Srila Prabhupada and the scriptures repeatedly state that men are responsible for women. Men should protect women – but they should do it respectfully, courteously: “So woman… should be respectfully protected by the husband.” (Wedding Ceremony and Lecture, Boston, 6 May 1969)
Unfortunately, often men tend to expect that wives should be unquestionably submissive regardless of the husband’s qualifications or disqualifications. That although they, the men, may act nonsensically and indiscriminately, their wives should happily serve and worship them. Srila Prabhupada’s disciple Visala Prabhu recalls: “I brought my wife to Bombay with me and I said to Srila Prabhupada in front of her, ‘Srila Prabhupada, I understand that the husband is representative of the spiritual master… should she do everything I ask?’ And Srila Prabhupada said, ‘And you should be so arrogant?’”
As a man you should not only bring home some money; you should also be like the spiritual master of your wife and inspire her to advance, especially if the wife is junior in devotional life; but that should be done favorably, tactfully: “I am so glad to hear that you are now married… I hope your wife may be taking interest in your chanting, sankirtana and reading Srimad-Bhagavatam. As she has become your life’s companion, it is your duty to induce her, peacefully, in the matter of spiritual advancement of life.” (Letter to Janis Dambergs, 10 Dec 1966)
Srila Prabhupada wrote: “One should become a perfect gentleman and learn to give proper respect to others.” (Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 10, purport) And of course it’s not that one should be a gentleman with everyone else but not his
In order to fulfill your responsibility as husband you need to be sensitive. Although “By nature a woman wants to be a follower of a man,” that obedience and deference doesn’t happen automatically or mechanically; “therefore if the man is good the woman can be trained for a good purpose.” (SB 6.18.43, purport).
This is an excerpt from the Bhakti Marriages Course “Get Ready for Married Life for Men” from ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry, prepared by Sri Radha Govinda Dasi.