Life is an arena where individuals can reveal the secrets hidden in their ego by interacting with the world. Marriage is a part of life that involves the interaction of two egos that are unique in nature. Egos that are resonant with each other produce actions that are also resonant. Conversely, egos which are not in harmony produce actions that eventually lead to the destruction of the marriage. Therefore, to protect the well being of the marriage, it is vital to achieve resonance between the two egos that make up the couple. This harmony requires an understanding of the ego and a special art in order to harmonize the two egos with each other.
Men and women have different natures that are designed for the duties they are optimized to perform in this life. This difference in natures necessitates different egos as their origin. As witnessed by history, man has an exclusive ego, whereas woman has a rather inclusive ego.1 In other words, man’s ego leads to a rather self-centered life where communities are composed of distinct individuals, whereas woman’s ego leads to a rather communal life in which the community is considered as the image of one’s self.2 This comparison shows that the properties of ego are very densely packed in every male; this is shown by his individualistic character. So, it is easier to understand the nature and impacts of ego by studying men.
In order to identify the two essential aspects of the ego, consider the following questions: Why are women more likely to go to the doctor, if ill, while men drag their feet, refusing to go until it is the final resort? Why are women more likely to ask for directions when they feel lost, while men try as hard as possible not to ask for help? Why do women ask for an expert to fix or assemble something, but men keep working until they are stuck and there is no way out other than calling an expert? Why do men get angry when they are told what they should and how they should do it, both at the same time?
These questions reveal the instinct for self-sufficiency and freedom, which are two essential aspects of the ego. They are very strongly interrelated; so much so that violation of one means violation of the other, or acceptance of one requires acceptance of the other. This relation is explained as follows (Figure 1): Motivated by the instinct of self-sufficiency, the ego does not want to accept its insufficiencies, because an acceptance of insufficiencies requires being open to seeking help from other people; but, receiving help means attachment, hence a violation of freedom. Alternatively, motivated by the instinct of freedom, the ego does not want to accept a power that defines boundaries for its actions because obeying a power means acceptance of weakness, hence insufficiency.
Although men and women are not exactly the same in terms of ego, both of them still carry individuality; and this individuality has the aforementioned instincts. Self-sufficiency and freedom, when used properly, can yield loyal partners that help each other stand together in order to accomplish their life goals. When left untamed and uneducated, self-sufficiency and freedom lead to arrogance, selfishness, and so, a miserable married life. In the long run, uneducated egos become overwhelmed by these instincts and easily break off their relationships with their partners. Therefore, effort must be spent in order to moderate and guide them.
Let’s ponder over the following example to shed some light on this matter. The forging or shaping of industrial metals requires high temperatures and/or high pressure. If the temperature is high enough to melt the metal, then it can be poured into the mold to give it the desired shape. If the temperature is not high enough, then high pressure is needed to shape the metal; however, the higher the temperature, the lower the pressure required to shape the metal.
Educating the ego means shaping the character of a person; so it involves the shaping of the ego. Similar to the above example, the education of the ego has two main energy sources: heat due to love and pressure due to fear. If the heat of love is enough to melt the ego, then it is very easy to shape the personality. For this reason, most men become a different person when they fall in love. But, if the heat of love is not enough to melt the ego, then the pressure of fear is necessary to make the needed modifications. The source of fear can change from person to person (e.g. fear of God, fear of loneliness, fear of losing dignity, etc.), and fear can manifest itself in another form, which is respect. Whatever the source of the fear is, and however this fear manifests itself, it must be aimed to protect the stability of the relation between the spouses by enabling modifications in the characters as required by the situation.
Use of the fear factor for ego education comes into the picture mostly in later periods of marriages when passionate love has faded and the actual personalities of the individuals are in play. Hence, it is especially in this part of the marriage that an extra effort is required for the successful continuity of the relationship. This effort is called the art of married life. It is an art that reveals the beauties and powers hidden in the hearts; an art that keeps the two instincts of the ego, i.e. self-sufficiency and freedom, under control and guides them. The art of married life involves human specific issues, gender specific issues, and principles needed to maintain mutual harmony.
