The Myth of Happily Ever After

In Advice and Encouragement, Marriage, Relationships, Single by Debra Fileta

Why is it that fairy tales always end with “Happily Every After”? With every princess movie I watch or storybook that I read, I can’t help but cringe a bit, because the most interesting thing about fairy tales is that no matter the plot, the conflict is always resolved in romance.

Cinderella, single and alone, struggles to survive under the hatred of her step-mother until she’s saved by her handsome prince. 

Snow White, hiding in the forest with her 7 dwarfs, until she’s rescued at the hands of her true love. 

Beauty, held captive in the enchanted castle, until she falls in love with the Beast and breaks the spell that frees her to marry the man of her dreams. 

First comes the struggle, then comes the romance, and “poof”- the happily ever after. Call me crazy, but I’m cautious when it comes to the kind of “Fairy-tales” I allow my little girl to indulge in.

While I appreciate the joys of imagination and the hope of happy endings, I’m aware that her view of love and life is taking shape with each passing experience. Though these children’s stories may be harmless from the outside looking in, the truth is they represent an underlying myth in our culture that is wreaking havoc on the expectations we carry into relationships and play out within our “adult” marriages: that all problems and pain will end in the arms of true love.

Take for example, Sue and Ben. Having experienced struggles and trials in her family of origin, Sue marries Ben, hoping that this will be the start of something new; a happy ever after, of sorts. Fast forward two years, Sue and Ben are experiencing conflict, struggles, and trials of their own.

The life that she thought she left behind begins to play out in her marriage, and Sue begins to panic. Because she believed that marriage would be her “Happily Ever After” she assumes that Ben is the problem. If only he could respond the way she needed. If only he could be her prince charming. Did she make the wrong choice? This wasn’t how it was supposed to work. She’s left with more problems, wounds, and struggles than she has ever experienced- leaving her right back where she started.

And when she comes to see me for therapy, Sue feels completely defeated.

But the thing is, relationships can’t solve our problems, heal our wounds, or fulfill all our hopes because they were never intended to.  They don’t have the capacity to.  It’s a myth to think that all struggles will be lost in the embrace of love because the truth is that struggles will always be a part of our lives.  While we are a part of this world, we will always be exposed to the consequences of sin and pain. And sometimes those consequences are be really hard to endure.

Relationships are made of two broken people who reflect a broken world.  In fact, our brokenness is actually magnified within the context of relationship- two flawed human beings, rubbing up against each other day in day out.

It’s easy to close our eyes to the realness of marriage before we actually taken the leap of lifelong commitment.  It’s easy to imagine a world of bliss, living happily ever after while forgetting that the majority of marriage comes down to routine ordinary moments wrapped up in the context of an extraordinary commitment.

Marriage is not about the “happily ever after”, because it’s so much deeper than that.  It supersedes the luxury of feeling, and calls us into the sacrifice of choice. It’s about the day to day decisions- choosing love over selflessness, peace over rightness, intimacy over control.  It is the day in day out grind of two humans learning to love in a way that they never imagined they could; in a way they hardly know how to do.  Within that calling, there are intoxicating moments of happily ever after, but there are also moments of struggle, sin, and human depravity – followed by forgiveness, grace, and intimacy beyond imagine.

Whether married or single, our Happy Ever After is never limited by our earthly relationships- because it goes above and beyond those relationships.  Rather than seeking a relationship to dissolve our struggles, we must remember to continually come back to the embrace of Jesus- who cleanses our wounds, heals our pain, protects our hearts, and wipes away our insecurities, giving us the ability to truly love without limits.

And far above earthly love, there is a God who longs to embrace you in His loving and eternal arms; a God who’s plans and purposes for your life include your love life, but even more exciting, they exceed your love life. So whoever you are and wherever you come from, remember this:

True love is not the end of your happy ending…it is only the beginning-  a glimpse of something more. 

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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter