You’ve heard this before, and it’s worth repeating. Unfortunately marriage typically isn’t a fairy tale.
The prince doesn’t gallop into the forest on his white horse to whisk you away to a castle filled of riches and unwavering marital bliss. Who knows, maybe your story does start out that way, but somewhere along the line you discover that you’d really prefer a cottage to a castle, and your prince decided that instead of being a royal he’d prefer a career as a wall artist. Ladies – your prince doesn’t see you as his lovely, devoted princess forever either. We can’t predict the future, and no matter how well-laid our plans we discover that life throws us a few curve balls. Disillusionment sets in for both of you, and that’s when the resentment and problems start to build. Sadly many people don’t have the patience, or stamina, to do the real work that’s necessary to create a new marriage. One not based on ideals or fantasy but on a foundation of integrity, honesty, and mutual love and support.
We do ourselves a disservice by buying into the fairy tale. Wanting it is being human, but expecting it and rejecting anything less may not be a particularly realistic view of marriage.
Does this mean that we should stop striving for a happy, satisfying marriage and just “settle”? Absolutely unequivocally not. It’s just the opposite, you SHOULD strive for it. You should get your happy ending. A good marriage should bring you joy, satisfaction, stability, and support. However nowhere in this description do you see words like “perfect”, “never-ending passion”, or “without problems.”
Those in long-term, successful marriages know that they are filled with both good times and bad. There’s a good reason why that’s stated in most traditional wedding vows. It serves as a reminder that marriage isn’t always a fairy tale. There are times when it is, and other times when you find yourself day-dreaming about a different life. That’s normal. It’s not necessarily a sign that you’ve chosen the wrong partner or that your marriage is doomed to fail. Do some people pick the absolutely wrong partner for them and are in a marriage that won’t or shouldn’t last? Of course, that’s reality. But some people become so scared by these questioning thoughts that they prematurely bail on a marriage that is very much worth saving.
It’s expected that romantic and passionate love will change over time. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work to keep romance and passion alive in your relationship, you definitely should. However it may not be reasonable to expect your marriage to look and feel like it did on your first anniversary when you hit your tenth or twentieth.
When couples come to me for counseling they often spend a lot of time talking about how good things were in the past, and how much they miss it. They want that “feeling” again. It’s an important conversation to have, but people are sometimes unwilling to ask the questions that will move them forward – what does our relationship look like today and what do I want it to look like tomorrow? What’s changed that I’m okay with, and what am I absolutely not okay with? What can I let go of, and what do I have to find? What do I truly value and what does marriage mean to me – today?
Every couple is unique, and what works well for one relationship may not work well for another. Needs vary greatly. What’s important is that you and your partner work together, and continue to strive for a happy, satisfactory union however you choose to define it.