Thursday, May 19, 2016

Happily Ever After Takes a Lot of Work

Is it even possible to have a fairy tale romance, one where the prince sweeps the girl off her feet, marries her, takes her off to his kingdom, and they live happily ever after? Isn't that the way this marriage stuff works?

I'm embarrassed to say that up until very recently, I believed that a good marriage was one devoid of conflict. I blame my Pollyanna personality. I had assumed if you were with the right person, you would always agree on the way life should be lived, and the way things should be done, and there would never be discord. 

Happy, happy, happy, all the time. 

The never-ending honeymoon.

A year and a half ago, I met the most wonderful man. We share the same faith, values, and passions. He is everything I ever wanted in a partner. Chuck is handsome, intelligent, funny, creative, gentle, and kind. When he asked me to marry him, I could hardly believe my good fortune. I couldn't wait for our fairy tale romance to move to the next level as husband and wife.  I was all about that happily ever after thing. I wanted to get right to that part. 

While I do believe we are a perfect match for each other; the reality is we are not perfect people. Not long after we were married, I was so surprised to discover that we were facing conflict. How could that be? We were perfect for each other. He was my Prince Charming, after all, and I was his Princess Bride. 

Chuck took things in stride. Although he is very romantic, he isn't caught up in some fairy tale fantasy, and takes a realistic approach when it comes to communication and problem-solving. Yes, he is emotionally mature. I had so much to learn.

Guess what I had to accept? We are not characters in a fairy tale. We are living, breathing humans struggling to make sense of this life, just like everyone else. We are not the same person; we don't have the same heart or mind or spirit, and so we approach life differently. Not that either way is necessarily wrong; it's just different. And when two people, even good people who love each other very much, are in a partnership, there will be times when problems need to be solved, compromises need to be reached, and apologies need to be given. Conflict is part of the human condition, including marriage.

My whole life, I avoided conflict like the plague. My mom called me her little peacemaker. I even tried to anticipate problems, and did whatever I could to see that they never occurred. I tried to predict others' preferences, moods, and requests so there wouldn't even be a ripple of dissatisfaction. And I nearly went crazy trying to do it. 

I found myself in uncharted territory as Mrs. Bennorth. I'm only a year and a half in as Chuck's bride, and I am just starting to understand how important honest communication is. Chuck has been so patient, giving me a safe place to express myself. He actually wants to know what I'm thinking, what I believe, and what worries me. His unwavering love and support have been vital to my feeling secure enough to speak the truth, as I know it.  

I am finally willing to be seen and heard. If I have an opinion, I will share it. If I disagree, I am learning to say so. If something bugs me, but it just isn't that big a deal, I keep it to myself because I don't think I get to be the "boss of everything." 

Every relationship will face difficulties. Seeing your partner suffer is hard. Learning that you do things that upset or hurt your partner is hard. Facing the tough stuff (illness, the death of loved ones, employment challenges, setting up a budget, unexpected expenses, worrying about children) is hard. Basically, marriage is waaay harder than I had realized. But being willing to face conflicts together, and having a loving, supportive partner, makes the hard stuff worth it. 

When Chuck and I confront something important, we both know that we can trust the other to hear us out, and help us sort through our thoughts. There's nothing either one of us could say that would be a deal breaker. We try to listen and speak with love and respect. Even though our feelings have been hurt when we have felt misunderstood, we know that we'll give each other the time and space to heal, and then we come together again, growing closer and having a better understanding of each other. 

When it comes to conflict, do I still get anxious? Yes. Is it awkward and uncomfortable? Oh, my, yes. Do I get nervous right before I bring up an item for discussion? Sometimes, I still do. Being completely honest and sharing my deepest thoughts weren't things I believed I could do without negative repercussions, until this last year or so. I've had to unlearn a lifetime of bad habits. 

If there is going to be a Happily (Most of the Time) Ever After, we have to keep talking. I can't shut down, and keep things to myself. Even when it's hard. Even when it's awkward and uncomfortable. 

No one ever said marriage would be easy. They just never told me it would be so hard and take so much work. There is no one else with whom I would rather face the inevitable conflicts, though. This much I know for sure; my Handsome Prince and I may not be perfect, but we are perfect for each other. And that's "happily ever after" enough for me. 


  1. Sweet Denise, your post reminds me of a passage (from Mark Nepo) I read recently. "The dance," it said, "is the vibrant, life-giving act of spirit and how it expresses us. . . it is the dance of spirit that opens us to who we are."

    You have so beautifully expressed yourself here, and I love that you are learning to express yourself with your Handsome Prince. I, too, have spent too much time and energy avoiding conflict. I so relate to your insight. I think it's time for me to dance too.

    1. Best wishes to you guys in this part of your journey. By all means, dance!

  2. The part of ever after that I didn't seem to get is that it is ongoing. It is happily ever after right now, but in thirty seconds we may have to reevaluate and have another happily ever after. And, I didn't think age would make it harder. I thought the longer you were together, the better and easier it would be. Guess what? Not so. The better, but not the easier. So glad you two found each other.

    1. Meee, tooo, Stella. I've wondered about that older stage, too. We'll keep plugging along!

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Sharen. You and Eddie seem to have such a sweet relationship. You've worked hard together, and it's paying off.


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