Nobody Talks About Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After
Photo credit: disneyspeak.com

I was (am) a really big fan of the series Sex and the City (Affiliate link), especially in my twenties. I was so excited for the movie to come out in 2008… want to know why? Because at the end of the series, Carrie and Mr. Big finally end up together so finally we would see what happily ever after looked like!

Spoiler alert – you don’t get to see what happily ever after looks like in the movie (not really in the second one either). I left the theater so disappointed.

No one seems to talk about happily ever after. Every movie or series ends with the couple having their first dramatic kiss, or walking away holding hands, or maybe even walking down the aisle. But then what?

It is no secret that over 50% of marriages end in divorce and that many couples are opting to live with each other but not get married. Obviously there are millions of reasons for marriages going down the shitter but I have this one theory – that if no one talks about what happens after happily ever after we are helping set these new relationships up for failure. No one knows what to expect and then when the wedding is over, or the kids are grown, or the allure fades we panic because we don’t know what this is supposed to feel like.

The other day there was a teaser on the Today Show for a book on modern marriages. I was so excited! I am married and I am living in these modern times! I had already decided that I was probably going to buy it. Then the segment came on. It was for the book Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules (Affiliate)… that isn’t what I was looking for.

Where is the book called like ‘So You Are Married and Happy’? I would read that one. Mind you, I haven’t read Haag’s Marriage Confidential but it seems a little negative and scary just from the piece I saw.

So what am I going to do about it?

I think I am going to talk about it. I think people in happy marriages (like mine) should be celebrated. I love my husband. No we don’t have children and don’t you dare ask me if I am pregnant… we may have children someday but right now we like being married and there is nothing wrong with that.

The other day my mother texted me that my father drove past her on the island and blew her a kiss. They have been married for 25 years. They are best friends and they are happy. That should be celebrated.

So I am going to do my part to talk about what happens after ‘and they lived happily ever after’ because we as a society should. If we let people know more about what a marriage is like, it could help other people feel more normal when they are uncomfortable. I will of course have to run a lot of this by my husband but I think he will be on board.

I am not a certified professional or therapist or life coach but I have a little first-hand, real-world, best of breed experience with marriage (2.75 years experience and counting) and I will use this little space I have carved out here online to talk about how a modern marriage can actually happen.

“I have been married 65 years, 66 in September, and I think that is a pretty good start” – A nice lady Adam met today

ps – If you have a story about living happily ever after I would LOVE to hear it and possibly share it. Just let me know!

18 Replies to “Nobody Talks About Happily Ever After”

  1. Talk to my friends Melissa and Tom over at The Long Haul Project. http://thelonghaulproject.com/ They started talking about it to each other, then to others on film. They’ve started doing wedding videography, too, to catch all of these happily ever afters from day 1. As a newlywed myself, I’m so grateful to them and to you and to everyone who’s talking about happy marriages, what makes them happy and what keeps them happy. Lots of great examples for my husband and I to follow throughout our happily ever after.

  2. Wow, your blog came at a perfect time- the hubster and I were just talking today about marriage (or, more specifically, about people getting divorced b/c we’ve heard of a few recently…fortunately, not family/friends). You’re right, we should celebrate happiness, why is it that people only talk about marriages (post-wedding) when there are divorces? I love that your dad blew your mom a kiss. I love that my parents (and his) set a good example for us by still being married today…it teaches us that every relationship has ups/downs/issues/or-whatever-else-you-want-to-call-them but that if you focus on communication with each other (and date nights!! and having hobbies that you share, as well as time alone) you can be best friends forever. None of us know what the future will hold, but if we have our partners by our sides through thick and thin, hopefully we’ll be the next 65 (or 66) year happily-married couples! 🙂

    1. Thanks Anna, glad to hear you guys are doing so well. We have heard some yucky news too, which got us to talking about it and like I said, I just think people don’t know what to expect. It isn’t always amazing, and it can be hard and unglamorous but it is worth it for all those times we laugh or share something or when one of us needs a shoulder to lean on.

      I hope we get to all celebrate our 65th anniversaries! Take care!

  3. Meg and I have been talking about this very thing lately. It’s not a sexy story line so it doesn’t get much attention (well, sometimes it is, but I digress). This year we will be happily married for 15 years.
    I agree completely with your premise. We don’t have a clear picture of ‘what that looks like’. Even the phrase ‘Happily Ever After’ paints a picture of two people gazing into each others eyes, locked in timeless passion and adoration.
    As I’m sure you know, a real happy marriage isn’t always happy, but even as I write that it all sounds trite and doesn’t paint the picture well. It’s also hard to share the story, simply because it feels so alien to people and they look at you cross eyed.

    1. Congratulations on 15 years! I wish more people thought it was a sexy story line. I almost feel guilty that I love my marriage and I trust my husband completely. There is no real drama to it, not a ton of gazing into each others eyes (maybe sometimes) but it is real and I couldn’t imagine getting through life without him.

      1. I think its a pretty sexy storyline.

        And I think the strongest “Happily Ever After” anchors are laughter and truth.

        I like that you’re talking about this. Thanks.

  4. Too many people assume that “happily ever after” is just part of the whole marriage package (maybe because of those very movie endings you talked about). That’s unfortunate because, well, it isn’t. Every day has the potential to bring a new challenge (some big, some small), so you marriage is something you really have to work at – very, very hard sometimes. It’s funny (but not ha-ha funny) to see the amount of energy so many people into their career while putting zero energy into their marriage.

    Marriage is also about being best friends. Fifteen or so years ago, my mom told me that after 25-plus years together, there was no one she’d rather spend time with than my dad. When you get married, make it’s to someone who can see being your best friend for life, she said. That was the best advice she’s ever given me.

