions for their middle years, and old women's nurses. A modern idea is as Helen Rowland said, "Love is the quest; Marriage, the conquest; divorce, the inquest." It seems that the progression of marriage is from bad to worse. George Jessel even frankly joked, "Marriage is a mistake every man should make!"

To a Buddhist, marriage is a true confirmation of love. Buddha never spoke about unequalness between the two sexes as Christianity emphasized in the Bible. Buddha never said the male was created by the female or vice versa. Buddha always taught his lay disciples how to keep their right love in three right ways: first of all, a husband should pay respect to his wife with right manners, feed his wife with right food, and comfort his wife with right treatment. It is written in the sutra titled "The 'Good Born' Young Man Sutra." He also explained about seven kinds of wives:

  1. Mother-like Wife: She thinks of her husband as though she were his mother, daily helping her husband without tire. She treats him as her own son. It is good karma to reward her husband because she had been his mother in past lives and he had also been her filial son for many lives.

  2. Sister-like Wife: She serves her husband as her brother, with reverence, like older brother and younger brother. It is good karma to reward her husband because she had been his young sister in the past and had been kindly protected and affectionately loved by him in many lives.

  3. Wife of Knowledge: She faithfully and skillfully tells the truth of every kind of knowledge to her husband and helps not only in tasks of family economy but also in education and home plans. She is like his teacher. It is good karma to reward her husband because he had been her dutiful guru or professor for many lifetimes.

  4. A Good Wife: She is as good as a good wife should be. She is humble without pride, simple without much cosmetics. She is not talkative. She does everything to make her husband happy. She is meek and agreeable and never causes her husband anger. It is the very best karma to reward her husband who had been her very helpful friend or neighbor or doctor and who had done a lot of goodness for her health and wealth in past lives.

  5. Maid-like Wife: She is filial and kind to her husband. She is a careful housekeeper and faithful, grateful servant to her husband. She is never proud, never angry, never does anything to make her husband unhappy. She is chaste and never has any other boy friend. She has no quarrels, no fights, no bad manners. She treats her husband like a king.

  6. Enemy-like Wife: Whenever she sees her husband she feels very angry. Though they live together, her mind always thinks of other people and desires. She wants to run away and does not take care of her own children. She loves the husbands of others without shame. It is a bad karmic result. Her husband had been her enemy and treated her very badly in past lives.

  7. Murderous Wife: She may put some poison in the food or do something else to kill her husband. She remarries again only a few days after her former husband dies. This is the worst punishment for her husband who had in previous lives killed his wife with the same poison or knives.

A similar classification holds true for seven kinds of husbands. Most men who have bad wives committed the sin of adultery in their own past lives. They have already received such bad consequences as: 1. No protection for himself. 2. No protection for his wife. 3. No protection for his family. 4. Always doubting his wife through which he commits sins again. 5. He is subject to be killed by his enemy. 6. He is bothered by many distresses and many diseases. 7. He cannot get rich at any risk. 8. He will be yet poorer again.

As Buddhism is not a gynaeco-centric theory as emphasized by the American scholar Ward, nor a male domination theory, one should respect his or her partner in marriage. Neither husband nor wife is the better half or the worse half. Both should respect each other even as well as they hold respect toward God. Richard Garnett said, "Thou canst pray to God without praying to love, but thou mayst pray to love without praying to God." Longland Said, "Love is the bliss of life, next to our Lord. It is the graft of peace, the nearest road to heaven." J. R. Lowell has a very sweet poem to show the love of a married couple:

True love is but a humble, low-born thing,
And hath its food served up in earthen ware,
It is a thing to walk with hand in hand
Through the everydayness of this workday.

Many people do not distinguish among the different kinds of love. Nuptial love makes mankind, friendly love perfects it, wanton love corrupts and debases it. Love after marriage is not getting but giving, not a wild dream of pleasure as is wanton love or the madness of desire. It should be goodness, honor, and peace, pure and living.

Love after marriage is full of emotion which is beyond any reason or scale of justice. The person who tries to find out the reason or define justice within their partnership just discovers some quarrels and fights. I remember that when I was on my honeymoon I got a poem at the pillow with my bride, it said:

Under you I do lie,
And for you I may die.
don't know the reason,
But I never ask why.

One who has never loved has never lived. One hour of true love is worth an age of dully living on. Respect derives from love and no other condition or reason can interfere with it.

If a married couple is living together without love, how can they continuously live together? John Gay's poem has criticized this frankly:

Love then has every bliss in store,
It is friendship, it is something more.
Each other every wish they give,
Not to know love is not to live.

