Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series
Many people avoid some of the richest opportunities to have lasting happiness because of fear of pain. For example, many children of divorce don’t want to risk marriage because they have lived through family breakup. Others avoid having children because they fear being bad parents or don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices to their lifestyle. Some may not want to work through a college education, because of the toil and challenge it may require. Even commitment to a church or to friends may seem too demanding. The hookup culture demonstrates that many young people don’t see a reason to devote themselves to a long-term relationship.
Taking risks and working hard can lead to deeper happiness. However, it’s more common to act on the belief that having fun leads to happiness, and avoiding pain will keep us happy. Unfortunately, some pain or toil may be necessary in the short-term to be able to reap long-term joy.
This is true in life and marriage. For example, couples who avoid all arguments are unlikely to make it over the long haul. If they are willing to work through the smaller problems as they come up—confronting them effectively instead of avoiding them—they are more likely to be happily married in the long term. A desire to avoid confrontations will eventually create unhappiness and resentment. The easy road is often the poorly chosen one.
Even our bodies will not be healthy and happy in the long-term if we opt for an undisciplined, easy lifestyle of eating anything that gives us momentary joy and not sweating it off. Reckless spending can also bring momentary elation and long-term financial failure.
Fear and desire to avoid pain can prevent deep happiness, says Dennis Prager, author of Happiness is a Serious Problem. He says always choosing fun activities, such as TV watching, contributes to little happiness, while working hard at a worthwhile pursuit can bring great satisfaction. To live life to its fullest, we will need to experience some suffering. Of course, every marriage also needs fun and excitement built in, but we need balance.
I’ve often heard that any marriage that isn’t improving is deteriorating, drifting without us even realizing it. Improving takes work and time, but we can be rewarded with more happiness later.
There may even be times when we “don’t feel happy” in our marriage. Research shows if we can work through that turbulent period, we are more likely to be happy down the road than if we divorce. Sometimes seeking to avoid the pain of unhappiness brings even more sorrow. Keep working, and you may be closer to victory than your realize. Many couples I have interviewed said they were certain their marriage would fail after an affair, drug addiction, losing a child and other crises. They were surprised to find a great marriage was still within reach.
Is your aim to live a life with as little pain as possible, or one that helps you fulfill your dreams? What things caused you short-term pain but long-term happiness?
Photo credit: ©Pavel Losevsky/PhotoXpress.com