In the land of Once Upon a Time, fairy tales end with these words: “And they lived happily ever after.”
Somehow, we rather expect that when we say I Do, our moments of “happily ever after” have begun.
‘Only problem is, we don’t. Live happily ever after, that is.
If we did (live happily ever after) it would be just that: a fairy tale, for nobody is perfect, and nobody can feel three peas under twenty mattresses with plenty of covers. No one is ever, ever, the fairest of the land all the time. No prince is ever produced from a frog by a girl’s kiss.
A fairy tale is a wonderful story for imagination and pretend. We can make fairy tales end in any way we’d like. It’s fun to fantasize and to have everything always come out right. No matter the dragon, the abyss, the wicked stepmother, or the little old man who requires straw to be spun into gold, good always wins in the end, which is where happily ever after begins.
‘Only problem is, in real life, sometimes Snow White really does die and no kiss can bring her back.
A fairy tale will never be real.
In real life, Cinderella continues to be poor and needs to work hard. There are no pumpkin chariots to take her to find her prince. There is no glass slipper that designates the corresponding princess.
In real life, the prince isn’t really a prince. He’s just another guy who makes mistakes and sometimes misunderstands his bride. Oh, he can be a prince charming, for certain, but with any woman’s prince, there’s no happily ever after.
In fairy tales, there’s usually a damsel in distress who is rescued by her own prince charming. Perhaps there’s a lonely, poor girl like Cinderella. There is magic and fantasy and make-believe, and it all resounds in a wonderful climax. The pumpkin becomes a chariot and horseman were once mice. The prince finds the perfect foot for the shoe. The straw- spinner discovers the name of the man in the woods. The kiss of the princess awakens the prince. And then? They live happily ever after.
He carries her away into a castle. His kiss awakens her deep sleep. She’s young and beautiful, pretty and dainty, and slender and innocent. He sweeps into her world and awakens true love in an instant and they live happily ever after.
He crosses rivers and chasms; he fights off evil and cunning and darkness. He slays dragons and villains. Always, he wins. Always, he prevails. Finally, finally, he gets to the dungeon (or the cave, or the castle) just in time. In any fairy tale, they then live happily ever after.
The real world is no true fairy tale.
In the real world, the prince isn’t always so charming and gallant. Sleeping Beauty is not so beautiful when she snores. He is careless or uncaring and she becomes thicker around the middle – which no true princess would ever, ever do.
There are no adults who can cast a spell on those who threaten to harm us; there are no magic potions that cure all ills, and there is no fairy godmother to wave a magic wand and erase the cinders. There is no happily ever after.
In the real world, there is no need to pretend, for fantasy and pumpkin chariots do not a marriage save. There is no need to fantasize and dream of another world where happily ever after prevails.
You know what’s better than “happily ever after”?
- the delectable sweetness of the fruit that comes from pruning thorns and thistles in a marriage garden. A good marriage takes work, not a magic wand.
- the happy fragrance that delights us from a settled commitment – that blending of forgiveness and hope! A good marriage is much more than changing a frog to a prince with a kiss. It means sticking it out and sticking together. A good marriage makes sure the gold slipper always fits.
- the gentle warmth from taking the time to walk through the darkness of disagreements together – and coming into the light at the edge of the forest, still holding hands and walking together. A good marriage invests muscle and maintenance instead of daggers and swords.
- the tangible blending of two who are committed to the work it takes to live together – ever after they say I Do. A good marriage invests in communicating and not just claiming a castle.