Before G-d created Eve for Adam, He said (Genesis 2:19):
I will make for him a helpmate opposite him
Rashi explains: "If he merits, she is a helpmate. If he does not merit, she opposes him–to do battle."
From Rashi's words it would seem that the highest level of married life is when the wife acts solely as a "helpmate." Are our expectations from married life summed up as the search for help?
Relationships which are founded only on mutual assistance are not truly selfless giving but are really an expression of the attitude of the social contract. I am one entity, you are another entity, but since we have decided to live together, we arrange an agreement of helping each other and division of responsibilities and rights. This relationship is certainly required by a couple living together, for the Torah requires us to protect marriage with the ketuba, a contract for decent cooperation, but is this the only possible relationship?
There is indeed a lower level relationship than "helpmate," that is the level of "opposite him." This is when something in the mutual agreement is failing. One of the partners feels deprived and cheated because of the non-fulfillment of the (conscious or unconscious) contract. He then goes out to battle his mate.
In truth, there is a level higher than both these levels to be one and not two separate beings. After the creation of Eve and her marriage to Adam, the Torah states (ibid. 2:24):
And he shall cling to his wife
and they shall become one flesh
This is the true goal of the marital relationship. Our being "together" is not a constraint requiring a contract to safeguard our rights, but it is the perfect, ideal state. On this level, each one of the couple loses his or her separate and independent identity, and turns into a mate ready for complete sacrifice of self for the sake of his beloved.
This perfect state of relationship is alluded to in the above cited verse by the word "for him" (lo), which conveys the sense of complete self-sacrifice and devotion to one?s spouse.
And so have our sages taught (BT Ketuboth 67b):
"For him"–this is [i.e., refers to] woman
In summary, there are three conditions of married life: