I never promised you a rose garden. –Joe South. In the material world, especially among young girls, the hope prevails that marriage will be a pleasurable affair and that the pleasure will never end. “Happily ever after” is a favorite phrase at the end of practically every romantic fairy tale. The reality is, however, that although pleasures exist in married life, those pleasures are intermittent and short-lived. Because this is the world of dualities, the pleasures of married life are offset by pain. This is the arrangement of the all-merciful Lord.
Such pain manifests in different forms. Besides the pains of old age, disease and death, most couples have children. Thus, not only the woman but also the man experiences the pain of childbirth. The woman directly experiences the discomforts of pregnancy, labor and delivery, while the man experiences the lifelong responsibility of having to figure out how to provide for, protect, and educate his child(ren). Father and mother also both experience anxiety on behalf of their children when the children suffer, and suffer they must. This world is a place of suffering: dukhalayam asasvatam. Man and wife also experience the pain of being misunderstood by each other (married life is fraught with misunderstandings because man and woman think, feel and communicate differently), the pain of being falsely accused, the pain of embarrassment at having disappointed one’s spouse, or feeling the pain of our spouse when he or she is unhappy or frustrated, sick or hurt.
There is usually a strong sexual attraction between husband and wife in the beginning of their marriage which tends to cover over the couple’s perception of the fact that life in the material world is miserable. This intensity of attraction for each other can be misperceived as love, but it is actually a form of lust. Aspiring Vaisnavas who enter into marriage generally experience this strong sexual attraction for their spouse, just as non-Vaisnavas do. Even though Vaisnavas are philosophically aware that they are not their bodies, that marriage is ultimately meant for giving up sex, that sex is meant only for procreation and that Krsna, not our spouse, is the ultimate object of adoration, still, when aspiring devotees are newly married, they usually experience this intense feeling of attraction for one another.