The subjects that are discussed in this section include the key points that are the same for both men and women.
The past life of a person has an impact on why that person acts the way they do. Therefore, individuals must learn about their partners’ life stories to achieve a mutual understanding. The knowledge of the past life has two components: the pre-birth family background, and the atmosphere consisting of the parents, siblings, and friends. The pre-birth family background has to do with the conditions that the baby is born into. The financial, social, and psychological states of the family influence the parents’ attitudes towards their child. On top of these states, the parents’ past lives compose the unspoken psychological messages given to the child. For this reason, understanding the parents is an important clue to understanding a person. The multi-component atmosphere of the surrounding people determines the conditions under which the innate personality of the person interacts all throughout their life. This interaction instructs the child what the norms and traditions of society are; these in turn motivate and limit the actions of the individual.
As a result of experiences in the past, a person develops a character,3 which becomes a wall in front of the real nature (innate character) of that person. Therefore, when you are interacting with someone, it is their acquired character that you are dealing with, rather than the innate character from birth. So, it is extremely important to learn about and understand this secondary personality in order to comply with it. The knowledge of the past also makes it easier to have patience in the face of problems and to act compassionately and wisely.
This is the God-given character or nature of the person.3 The ego realizes itself in this world through the properties of this character. The individuals who know their innate characters are happy and content in their lives. Success in married life, also, strongly depends on how well the innate character is understood and utilized in the relation. The couples must learn about their own and their partner’s innate character and act accordingly in order to achieve a satisfying and happy marriage.
Because of the past life, the innate personality might have been injured and/or suppressed. The spouses at the beginning of their relationship find the loving and accepting atmosphere needed by the innate character to reveal itself and heal its wounds. However, neither the individual nor the partner knows at the beginning how to properly use or guide these newly emerging properties. It takes time to accord them with respect to each other. So, arguments are imminent in this transitional period as a result of mal-adjusted attitudes.
If the innate character is further suppressed, instead of letting it emerge, this can cause deeper psychological and psychosomatic complications in the long run, such as aggressive attitudes towards family members, or deep and extremely long sleep as a form of self-rejection from the situation. Furthermore, the suppression of the innate character can yield uncontrolled psychological messages that are transferred to the children. These hidden messages can have positive or negative effects on the offspring depending on the psychology of the parent. Sometimes they are like underground mines, which produce much that is of benefit as they are uncovered; and sometimes they act like a second subconscious control mechanism for the person that makes up an aggressive and/or distrustful character.
Both the emergence and the suppression of the innate character have potential dangers. However, when treated properly, the emergence of the innate character is beneficial in the long run. The wise way is to try to be patient with each other so that the partners can realize their innate characters and balance them properly to become more contributing members of the family and the society.
Every person has a natural instinct to find an everlasting love4 that is going to satisfy them in all senses. This instinct is best depicted by the famous expression “live happily ever after”; something that almost never happens: the story always ends at the wedding and the rest is assumed to be irrelevant. Life is full of ups and downs, and no human is ever capable of completely satisfying the heart of another. This is because the heart demands an everlasting love if it is to be satisfied. Therefore, individuals must accept the vast volume of the heart4 and the limited capability of the human being. This acceptance has two implications: a person should not expect the other partner to completely satisfy their heart, and a person should not try to completely satisfy their partner’s heart. A person can at most try to do their best in this way; and as a matter of fact, they must try their best.
Every person has a hidden love agreement. This agreement is a sub-conscious list of conditions that form during their past life. If a person was deprived of something that is required by their innate character, then they are going to look for it in their future life. Any behavior that satisfies this need carries the message of love for that person. On the other hand, the innate character of the individual also shapes the ways in which they can receive and give love, hence the language of love.5 Therefore, the innate character of the person and its interaction with the past life experiences determine the content of the hidden love agreement. When an individual feels that they are loved by someone, the hidden love agreement is automatically and subconsciously activated. This means that the other partner is expected to do certain things and behave in certain ways that they are not aware of. Due to lack of awareness of this hidden agreement, both partners may violate the conditions therein. The feelings of being ignored and being dissatisfied with the relationship as a result of these violations lead to conflicts and arguments. As a remedy to the situation, individuals must become aware of the existence of this hidden agreement both for themselves and for their partners, learn about their contents, and act accordingly.