If a husband and wife are themselves humble and respect their spouse as they Lord, then their love in marriage will last throughout their whole lives. That is why it is written in the Talmud, "Be the husband only as big as an ant, yet the wife seats herself among the great." For wives the opposite of this sermon is also true. If you are a wife you should think that it is also true for yourself, saying, "Be the wife only as big as an ant, yet the husband seats himself among the great." If both respect each other like this, their love after marriage will become deeper and deeper forever.

In Confucianism there is a very well-known proverb which says, "Husband and wife should always be respectful to each other as if newly comes a noble guest."

Respect is positive for love. It is also negative to one's incorrect thoughts and all vicious antagonisms without surrendering one's belief or principles. In short, where there is respect and appreciation there is nothing lacking in a relationship.

II. Sympathy

The second condition to keep love after marriage is to have sympathy for each other. Scott said in his poem:

True love's the gift which God has given,
To man alone beneath the heaven.
It is the secret sympathy,
The silver link, the silken tie,
Which heart to heart, and mind to mind,
In body and in soul to bind.

When a family is fully infused with the air of sympathy, even the heavens will be in harmony. That was why Shakespeare said, "When love speaks, the voice of all Gods make heaven drowsy with the harmony." After marriage a husband and wife in everyday life, on every occasion, at all times must cooperate and be united so that the two are really one. Both must always keep this idea, "I must give what is my own to him or her. I must feel that his or her delight is my own." You must know that whensoever you seek for yourself, then you fall from love. A proverb holds that "To be wife and lover is hardly granted to the Gods above."

It is not reason that governs love. Love draws us one way, reason another. So far I have learned that only Vajra love of the Buddhist Tantra can make love and reason go together. That practice uses different terms and holds love as great compassion and reason as deep Sunyata. But I cannot write here an essay on this profound subject which is not easy for an ordinary person to practice.

For most ordinary people, the first sign of love is the last of wisdom. That is why a German proverb says, "The bachelor is a peacock, the engaged man a lion and the married man a jackass who has no more wisdom but does have sex." It is not from reason and prudence that people marry, but from inclination when two souls are one, and two hearts melt into one heart. The woman or man once loved will always be right because love finds no fault in its object.

Love after marriage becomes much deeper and sympathetic. Whenever there is pleasure between a couple they love all in all; whenever there is sorrow or sadness between them there is sympathy for each other. They confound their enemies and delight their friends. They have the same good feelings. The husband will feel that, "It is not beauty but fine qualities that keep a husband." The wife also feels that a woman's best possession is a sympathetic husband. In women, sympathy begets love; in men, love begets sympathy; and all husbands will feel that of all the paths that lead to a wife's love, sympathy is the straightest.

One must always feel sympathy for the other. In this way, one can keep the opposite one in love until life is gone. Within a partnership there is nothing to rule or control but love and sympathy. Authority is only for children and servants. The reason why so many couples are not happy is because they spend their time in making nets to get fish from every kind of water or in making cages to put their spouse into. Hence, adultery without controlling oneself and selfishness without sympathy are both enemies to happiness. This is why we not only need appreciation as the first condition but also sympathy as the second condition.

Many men and women think they must control their spouses. They think "I must make him obey me." This kind of talk is foolish and selfish. The two opposites of male and female are just like the positive and negative forces of electricity. They must be like this so that they can help each other. Let them have different ideas, let them have different opinions and things to talk about, but they can still harmonize every kind of contradiction together. You must learn to agree with each other and settle all contradictory ideas into a harmonization. Do not fear if there is some quarrel, but we must always have sympathy with the other side. Then when we love together, there is love; and when we quarrel together, there is also love, everlasting love. In this way our love will last a long time.

It is so pitiful that most young couples try to know each other and fall in love in only 3 days, love each other for only 3 weeks, squabble with each other for 3 months, tolerate each other for 3 years, and then some of them get divorced while a few others continuously bear their pains for about 30 years and die under such unhappy conditions. And their children learn about this from them and repeat the pattern. Our society is full of such sorrows. That is why there is a crying need for sympathy.

One should not let one's spouse discover that one's bravery is only bravado, that one's strength is only a uniform, that one's power is only a gun in the hands of a fool. You should give appreciation to each other, humbly respect each other and have sympathy for each other.

Many people want to justify their divorces. Actually there is no reason at all for any case of divorce. As I have already said, love is a kind of emotion or passion or sensation, it is like a fire you cannot weigh and like a wind you cannot measure. The only word instead of love after marriage is sympathy.

The New Testament taught us how to be sympathetic, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, weep with them that weep." Do not let your wife or husband weep alone. We sink as easily as we rise through sympathy and we learn to flow for others' good and melt for others' woes. When your own teeth ache then you know how to be sympathetic towards someone who has a toothache. Sympathy is a supporting atmosphere and in it we unfold easily and well. Sympathy is having your pain in my heart. We should try to be sympathetic in time, before an affliction is digested, consolation never comes too soon and after a problem is digested, it comes too late. When one is married, deep love is when sympathy comes just in time. Every sorrow or pain of any cause will be dissolved into it.

