People often dream of the wonderful life they'll have once they're married. Unfortunately, many of these dreams are short-lived. The reality of married life -- that it requires extraordinary effort -– usually "hits home" within 24 hours after the wedding! And then you start wondering: What did I get into?
When I decided to get married, I knew there were many things about married life I didn't yet understand. I was blessed to have a teacher who gave me some good advice. I remember my first "prep course" like it was yesterday. He told me, "David, just remember, marriage is for pleasure." I took his words to heart and to paper.
Then I asked him for additional advice. He responded, "You don't understand the first thing I told you." I looked down at my notes and read back his words: "Marriage is for pleasure."
I thought I understood the meaning of these four simple words. I wanted to get married because of the "good life" I associated with this commitment. It was then that my teacher taught me a lesson that created a paradigm shift within my understanding of relationships.
He said, "David, when I said, 'marriage is for pleasure,' you didn't hear 'pleasure,' you heard 'comfort.' Don't confuse the two. Marriage isn't for comfort. It is for pleasure. If you think that being married is easier than being single, don't get married, because you're in for a big surprise. There's a high price that you pay to create and maintain a happy marriage. You've got to be willing to pay that price."
People who take the time to understand this statement -– marriage is for pleasure, not for comfort -– learn the number one rule for a successful relationship: "To get married and to stay happily married, know that marriage will entail hard work." It's not always comfortable. There will be painful issues to work out and disagreements are inevitable. The Boy Scout motto couldn't be more apropos: Be prepared.
Most people seek a pleasurable life. Not all of life's pleasures are equal, the same way that not all cars are equal. How can you compare a Buick to a Rolls Royce? If you take the time to list your pleasures you'll discover how diverse the pleasures are. Your list might include Hagan Dasz coffee ice cream (my favorite), sleeping on a water bed, running a marathon, giving birth (not my favorite), winning the Lotto, completing your Ph.D. or breaking a smoking habit.
Some of these pleasures have more meaning for you than others. What's the determining factor? The achievements that "cost" you more are the ones that mean more to you. When you invest more of yourself, your sense of satisfaction increases proportionately.
Let me demonstrate. Ask a parent, "What's your greatest pleasure in life?" Chances are they'll say, "My children." Ask them, "And what's your greatest pain in life?" Ten out of ten will say, "My children!" Are these two statements mutually exclusive? No. Because my children are my biggest pain and they are also my biggest pleasure! On the flip-side, if the price I pay is insignificant, the permanence of my accomplishment is short-lived. As the cliche attests: "easy come, easy go."
Ask a friend, "What's the opposite of pain?" Most people will say, "Pleasure." Pleasure is the wrong answer. The opposite of pain is the absence of pain, i.e., comfort. When I don't have a toothache I'm not full of pleasure -- but I'm not in pain either. I'm just comfortable.
To get pleasure you have to actively do something.
The famous physical fitness instructor, Jack Lalane, taught the world "no pain, no gain." His success principle is not only true for staying in shape, it applies to all of life -– especially to marriage. The pain for gain in married life can be disbursed in a variety of ways -– having to agree on how to reallocate household monies, working on character flaws, deepening emotional commitments or developing a shared life mission with your spouse. Some of these actions are hard choices that require "biting-the-bullet," but these choices will unquestionably enhance your relationship.
THE STARK REALITY
So when you start having a "bumpy ride" in your relationship, don't be surprised. Expect it. Relationships are never easy -– even in the best marriages. There will always be things to work out, sacrifices to be made, and changes that we each must undertake to accommodate our spouse.
It's like my teacher told me: "Being married is like having a second job." Don't think that coming home to your spouse means you can lay back, kick off your shoes and vegetate in your comfort zone. Remind yourself, right before you open the front door of your home, "my second job is about to begin." If you're ready and willing to "roll up your sleeves" and work on your relationship, you've got a good chance to successfully live out many of your married-life dreams.