Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, every story ended in a happily ever after. And the happily ever after was always very simple and straightforward – find the prince, get married, the end.
As a teenager, I genuinely thought that’s what was supposed to happen, but maybe with a bit more drama. Be alone, find the boy, find yourself, lose the boy, take a huge chance, win the boy, get married, the end.
During university, I had a hunch that the complication probably extended a bit further, but essentially the end was the same – get married, be happy, the end.
Unless your true love died.
During my second year of university, I met my prince, Ben, and fell in love. And in the summer before my last semesters of school, he proposed and I said yes. My happily ever after was on its way.
My prince and me (a.k.a. Ben and Julia)
There are things about marriage and the happily ever after bit they don’t even mention in movies. Or fairy tales. Or anywhere, really.
Here are some of the surprises that I have encountered in my almost 8 years of marriage:
1. You realize everybody poops. And farts. And burps. And wakes up with morning breath. And has disgusting grooming habits. And isn’t as perfumed and plucked, primped and dressed-up as they appear on the first date, or the fifth date, or even the 1-year-dating-anniversary date. Everybody is gross. And when you’re married (or living with someone), this is a shocking revelation. The only character who I think might not be able to hide these things so easily would be the Beast.
2. Jobs are hard. And sometimes you lose them. And then you have no money and you’re worried and now instead of just wondering how you’re going to pay for nights out or your car, you have to worry about how you’re going to support a family. They don’t talk about that in Cinderella. Or in any other fairy tale. Because someone is ALWAYS royalty with either a ton of cash or a crazy number of really valuable assets. Like castles. And horses. With fancy carriages made of gold.
3. You can’t go home after a fight. You’re usually fighting at home, which means you have to figure out how to sleep in the same bed (or same building, depending on how mad you are) without leaving in a huff and just calling or visiting with flowers in the morning. And when you get married, you’ll be told a dozen times that you should never go to sleep angry. They don’t tell you that that means you’ll be up until 4 a.m. and then a right mess for your day job the next day, which means your job just got harder (see number 2).
4. Your spouse becomes your best friend and then you can’t complain to your best friend about your fight. Or trouble. Or thing that’s driving you bonkers. Because whining about your husband, wife, partner, love-machine to your husband, wife, partner, love-machine is just awful. And awkward. And can lead to more fighting, trouble, and stuff that’s driving you bonkers.
5. Sometimes it’s boring. Like when you’ve run out of dinners you want to make. Or you don’t want to watch TV again tonight because you’ve been doing that for the past 7 weeks. Or you don’t want to go out or do take-out because you’re getting sick of it. Or you don’t know what else to talk about because you’ve both covered your day in five minutes flat and now you have a whole evening stretched out in front of you.
6. Sometimes it’s way too exciting. Or full of too many things to tackle together. Like losing your job, having someone close to you die, watching other married friends go through a divorce or infertility or a family tragedy, having your roof leak, your car break down, or a pet be really sick. Sometimes you crave boring and boring is nowhere to be found.
7. You should still date your spouse. Which sounds ridiculous. Isn’t it the dating ritual’s whole purpose to find you your soul mate so you never have to date again? Or is that another movie lie? All I know is that there’s nothing nicer than getting dressed up (yes, fancier than yoga pants and cotton shorts), picking out an actual restaurant (nothing with a drive-thru), and spending an evening together or a day together, where you’re just a couple. Not two people with busy yet boring lives. Two people with conversations to have and reconnecting to happen and a recharge on things. Inviting Mark Wahlburg wouldn’t hurt. I don’t think.
8. Happily ever after is messy. Especially if you decide to have children. Or dogs. Or iguanas. Or collect vacations. Whatever you do with your married time, happily ever after is not the end. And it’s not the beginning. It’s the middle. The bit between falling in love and saying good-bye. The part where you live the life you’re building together. The part that actually counts. And that was probably the most surprising thing for me – the wedding wasn’t the end. It was the beginning of the very best part there is.