I doubt there’s a woman alive who hasn’t dreamed of being Cinderella, because Cinderella had it all… the fairy godmother, the fancy dress, the perfect pair of shoes, THE PRINCE. It’s pure magic, and we all long for a love story that mirrors hers. We want to wave a magic wand and arrive at happily ever after completely unscathed. But the truth is that it didn’t happen that way for Cinderella, and it won’t happen that way for you or me. The entire fairytale is so enchanting that we tend to forget all about the hardships, trials, and plain old work that Cinderella had to go through (hello… becoming an orphan, being a maid, enduring abuse, and getting locked in an attic) before riding off into the sunset with her prince. And where is the sequel that chronicles what happened to Cinderella and Prince Charming after they said, ‘I Do’? Has the movie never been made because the early years of marriage aren’t always synonymous with the word fairytale?
That would be my guess.
Because here’s the thing about love and marriage: no matter who you are, it’s hard work, and I don’t think we talk enough about how hard it really is. And our hush, hush attitude on the matter makes me nervous, because our children are watching, and they deserve our honesty as they begin writing the scripts for their own future love stories.
I was recently reminded of this fact while talking with one of my sweet college aged friends who was going through a rough patch in her relationship with the man who had won her heart a few years prior. My darling friend’s heart hurt for the obvious reason (because it’s painful when it feels as though love isn’t working out), and her heart hurt because she now felt like her love story was marred. Even if they chose to work things out and stay together (spoiler alert: they did), it was no longer the flawless fairytale that she’d always imagined. Did this mean that their love story was doomed? Were they alone in their current state of dysfunction? Did fairytales only belong in the enchanted world of fiction? I quickly assured her that her story was not doomed, she most definitely was NOT alone, and that happily ever after does exist, but often not before years of hard work. I spoke in confidence, because I had first hand knowledge of this truth in my own life.
I’ve been married to my Prince Charming for nearly 14 years now, and I can honestly say that we are currently living our very own version of happily ever after (with a few plot twists thrown in every few chapters just to keep life interesting).
But you should know that the early years of our marriage were not wedded bliss.
The first few months we were married felt like a fairytale, but then real life waltzed in and spun us right back around towards reality. We had some magical moments, followed by years of utter mayhem. When my husband and I got married we were two deeply hurting people, each of us counting on the other to make us whole. My new husband was recently divorced and still carrying around the baggage that comes with a failed marriage. I was fresh out of an eating disorder treatment center. Together, we were a disaster of epic proportions. Loads of ugly words were spoken, and for a variety of reasons all trust was lost. Life together often felt hopeless, but we were embarrassed, so we remained silent. We never sought help or shared our struggles for fear of judgement, and it would be years before we’d realize how much our silence had cost not only us, but also the young people in our lives who were watching and assuming we were just another perfect couple who had love all figured out.
When will we realize that truth brings freedom and that honesty must come before healing can be found? When will we realize that our stories are meant to be shared? We aren’t doing anyone any favors by pretending that a successful marriage can happen without putting in the work to make it so.
I’m still a fan of fairytales. I still love love.
I just want people to know the truth. I want young girls to know that love is a verb requiring more than a fancy dress and the perfect pair of shoes. I want struggling newlyweds to know that they’re not alone and that magic can still rise from what was once marred. And more than anything, I want women everywhere to know that happily ever after does exist, but often not before years of hard work.