“And they lived happily ever after.” “He’s my soul mate.” “She’s my dream come true.” “I want the fairy tale.” Do you know how many times I’ve heard these kinds of phrases and wistfully pined away for a love like that – a love that would make my head spin and my heart soar, a love that would make all of my dreams come true, a love that would make my life worth living?
Growing up, I was always looking for the kind of love that would make me worthy. A love that would transform me from an ordinary, boring, ho-hum loser of a girl to a dazzling, radiant and resplendent woman, admired and adored by her beloved and by the world, a woman who finally – finally – felt good enough. A woman who was LOVED, and was therefore valuable.
I wish I would have known then what I know now. “Happily Ever After” is hogwash.
“Happily Ever After” is a phrase that conjures up a picture of perfection and eternal bliss. It invokes images of carefree laughter, unending smiles, complete harmony and absolutely no conflict. When you see a couple ride off into the sunset at the end of a romantic movie, you picture nothing but joy. That’s a dangerous image to have in your head. With a picture of perfection like that, reality can not only fall short but dangerously derail one’s very self worth when the reality doesn’t turn out like the fantasy promises. If the relationship doesn’t bring everlasting happiness and complete fulfillment, then what does that say about the people in the relationship? What is wrong with them?
I’ve always been what you could consider a very idealistic and romantic girl when it comes to love. One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was to go through JCPenney catalogs and cut out pictures of women in bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses, dreaming of the day that I would find my soulmate and walk down the aisle toward him. I watched every chick flick and read every bit of chick lit I could get my hands on, inundating my brain with messages of True Love and Happily Ever After. I built my entire life around one goal – finding my soul mate and marrying him. That, I knew, was the ticket to everlasting happiness and fulfillment. After all, it was what all the fairy tales and chick flicks told me. It was what every girl I knew seemed to be looking for. It was the driving force in my life.
And it’s a load of bull.
Love is miraculous and amazing, and love is most definitely the best part of life. My feeling on this has not waned over the course of my life but rather intensified. Love is the answer. Love is everything. But there’s a pretty big caveat. Romantic love, in which a handsome man swoops in to save a desperate girl and then the two of them ride off into the sunset to live Happily Ever After, is a farce. It’s not grounded in reality, it’s a mockery of humanity, and it’s an unfair and destructive ideal to chase after.
Life is much messier and much more beautiful than the fairy tales would have us believe.
The biggest problem with the concept of Happily Ever After is that it relies on something external to bring about internal fulfillment. X brings Y. A relationship/marriage is a thing that will make a person happy/loved/worthy. But life doesn’t work that way. Happiness, love and worthiness cannot be found in anything external, whether that’s a wedding ring or a Mercedes. As hokey as it may sound, those things can only be found inside of you. The external stuff just clouds and distracts from the essential truth that we must find love in our own soul. That’s the only way that we will truly understand that we are love, we have always been love, and we will always be perfect, radiant, resplendent love.
If someone believes they are unloveable, there is nothing that a relationship can do to fix that. It may cover it up for a while, but once the glittery wedding confetti settles, you are still left with just two people with all of their original fears, doubts and self-conscious yearnings.
I felt desperate, broken and sad when I met Lancelot. I was missing love in my life. I thought he could give it to me. In many ways, he did help me transform – but what he did was more of an uncovering. I was worthy to begin with. He just helped me shed some layers of fear. I was craving love and I didn’t feel I had it, but I did. It was inside of me the whole time, just as Dorothy’s slippers were on her feet the whole time. I had just forgotten that I was loveable. I thought that I had to have someone give me love, rather than recognize it in myself.
Lancelot wasn’t sent into my life to fix me, though. As it turns out, I wasn’t broken. I was just a little lost. I had forgotten who I was. I had forgotten that my very essence was love. Lancelot helped me find that love again. He didn’t give it to me. He just helped me find it again.
It has been said that we humans are just mirrors for each other, and that we can’t see in another what we don’t have in ourselves. I saw so many beautiful things in Lancelot when I met him. I saw integrity, honesty, vulnerability, authenticity, generosity, courage, intelligence, humor and adventure in Lancelot. I saw those things, because they were dormant inside of me but yet still present inside of me, waiting to come out. Falling in love with Lancelot brought out the best in me because it helped me develop and grow the things that were already there.
I love my husband, but I wouldn’t characterize our relationship as a fairy tale. We fight. We yell. We close ourselves off, and retreat. We think ugly things and say mean things. He doesn’t always look like a prince and I most certainly don’t always look like a princess.
But … What Lancelot and I have now is so much better than Happily Ever After. We have Real Ever After. We screw up, and hurt each other, and we say and do ugly things that we regret – and we know that we are loved anyway. We know that we can work through it. We know that we are a team, together, in it for the long haul, despite our imperfections and our mistakes. We trust each other. We trust ourselves. We give each other space and freedom to grow and live, and we have faith in each other. We honor our differences and our boundaries. We try not to judge each other, and we try not to judge ourselves. We give each other grace when one of us errs. We overstep, and misstep, and get back on track – together.
My husband and I love each other and ourselves enough to help each other uncover the incredible and radiant love that has been inside of each of us all along. That is a love story worth telling.
God, I love my husband. We may not have a Happily Ever After story, but we have a lot more than that.
Choosing to walk down the aisle toward Lancelot was not the end of our love story, as the movies may have you believe. It was just the beginning.