Before I met my husband I had a list (I like lists). It was my perfect man list and I knew I couldn’t be happy unless my dream man ticked every item on the list. Then I met Dave and he made me want to throw my list to the wind and write a list of a completely different sort. We fell in love quickly and utterly so it wasn’t a big shock to find myself married within 12 months. I was so in love… and so clueless.
I’d swallowed every Hollywood chick flick and fairy tale hook, line and sinker. I knew what falling in love was all about but my examples of love finished at the kiss. What was happily ever after supposed to look like? That’s the thing that Hollywood never tells us isn’t it? They tell us what “in love” looks like but brave love, the everyday love that comes with monotony and routine and sacrifice isn’t interesting enough to hold our attention for two hours. So, we end up in relationships with unrealistic expectations and shattered fairy tales wondering where all this mess came from and whose job it is to clean up. What we really need is for our chick flicks and fairy tales to teach us what comes after the happily ever after. Here are some real lessons from our fairy tale romances…
Sleeping Beauty: You have a life to live, don’t live it on pause! Sleeping beauty was so bored waiting around for Prince Charming that she fell asleep and stayed that way for 100 years. You were born for a reason and whatever that reason is it’s waiting for you! Go climb a mountain, explore the world, dance in the moonlight in Paris or better yet make life better for others. Don’t stand around doing nothing while you wait for love to find you, live a big life and let love catch you on the run.
Shrek: If he looks like an ogre, smells like an ogre, and acts like an ogre then he is an ogre. If you weren’t looking for an ogre then you need to run a mile! Before I got married I received this advice; “This is him on his best day, on his best behaviour. If there is something that you can’t live with when he is at his best, don’t think that it will change when he has won you”. When we’re falling in love we are on our best behaviour – after we’ve won our partner we feel safe to let it all hang out (not the other way around). We need to stop looking for the “perfect” person and start looking for a person with character.
Rapunzel: Grow a thick skin or very long hair. There are times in every relationship where we want to run to the tower and lock out the world. Sometimes it’s because of the big stuff (like grief and loss) but a lot of the time it’s the small stuff that makes us want to run. Here’s the truth; tough times will come. There will be a time at some point where you sit down and wonder if it’s worth it and then you’ll have a choice. You can pack a bag, find a tower and lock out the world or you can find your partner, unpack the baggage you’ve both been hauling around and face the tough times together, as a team. It’s lonely by yourself in the tower, let down your hair. He is just as scared by conflict and struggle as you are; it’s so much better to face it together.
So what does happily ever after really look like? It looks like a lot of consistent and hard work. It looks like long nights and dirty nappies and serious conversations. It looks like humbling yourself when you want to scream that you are right and he is wrong. It looks like your hand on his knee as you drive along the beach. It looks like coffee dates snatched from busy days and warm looks that no one else understands but you. It looks like a lifetime of choosing them over and over again even though you know them better now with all their ogre-like qualities. It looks like a real life fairy tale.