Several years ago, I thought marriage was at least a decade away. I never thought I would get married so young. The idea seemed highly uncomfortable to me.
And yet here I am, getting married sooner than I expected, and I couldn't be happier.
Many things actually haven't changed over the years to make me think otherwise. To be honest, I'm still uncomfortable with getting married. I always have been, and I don't think that's a bad thing.
In fact, I think it's necessary to be uncomfortable with marriage.
Allow me to explain myself:
I met Carly during our sophomore year of undergrad, and we began dating at the beginning of our junior year. Well into our relationship, however, I was uneasy about the idea of marriage. My empty wallet weighed heavy in my back pocket, agonizing me every time I took her out on a date. I reasoned with myself: Marriage won't happen soon because I have no money.
I longed for a magic moment where money would rain down from the clouds, soak the soil around me with rich abundance, allowing me to marry the girl of my dreams. I pined for money to come, because then, I would feel comfortable with getting married.
I firmly held this as a rule for life: Don't get married until you are comfortable in life.
Many of us believe this to a degree. We imagine that the moment we know we're ready for marriage will come once we are comfortable enough.
But then, an elderly lady changed my entire idea on the matter.
She was a lovely woman who was always eager to hear me talk about Carly. I would entertain her with my sweet words on how beautiful and intelligent Carly was, and she would dance with delight in it all.
Then one day, she finally asked the question I was dreading to hear.
"When are you going to marry her?"
I paused and then stumbled on words. I tried coming up with something to satisfy her old-fashioned ears, but I had nothing great to say. I told her I was waiting till I had enough money, till I was more comfortable in life.
Then she said the words I would never forget: "Don't marry for comfort. If you're waiting till you're comfortable enough to get married, you're never going to get married."
Those words changed everything.
In that moment, I realized that I would never feel ready for marriage. I would never be comfortable enough for marriage.
Maybe, I thought, I shouldn't be waiting for comfort to get married, because marriage isn't about comfort.
So many of us do this. We wait for the money and the life circumstances to line up, so when we get married, we'll arrive at a place of comfort. We want things to be easier with marriage because this is what we believe will allow our marriages to survive.
But what if comfort is not what makes love last? What if it takes something deeper than how we feel to have successful marriages?
For so long I defined love's ability to last within the terms of how comfortable I felt. If love made me feel good, it was true. If love made me feel discomfort, it was headed for doom.
Many of us have a habit of making marriage too much about our own feelings: when we feel that it's right, how we feel at the beginning, and how we feel years on down the road. It's great, but love is not only a feeling.
It's a practice. It's a commitment. It's a promise.
When we judge the success of our marriage based solely on how we feel, we'll find that our trust in love will fade the moment we feel discomfort. This is because love doesn't promise us that it will feel the same way forever and always. It promises something else instead.
Love comes with the promise that we'll change and be better in the end, if only we trust in its hard work.
And so often, this requires feeling discomfort.
Maybe the reason so many marriages fail is because we've confused the purpose of marriage for comfort instead of change. We've tethered our idea of marriage around comfort so much that we've let it restrict us in moving forward with our relationships. We've let it determine when we get married and when we divorce.
But if marriage is centered on love's ability to change instead, then we'll find ourselves uncomfortable, yet better, in the end.
Diving into commitment is less about stability, and more about uncertainty. It's about risking to move into the unknown because we know that in the grounds where our love is tested is most likely the grounds in which we'll discover the depth of our commitment to one another.
We shouldn't marry for comfort because it hardly ever equates to a successful marriage. I thought it would, but it won't. Instead, marry for change.
It's time to gauge the success of our relationships by how much we've changed for the better, not by how comfortable we are.
After talking with the woman, I returned to Carly, looked into her eyes, and realized that I really did trust her to help make me into a better person. I trusted that she would change me into the kind of man I want to be. As I learned to trust in that more and more each day, I found my fear of not being ready or not having enough money begin to fade.
And that's what drove me to get down on one knee and propose. I wasn't comfortable, but that's not the point to marriage. Love truly does care more about making us better, not making us feel better. And in the end, we'll be thankful that it does.
This article originally appeared on nealsamudre.com and is an excerpt of his new eBook, Red: Discovering a Love that Lasts in a Culture that Doesn't Believe it Can. Purchase it on Amazon today.