    I also think it’s wonderful that you and your husband are taking time to focus on and enjoy being married before even considering children. My wife and I had a lot of things we wanted to do as a couple (travel, mostly), so we did them. When we finally made the decision to become parents, we were both in our 30s and had been married almost nine years.

    Kudos on the great post, Amanda.

    1. GREAT point about the effort we put into our careers and not in our marriage. After this post someone pointed me to the Long Haul Project. I love the most recent post comparing marriage to running http://thelonghaulproject.com/2011/05/marriage-is-like-running-2-74-miles-in-2518-and-feeling-good/ (maybe because I pretend to be a runner). When you run there is a time (or 30 times) when you want to quit because it is hard but after every single run I am always happy I did it and I pushed through the hard part. I think more people should look at marriage like that or like you said at least give it the effort they give their careers!

      I also love the best friend for life advice. I had another friend text me after she read this post and said she had just been thinking about me and Adam. She just went through a relationship that didn’t work out and she said next go ’round she wants something like what we have. I told her that I think having fun and trust are much higher on the list when scouting a potential mate than most people give it credit to. She agreed and threw in being able to ‘dance it out’ – I will give her credit for that too 🙂

  5. My grandparents have been married for 65 years. My parents have been married for 44 years. My sister & bor-in-law have been married for 15 years. And, my husband and I have been married for 3 years. I think we have good role models in our family.

  6. Great post Amanda! I am not married but have great role models showing me that a happy marriage IS NOT perfect. A happy marriage grows and changes and shifts and sometimes it’s HARD. A lot of times it’s hard. But my parents have shown me that the icky stuff is okay. When it comes down to it they are best friends and partners and they are committed to shifting and changing together. My mom said that early on they agreed to disagree on things. My parents are very different people but bring the best out in each other. Thanks for talking about this and sharing what you have been learning about being a happily married woman. When I got to know you and Adam as a couple I saw something in you guys that I wanted for myself – it’s special and SHOULD be celebrated! Congrats!

  7. I don’t know if you follow Black Girl in Maine, but she’s spent some time lately talking about the work that goes into keeping a marriage working and the realization that she and her husband needed to start doing some serious thinking about how to get their relationship headed in the right direction as it was veering off course. They’re approaching fourteen years. http://blackgirlinmaine.com/personal-growth/heavy-lifting-marriage-restructuring-project-underway/

    I am one of those people for whom marriage didn’t work, and after several years of soul searching, I understand that it was not *my* marriage that didn’t work for me, but marriage itself.

    Marriage is an institution that I grew up respecting and expecting (and to some extent expected) to participate in, and I suppose I considered it a natural forward progression in a loving, committed long-term relationship. Instead, I felt as though it confined that relationship and redefined it in terms of obligation. As when someone leaves the church they grew up in, it was an enormously painful process to reconcile lifelong beliefs and expectations with a new and radically different understanding of myself and my place in the world. I can’t stress enough that I’m condemning marriage wholesale, but I really don’t think it works for everyone, and there is enormous pressure in our culture to believe that it should. It undoubtedly contributes to the divorce rate when people marry motivated by social norms as opposed to personal conviction.

    You note alongside divorce statistics that many couples are opting to live together instead of getting married which strikes me as a little apples and oranges. The “happily ever after” you’re talking about is about sharing a lifetime of love, respect, friendship and responsibility with an equal partner, an arrangement that can and does exist outside the cultural construct of marriage (both for those who choose not to marry and those for whom legal marriage is not an option). I’m thinking of parents of our childhood friends who never re-married, but since their divorces have lived rich, full, lives devoted to each other that have now outlasted their marriages in longevity. For the past several years I’ve been in a relationship that bears little resemblance to the happily ever after I thought I was looking for, but though it’s stranger than any in my life, I also believe it’s stronger and built to last.

    Having said all that, I applaud your effort to examine and celebrate happily ever after, and I’ll join you, examining it in all its many forms.

    1. Thanks Meghan for your thoughts on Happily Ever After AND for Black Girl in Maine – I just got totally sucked in and read her last 20 posts, including the one you sent. Powerful stuff and she is a brave woman for sharing so much of her life for all to see/read/Google.

      I think we agree. Happily Ever After can take lots of forms and NOTHING is one size fits all and there are too many people moving ahead with marriage because they think they should.

      My point, which is not well flushed out because I use this space to think out loud a bit, is what we dream or think marriage or even ‘growing up’ is supposed to be may be flawed by those who have come before us. I want to lay the challenge down to document modern marriages (without the swinging and the antidepressants) and to me that means documenting that modern couple-dom does not mean a genetic disorder, it is just two adults making Happily Ever After work in their own way.

      Thanks again!

  8. I read the ‘marriage confidential’ book & was looking for feedback & ended up here! Nice post – believe me, after Pamela Haag’s book I need a breather & remember that there are happily married people out there. Including me!
    However – I haven’t noticed the obvious correlation – having kids=divorce or the ‘no stress, melancholy marriage’ that Haag describes. One chapter is ‘have kids will divorce’ but she never examines this deeper – I do think in this so-called day & age people should seriously consider why they want to have kids and unless they want them to actually raise other human beings – hard work, sacrifice & all – maybe they shouldn’t. Or maybe people should seriously consider that having kids may mean the end of their happily married life – ? I don’t know – that’s why I’m looking on the infamous internet to see what others think. Most people are pretty hung up on the whole ‘swinger’ lifestyle as the answer to a hum-ho marriage when discussing the book and the fact that the marriages described where either set in motion by the desire to have a kid or went downhill fast after one.

    1. Oh dear Renee! Well I am glad you wound up here and I hoped it helped to calm you down. Hopefully if more of us feel empowered to share our own Happily Ever After’s we can get some traction!

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