What comes to mind when you think of the phrase “and they lived happily ever after”? I used to think of Disney movies and fairy tales; damsels in distress being rescued by their prince and being whisked away to a castle… And love. The exciting feeling of heart pounding, spine tingling, goofy giggling smiles the day after that first amazing kiss.
In my youth, I was an eternal spring of hope. Love would rescue me from the evil clutches of my parents’ restrictions. My prince would slay dragons to be with me. Every day would be a new adventure and picture perfect.
I was 16 when I started dating. Looking back, I was in love with being in love. All the cute guys were potential princes and I used to write down my first name with their last name just to see how it looked.
After a time, I realized that “happily ever after” doesn’t exist – at least not when it’s solely attached to finding a significant other. Sure, it makes for a great ending in a story but it doesn’t reflect well in real life.
Those fantasy tales end at happily ever after because no one wants to talk about the reality of the next day – and the day after – and the day after that because it’s anything but sexy or romantic.
The truth is that after some time with your partner, the real stuff begins to show. No one wants to believe that Snow White gets bleedy and crampy once a month. There’s nothing romantic about Cinderella scowling at Prince Charming because he farted. And does anyone want to imagine how Jasmine reacts when Aladdin leaves his wet shower towel in a pile on the floor?
Yeah, I’ve got a stream of consciousness happening right now and I want to explore why “Happily Ever After” isn’t happily ever after… but maybe it could be.
Time Changes Us
Of course time changes us! If I was the same person that I was 20 years ago, and the same person 20 years from now, something might be seriously off with me because I am the culmination of my experiences. My interests and desires have changed over time. Fairy tales and Hollywood end on a high because it’s entertainment. In real life, time keeps marching forward. Things change. Perception changes. Eventually, we change.
Ask me today what “I love you forever” means and I will say it means that you fill my heart and soul right now. I know this sounds confusing and contrary to your definition of forever but bear with me as I try to explain.
Fairy Tale Forevers
In our youth, we watch the old fairy tales where it ends, “and they lived happily ever after.” I used to translate that as finding my forever prince and everything would be perfect and happy. Disney doesn’t show you Cinderella chasing down two kids, changing diapers, managing the household, a job, maybe school and Prince Charming farting and scratching when he wakes up in the morning.
When my husband and I started dating, we could barely keep our hands off of each other. Sex was passionate, exciting and new. That phase of getting to know one another intimately, not just physically, but emotionally, was intoxicating. We both knew that this was it – Cupid’s arrow struck. In Disney, our happily ever after might have ended at saying, “I do” at the altar.
Reality breaches with combining living space with his and my furniture, sharing closet space, the toilet seat being left up, and dirty clothes on the floor. Tack on the responsibilities of working, paying the bills, making sure the kids survive another day of our parenting skills, cooking, cleaning, etc., etc. Now factor in age and comfortability. All of the newness is gone.
Is Hilary Duff right?
“But I don’t know if people are meant to be together forever. Things happen over a long relationship that you can’t always fight. A marriage of 20 years, the accomplishment of that must feel really great, but there are also huge sacrifices.”Hilary Duff (2015) US Magazine
Are people meant to be together forever? I would argue yes, and here are the ways to maintain Happily Ever After.
Be in the Moment
I try to strategize life path. It includes daily goals, monthly goals, milestones and way-in-the-future goals. My husband and partner is in line with those way-in-the-future goals. We might not always agree on how to get there but we accept that we think differently and stay open for discussion. Just about everything is negotiable.
We also stay in the moment and appreciate it for what it is.
Being realistic can definitely be a passion killer but let’s be honest. Do you know anyone who can maintain the passion and enthusiasm every day? I can’t!
A good analogy for your happily ever after is thinking of your relationship as a marathon, not a sprint. Compromise is key. So is effective communication. Something drew you together. Can your common interests, goals and love for one another survive the trials of everyday life?
In all honesty, well before you say “I do,” you both should talk about the deal breakers in a relationship.
Compromise goes hand in hand with being realistic. We cannot have it our way all the time. Being open and willing to try it another way – or at least having a healthy debate before making big (or little) decisions is the key to a happy castle.
Time keeps on ticking by and every once in a while we need a change. It starts from within. Long-term, “forever” relationships can feel like you’re slowly losing your identity. Hold onto the things that bring you joy. Discover new things too! And if you can find something that you can do together – even better.
If there is trust in the relationship, then doing things independently is just as important to maintain that inner spark. While that inner glow of happiness is vital, something doing something fun on the outside sparks some curiosity from your other half.
Every time I put on my sexy black bra and a certain shade of lipstick, I see the sparkle in my honey’s eyes.
I follow a clean slate policy. It’s much like my parents’ advice about not going to bed angry. I never understood the concept of having an argument and bringing up ancient events that aren’t relevant. It’s the equivalent of monkeys throwing poo.
Debate, argue, coerce, convince and stay on point. LISTEN when the other side is talking. To keep the peace, somethings you have to agree to disagree. That’s okay. Handle it then move on. The next moment is the perfect opportunity to have a clean slate and tackle the next thing. Don’t hold grudges and do your best to take an objective look at what’s happening right now.
Happily Ever After…
No one can maintain a facade of being up, present, passionate, and perfect. No one. And because we’re all perfectly imperfect, we have to give some allowances that our partner is going to screw up – just like you and me. Having said that, happily ever after does exist with a lot of work, some compromise, and the ability to adapt to changes in our life. Time keeps ticking and our story continues long after we close the book on the Disney tale.