The ego is like a seed furnished with much potential; and this potential burgeons as time proceeds. Also, the past experiences are like seeds that are sown into the soil of sub-conscience; they sprout over time. Some of these sprouts emerge during childhood, whereas some arise during adolescence and still others erupt in maturity and old age. As a result, the person that an individual encounters changes continuously as the relationship progresses. If these sprout-like changes in the personality are not followed and controlled both by the individual and the partner, they are going to grow and exercise their capabilities. These capabilities will require new things to work on and new opportunities to flourish. This situation can lead to dissatisfaction with the current state of the relationship, which may be harmful unless treated patiently.
Men and women have different laws that constitute their worlds. In order to achieve balance and harmony between the partners, the differences and similarities between these laws must be understood well.
Men have a natural need for solitude,6 although it can be at different levels. This natural need is because of their individualized egos, which require freedom and self-sufficiency. Being alone is a way for man to resolve the problems in his mind, a means to free himself from the narrow limits of the routine and relax. Women, on the other hand, need company for several reasons, such as relieving their stress or carrying out an activity, which is in accordance with their more social ego. The contradiction of the needs at this point can easily cause arguments between men and women. A man will start complaining about not having enough freedom and bearing pressure being put on them at home. As a reaction, a woman will start complaining about negligence and the reluctance of her husband to give time to the family. It is extremely important for both partners to understand the other's point of view; the woman must understand that a man whose need for loneliness is satisfied will soon come back without further effort.6 Men, on the other hand, must understand that a wife whose need for company is satisfied will happily let her husband alone.
Women in particular tend to use words or actions as veils to their actual sentiments. Consider the following example:6 In case of distress or sorrow, the wife may start picking on her husband about very simple things; she may reflect a small problem as a precursor to a gigantic problem. Upon being exposed to such attitudes, the husband may take guard and either start defending himself or try to convince his wife that she is exaggerating the situation. In either case, the wife will get the message that 'I don't care about your problem, your feelings are wrong,' which is a destructive answer to her concealed request to talk. What is necessary is a little bit of patience and some time to be together and listen. There can be other instances where the actual feelings are disguised by aggressive attitudes, and it is incumbent on the man to decipher them.
The principle of uncertainty is well known among the quantum physicists. Considering the subject of this article, it can be interpreted as follows: it is impossible to define the state of an entity with infinite precision; the more you learn about an aspect of that entity, the less you are allowed to learn about other aspects. This principle applies to the psychology of men and women as follows. Both men and women have an instinct for uncertainty at times due to their psychological needs. However, the motive for uncertainty is different for men and women. The husband wants to seem uncertain to his wife because he wants to escape to his solitude. The wife, on the other hand, tends to exhibit uncertainty to her partner because she wants to be pursued continuously. It is clear from this explanation that the driving force for the same kind of behavior, i.e. uncertainty, is completely contradictory for each. So, if a woman assumes that the driving force for the uncertainty of her husband is the same as hers and tries to follow her husband in every mood or at every moment, then she is going to be violating the rule of uncertainty for men. If, on the other hand, a man, assuming that the needs of his wife are the same as his, leaves his wife alone, then he is going to be acting completely opposite to her expectations. Therefore, men must be treated as men, and women must be treated as women.
The principles of conservation form the substrate by which the human-specific and the gender-specific characters can be exercised in harmony.
A purpose in the lives of the partners may stimulate harmony in the family, especially if this is shared by both partners. A common life goal, or in other words, a unity of purpose may induce self-sacrifice and compassion for each other as required by the circumstances.7 For many families, raising children serves as a purpose of life and functions as a unifying factor in the family. The parents try to overcome the difficulties of outside world or problems in their relationships for the sake of their children. However, apart from the children, people can have other goals in their lives, such as volunteer, social, or religious services. Such activities are going to add meaning to or increase the quality of life, which in turn brings contentment and stability to the family.
