There are three words that make every relationship better: “I love you.” Then there are three words that aren’t as productive as we’re made to think: “Happily ever after.” It’s make-believe designed for the hearts and minds of children. For adults, it’s not, and will never be, real.
Why “Happily Ever After” Isn’t Real
“Happily ever after” is the fairy tale myth that creates unrealistic expectations about adult romantic relationships. It encourages us to believe that we’ve already done the hard work and can now reap the rewards. These three popular words imply that circumstances don’t change and evolve. We get tricked into thinking a breakup can’t and won’t happen to us.
If there is a secret to loving each other, it has to do with staying compatible. Remember:
- Couples break up without falling out of love.
- Just as we make adjustments in our diets, exercise regimens, and work habits, we must never stop tweaking our love connections.
- Don’t take yourself, your partner, or your relationship for granted.
- Compatibility is fluid and in that lies an exciting challenge.
‘Loving Each Other No Matter What’ Is Real
What does it mean to truly commit? Are we willing to do the work and embrace the process? The following are some concepts outside the realm of “happily ever after.”
1. Reinvent your modes of communication
Over time, your needs and wants may change dramatically. It’s unrealistic to expect anyone else to grasp all this change without some input. It’s unproductive, too. Talk to each other. Talk about talking to each other. Schedule communication time and make it face-to-face. Some (most?) things are too important for text messages.
2. Practice acceptance
Thanks to fairy tales and pop culture, we might see ourselves as failures if we don’t maintain a “perfect” relationship. Therefore, it’s a huge step to accept the inevitability of change. The more we accept change, the better we can prepare for it. Then, when the inevitable crisis hits, your foundation remains strong.
3. See the big picture…
You’ve committed to each other for the long haul. Allow this reality to color some of your reactions and interactions. Not that you take things for granted but rather, you understand that some things take time to play out. Not every argument is worth dwelling on. Sweet compliments are great but they don’t replace trust and respect. Always keep one eye on the big picture.
4. …but embrace the moment
One eye on the big picture leaves one eye locked in on the present. A mindful focus on the here and now keeps us in tune with our feelings. In turn, it connects us as a couple. When we’re in sync, there are typically far less “no matter what” moments getting in the way of loving each other.
5. Define “No matter what”
Each couple—and each partner—must have the freedom to set boundaries. Issues like abuse and infidelity cannot be lumped into with non-traumatic strife. To be casual when defining “no matter what” is as self-sabotaging as believing the “happily ever after” myth. If this becomes a sticking point, you may be interested in the next section on marital counseling.
Marital Counseling is Most Definitely Real
There aren’t many fairy tales that include marital counseling and that’s a shame. How much more prepared we’d be if we knew that all relationships have rough patches. Fortunately, even those of us who have reached a roadblock while seeking “happily ever after” can make the necessary adjustments. Committing as a couple to weekly sessions not only helps us help ourselves. It also sends a message that both partners are dedicated to loving each other no matter what.