III. Forgiveness

There is no one who is without fault or sin. We, just as all sentient beings, have been in transmigration for countless life times. A married couple has loved and hated each other through many lifetimes of marriage. Unless and until we are able to free ourselves altogether from transmigration, we must bear the pain that arises from each other. If we try to appreciate each other and have sympathy for each other but find we are still unable to stop the thought of divorce, the only way to cure this is forgiveness.

Our God forgives us so much so we must forgive each other. There is no perfect man. Many foolish people just like to imagine that there is a perfect wife for them somewhere and do not trust their existing wife. This is very foolish. You must trust each other and not imagine any one else. Just keep your faith in each other and if something unpleasant happens, you must forgive each other. When you forgive each other, the argument is finished and you can love deeply again.

The main problem leading to divorce appears to be infidelity. Once the marriage vows are broken there is an unwillingness to forgive. The problem is just like an onion which has a strong outer coating but which, once removed grows a new one. Both sides of a couple, male or female, easily commit adultery in our Kali age. Before marriage, it seems that everyone nowadays has committed the sexual act. Parents cannot stop it, teachers cannot forbid it, doctors cannot cure it. And after marriage, who dares to say that you suddenly have the power to control your spouse who has not been controlled before.

Once I was asked by a Tibetan pilgrim for a divination. He wanted to know whether his wife remained chaste or not after his departure. I immediately replied without making a divination, "This needs no divination. Please reflect upon yourself, if you have committed adultery three times after your departure, your wife will not commit adultery less than three times." Sir Philip Sidney said, "Who doth desire that chaste his wife should be, first he be true, for truth doth truth deserve."

If you yourself have committed adultery and you can forgive yourself, why can't you do the same for your wife's actions? One should keep one's eyes wide open only before marriage, but half shut afterwards. Actually, even if your eyes were widely open before marriage, your eyes at that time were clouded by your love which hid all your spouse's faults. You chose to believe that she was still a virgin. If after marriage you keep your love, you need not shut your eyes but should still trust her as well as if she were still a virgin, as if even you yourself kept her virginity intact. As I have said before, there is no reason or fault to be held against your spouse. We should love without reserve. That is why Rabindranath Tagore said, "Chastity is a wealth that comes from the abundance of love." A strong doubt about the other's chastity is just selfishness. You should trust each other. Ebert Hubbard writes in his work "The Note Book" (1927): "There are six requisites in every happy marriage. The first is faith, and the remaining five are confidence." A man who marries a woman to educate her falls a victim to the same fallacy as the woman who marries a man to reform him. One should not try to change the other but always be aware of what the whole life of marriage is made of, three parts of love to seven parts of forgiveness.

As I have mentioned many times in this article, the relationship of husband and wife is based principally on love, not on reason. Whence our manner to each other should be only to forgive, not to judge. We should pardon each other as long as we love each other. Through forgiveness what is broken is made whole again and what is soiled is again made clean.

Another problem which very often occurs in married life is quarrels. Do not fear a quarrel. This can also be a requisite for love. A quarrel can be considered an opportunity to get some rest as too much sex is not good for your health. You can think, "Oh, God wants me to rest and have some time to relax and to reflect on myself. It will be good to have a few days separation. Afterwards we can become harmonized again."

One should not selfishly say that my wife must obey me and I must control her, because it is not right for either wife or husband to control the other. Try to learn from the chickens. When the hen crows after she lays her egg, the rooster keeps still. When the cock heralds the dawn, the hen sleeps. They never quarrel with each other.

If there is no way to stop the opposite spouse from quarreling, one must bear it for the time being and wait with love and patience and keep silent yourself. He or she will feel tired when they find no one to quarrel with. A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use against the same kind of tool.

Don't let a little thing start a long quarrel and from that let it lead to a divorce. Before a quarrel grows, one must use forgiveness. A quarrel takes place between a couple and never takes place alone. If either side has forgiveness, the quarrel will be stopped in time. Otherwise, as Edgar Lee Masters said, "Hats may make a divorce" and as Shakespeare said, "Why quarrel with a man that has a hair less in his beard than you have." A little flame may cause a large calamity destroying one hundred miles of forest.

There can be fearful excitement on any side. Any one is able to accuse the other. Accusation may divide their true hearts as a mighty stream of water can divide mountains of solid rock. So our measurement of true love is not where he or she stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he or she stands at times of challenge and controversy. To keep such a standard of love, forgiveness is the most important source which enables discord to give way to the relish of concord. One must recognize that even the sun and moon which are as different as bright day and night, still float each in their own orbit but make a great harmony of the universe. The sun never takes over the moon any more than the Red Communists of the East can take over the free world of the West. In Confucianism there is an example of a couple with the husband as the sun and the wife as the moon who together make the Chinese "Ming" word of brightness with the sun on the left and the moon on the right. Hence we need not fear different ideas occurring between couples but we must forgive each other and achieve the harmony which dissipates all differences and opposites without quarrels and fights but with love and sympathy. We must pardon each other as long as we love each other. When we love we find nothing missing and no sins in our spouse.

