Part 1. (I swear I'll post Part 2 in a relatively punctual manner. For reals, ya'll.)
What is it about marriage that automatically dictates "happily ever after"? Each night I read my daughter a story and sing her a song before she closes her eyes to dream. And inevitably the story ends up being some fairy tale about a princess and a prince and "they lived happily ever after".
I always have a hard time when I come to that part of the story. Invariably I want to change those words to something like "and they lived as happily as they could" or "and they worked at their marriage and that's how they lived happily ever after". Some nights I feel the story should end with "and they lived happily ever after as long as Prince Charming didn't fuck things up. Goodnight, Sweetheart."
Because how many couples do we really know who are actually living happily ever after? How many are separating/divorcing? How many are merely existing together, pretending to be happy or, just as bad, waiting for happiness to just happen to them? And how many are actually, truly, happy together?
I know more couples who fall into the first two categories than I do in the last. The one couple I do know that has a very successful and happily-ever-after-esque marriage is the only couple I've ever known to have dedicated so much to each other and to working out every issue. Indeed, they are an inspiration to me.
But my own marital issues and relationship problems have, at times, left me bewildered at how what that couple has ended up being not what my husband and I have.
And it's led me to some very difficult questions that I've had to seek out equally difficult answers to over the last year.
Does a person's first marriage have to be *the* marriage? Does their second? Third? Should they be cut off at some point, like they've met their limit?
What if what you thought was *the* marriage doesn't work out? What if you discover that the person you thought you'd made vows to is really someone entirely different? How do you reconcile that?
And how much of yourself do you throw into solving those issues, those discrepencies before you realize you've exhausted everything you are just to find you're the only one in the marriage trying to address those issues?
And how do you tell your five year old daughter who loves the idea of Prince Charming and off-into-the-sunset-to-eternal-bliss that "happily ever after" is what you make it and that sometimes two people just can't make it?
Human is human. Relationships are complicated. Happily ever after isn't simply three magical words.
I can't explain that to her. I can't destroy her dreams even though I feel like I've already begun to do that...