It is important to know and accept that passionate love, mature love, and compassion are not identical. Moreover, passionate love, which is the one that young people in particular seek relentlessly, is the least persistent and short-lived among the three. Mature love, on the other hand, lasts longer and it acts as the soil from which passionate love flourishes like a flower every spring. The common property of passionate love and mature love is that both require a return from the beloved. Compassion is, in contrast, the highest level of love8 which does not ask for any recompense from the loved one: mothers' love for their children is an example of this. For the stability of the relationship in a family, compassion must take its essential place eventually.9 If compassion is not well inculcated in the hearts of the partners by the time passionate love and mature love weaken, the relationship is going to be past the limits of stability for further continuation.
Couples tend to lose their mutual respect over time. This corrosive effect of time on their respect for each other is due to the 'familiarization' process between the partners. Familiarization takes place during the times when they learn about each other's pluses and minuses, and when they are exposed to their private. As a result, the spouses no longer appear as exciting to one another, and they may forget how valuable they are to one another. This atmosphere is suitable for certain kinds of violations to take place, as explained below. The arguments that break out for a sensible reason may evolve into an aggressive ego competition in which the spouses unfairly criticize each other with inappropriate words. Unless resolved in peace, these conflicts may lead the spouses explaining each other's faults or deficiencies to other relatives and/or friends. As a result, a fair argument at the beginning may grow into an unfair clash in which mutual regard for honor is violated. Every individual has a private space in the physical world and in the psychological/mental world. These private spaces can only be occupied with the consent of the individual. Filling up the partner's desk or room space with things that don't belong to them is an example of the violation of physical space. Forcing the other partner to feel the same feelings and share the same ideas is, on the other hand, an example of violation of psychological/mental space. Both of these violations are likely to occur not necessarily due to bad intentions, but more as a consequence of the comfort brought by mutual love. So, it is important not to push for the occupation of the individual spaces as a price for the love given to the partner. Every individual has different sensitivities at different levels. A pleasant and loving atmosphere can be felt in the family if the spouses do not violate each other's sensitivities. It is usual that people try to be careful about the sensitivities of the people they have recently met. Yet they, unfortunately, tend to neglect those they have known for a long time and who are close. This applies to spouses, too, as they progress into their marriage. Neglect of sensitivities may result in uncontrolled nervous eruptions, which can spark unnecessary arguments. The effort to be careful about sensitivities, on the other hand, will pay off as the unparalleled peace at home. In summary, for a healthy relationship, the following three kinds of respect must be preserved: respect for honor, respect for individual space, and respect for sensitivities.
It is essential to have a sense of strength and dispensability of the rules coming from several sources, such as tradition, religion, personal sensitivities... Life can require giving up some habits or violating some rules for the sake of others. People may be obliged to make sacrifices in certain things in order to save others. In order to keep the integrity of the family and the integrity of personal character, it is best for every individual to have a reasonable order of priority when making compromises and sacrifices.
It is recommended that the individuals either prepare a list of complaints about each other and discuss it, or ask for criticism from their partners at times.5 This can help the partners look at themselves from an outside perspective and adjust their attitudes as required by the circumstances. However, not everybody can do this kind of exercise, since listening and accepting errors is not a ubiquitous virtue. In such cases, so as not to trigger another conflict due to criticism, asking for help from a reliable person that is respected by the other partner may be a solution at this point.
The egos that make up a family must act in coherence so that the solidarity between the individuals persists against the erosive inclinations of the ego that desires to attain self-sufficiency and freedom. The art of married life helps moderate and guide these inclinations of the ego for a happy and continued relationship. Every couple must strive to perform this art so that freedom and self-sufficiency do not govern the attitudes of the spouses and lead to destruction of the marriage. Acknowledgment I would like to thank my wife for her valuable views in our discussions on the subject.