Fairy tales and movies may have you believing that the chase, the obstacles in your path, and the effort of getting to the “I love yous” and “I dos” are the hardest part of love.
After all, they all end with “happily ever after,” right?
You don’t see that Cinderella’s parents-in-law hate her and try to push their opinions into their son’s relationship and are rude to Cindy on the holidays. Charming loves her, but he gets frustrated over her lack of exposure to his lifestyle and sometimes is embarrassed by the things she says in front of his friends and parents. He hates that his parents are rude to Cindy, but over time finds himself getting annoyed by the same things and starts to “side” with his parents more, causing a rift in his marriage. They are trying couple’s therapy and working to learn better communication skills.
You don’t see that Belle’s dad is terrified of his son-in-law and doesn’t go to the castle for weekly dinners or on holidays. He has PTSD from being kidnapped and has been struggling with continuing to work. Belle secretly resents Beast/Prince for her father’s ill health and their love of books and singing cutlery isn’t enough for them to come back together after Belle bottles up her resentment until it explodes one night at dinner after Beast said something mildly disparaging about Belle’s family.
You don’t see how Eric feels trapped into marriage within a few years, hates how young and immature Ariel is, and how they can never move inland, they must stay living near the ocean. Eric feels duped and can’t seem to identify anything they really have in common and also gets frustrated at having to drive Ariel to high school and then college, because she never learned any land life skills, like driving or using public transportation, and she prefers not to learn. When Ariel realizes Eric isn’t that fairy-tale-happy anymore, she attempts to get pregnant to ‘fix’ everything.
In every romantic comedy, you have similar tropes. The overworked, independent CEO lady who doesn’t need a man — until the perfect guy stumbles upon her and suddenly she finds meaning in her existence.
The manly manual laborer who owns his own plumbing business and is not rich, who has been hurt in the past and then meets a woman from the right side of the tracks who learns to accept and love him as he is and bucks her family’s wishes to mate with someone more “suitable.”
The come together, get torn apart, and eventually, come together again in love.
“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” …but how do they work out their jobs, families, different lifestyles, different countries…?
There are movies like the very problematic “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” where we watch America’s sweetheart, Julia Roberts, chase around and try to sabotage her best friend’s wedding and overall being a huge b&$*h to Kimmy (Cameron Diaz). We’re supposed to feel bad for Robert’s character (Julianne) and her unrequited love, instead, I feel terrible for Kimmy that she has to sit there and deal with her fiance not shutting Julianne down over and over again and have all her outreaches rebuffed AND have this woman be her maid of honor — who kisses the groom ON the wedding day. Ugh.
Real Love Isn’t a Movie
Love isn’t easy. It kind of isn’t allowed to be. There are periods of time when it feels easy, there is a level of comfort that feels easy and nice when you love someone deeply.
But we’re human beings. We make mistakes, our needs are complex, we fail at communicating, our emotions can change from one moment to another, there are crisis moments, emergencies, failures, and apologies.
There are also triumphs and celebrations and excitement and happiness.
Love is not all one thing. It’s never any one thing at all. Love is complex and dynamic and changes over time.
I’ve been with my husband for right around a decade now. In that time, our love has shifted, deepened, gets tumultuous at times, we argue, we make up, we annoy each other, we comfort each other, we support each other, and sometimes we yell at each other.
It can feel like we have nothing in common; other times we feel so in sync we finish each others’ sentences.
We met when we were just 24 years old. Now firmly ensconced in our mid-thirties, we have changed.
We had to change. The passage of time requires us as people to adapt, change, evolve, and reassess.
At the core, I love, respect, admire, and enjoy my husband. I have a soul-deep level of comfort with him and a firm belief that I can always be honest with him; I deeply know that nothing I say is going to “scare him off” — even when we’re angry at each other.
We respect each other. We don’t name call in anger or make idle threats to each other during fights. We try not to be assholes to each other, even when we’re mad.
We apologize to each other when we’re wrong, even if it takes some time to swallow the pride and do it.
People change over time, that’s normal and natural.
Love must endure all of that. Love does not “conquer all.” But loving someone enough means you work through the challenges and have respect for each other.
Loving someone means you respect them and their values and respect the relationship enough to try not to drop a bomb on it (like cheating or big lies or other relationship-enders).
My relationship is not perfect. Far from it. We bicker and annoy each other and argue about getting more pets and steal each other’s last snacks.
That’s what’s normal, not this fake overly romanticized “happily ever after” that makes you feel like if you’re not happy 100% of the time then something must be wrong in your relationship.
Nope, you’ve got this.
Grow toward each other, evolve together, and don’t get caught up in the fantasy of fairy tales and rom-coms.
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