If one side can forgive the other, it will cause forgiveness to come from the other side, too. It is just as Allah says, "He who approaches near to me one span, I will approach to him one cubit; and he who approaches to me one cubit, I will approach to him one fathom, and he who ever approaches to me walking, I will come to him running, and he who meets with sins equivalent to the whole world, I will greet him with forgiveness equal to it."

As we love, we must forgive to the same degree that we love. Whenever there is a cause for anger or quarrel, we should use forgiveness at the starting point of such a time. In doing this we will not have to endure its passing and suffer in unnecessary pain. Whenever forgiveness is done, it ought to be like a canceled check, torn into several pieces and burnt up so that it can never be made whole again and held against the other side. After forgiveness is offered, immediately choose some pleasure which your spouse likes, and enjoy it together. Just as when one eats too much hot pepper, one should immediately drink some ice water or eat something sweet. One must recognize that you yourself are not so good and perfect so that your spouse may sometimes dislike you and have anger, then you can easily use forgiveness. And forgiveness offered in such a way is surely the means to give and gain new love and new life on both sides.

Following the act of forgiveness, sweet harmony may prevail in the family! The harmonious family produces divine life. Every home works through this harmony or agreement and is like a steamship pulled in one direction by both partners--if it were pulled in opposite directions it would keel over.

There should be no separation, no divorce, only love and happiness. This is what I hope my readers may share with me.


Through the above three conditions of appreciation, sympathy, and forgiveness, one's marriage may never be broken. In that hope, our sages arranged some special good names to celebrate each period of marriage that we pass through. I would like to introduce all these good and lovely celebration names below as an auspicious conclusion of this article. May all my good readers celebrate all of them!

Years of Marriage
Name of Wedding Anniversary
Platinum (White Gold)

After the platinum wedding anniversary, a couple may be about 100 years old. Is it possible to be reborn as the same couple in every lifetime? Yes! If their vows and their good karmas in this lifetime have been well accumulated, this may happen. Nevertheless, such a mundane marriage will eventually come to an end, sooner or later. It may be asked, is there any extra-mundane marriage which consists of real and everlasting love? Yes! I am sorry to say that even the above three principles of appreciation, sympathy, and forgiveness have nothing to do with everlasting love, even as practiced by Mary and Joseph who were married with the God-Jehovah as their go-between. However, in Tantric Buddhism which emphasizes Vajra Love, there really is an eternal marriage as exemplified or personified by many Indian and Tibetan sages such as Padmasambhva, Saraha, and Marpa.

Actually, Yoga is the holy name of extra-mundane marriage. Yoga means union. Buddhist yoga is the Great Compassion of the male marrying with the Deep Wisdom of the female, or in other terms, the Great Bodhicitta marrying the Deep Sunyata. Whenever such a marriage occurs, there is ceaseless love lasting forever.

Appreciation is connected with the Yidam and Dakini, sympathy is between altruism and non-egoism, while forgiveness is witnessed by the Buddhas of the ten directions and three periods (past, present, and future). These are holy, sacred, everlasting, and a total salvation of the entire sphere of the Nine-Havenesses including all Gods.

As the three principles of appreciation, sympathy and forgiveness under mundane circumstances are still so difficult for most people to practice, how can I trust any modern youths to practice the extra-mundane ones? This is why in this article I have not written any Tantric methods of marriage love. I do hope there might be some people who have the foundation to learn and practice Vajra Love from our Gurus.

Thanks to Ann Klein for improving the English of this Booklet.
Yutang Lin
December, 1992

My Bodhicitta Vows
(Used for Dedication of Merits)

Dr. Yutang Lin

1. May virtuous gurus remain with us and those departed return soon!
2. May perverse views and violence soon become extinct and Dharma spread without hindrance!
3. May all beings proceed diligently on the path and achieve Buddhahood before death!
4. May all beings develop Great Compassion and never regress until they reach perfect Buddhahood!
5. May all beings develop Great Wisdom and never regress until they reach perfect Buddhahood!


Thanks to Upasaka Kwok Sing Hung for formatting the computer file.
Thanks to all Buddhists who helped the publication of this booklet.

How to Keep Loving in Marriage

Donation toward printing and free distribution is welcome.

A Talk by The Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen
Published by Dr. Yutang Lin

Reprinted, January, 1999
3,000 copies
Printed in Taiwan

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