Do “real men” tolerate bad wives or do they reject such wives?
Manu gives several examples of bad wives worthy of rejecting. Here is just one such quote.
“She who drinks spirituous liquor, is of bad conduct, rebellious, diseased, mischievous, or wasteful, may at any time be superseded (by another wife). A barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year, she whose children (all) die in the tenth, she who bears only daughters in the eleventh, but she who is quarrelsome without delay.” Manu Smriti 9.80-81
Also, Dasaratha publicly disavowed Kaikeyi.
And, this is what Lord Visnu says about henpecked men who tolerate bad wives.
“In the house where the woman acts like a man or where the man is controlled by a woman, one’s spiritual life is fruitless and the place becomes inauspicious. For one whose wife is harsh in speech and action and who loves to quarrel, the forest is more favorable than the home. Since it is easy to get water, fruits, and peace in the forest, it is considered more auspicious than being with a mean wife. Those who are puppets in the hands of their wives are never sanctified, even by cremation. A henpecked husband is not liable to receive the results of any auspicious activities that he performs. The demigods and people of earth always criticize him and he is bereft of fame and glory, so he should be considered dead, though living in the body.”
(spoken by Lord Visnu in Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Prakrti-khanda 6.62-63)
Mahatma Das: Although Srila Prabhupada refers to Manu occasionally in his books, he never used the above criteria as a basis for approving of divorce. Srila Prabhupada did say that if a man is fallen, i.e. he doesn’t follow regulative principles, the wife is not obliged to serve him.
But at the same time he glorified his sister for staying with her drunkard husband because it helped him eventually become sober. He did allow separation for spiritual purposes, i.e. if both husband and wife were agreeable to separate as a means of increasing their service and on the condition they would not remarry.
Also, the above quotations are speaking of ordinary women, not devotee women, so we must be careful not to lump the two together. From the above statements, it seems that it is a fault to stay with a woman who is not a good wife, but in reading all that Srila Prabhupada said on marriage you will never see him advising men to leave their wives because of character flaws.
We need to be more cautious in citing references that Srila Prabhupada himself didn’t use, and also citing references that don’t represent the general mood of Srila Prabhupada in regards to grihastha or householder life. In other words, we need to be cautious about citing Manu as a standard for our behavior or action in cases where Srila Prabhupada did not apply these principles to our circumstances. If we want to apply Manu strictly, then none of us are qualified to be devotees or brahmanas. Actually, the paradox is that by Manu’s own standards, we are not qualified to quote him!