Happily Ever After Isn’t a Thing

source: Keely Cain

source: Keely Cain

How many times have you read, “and they lived happily ever after”?  It’s as if the next 70 years after the wedding, baby, new job, whatever can be summed up in 3 little words.  Isn’t that a little glib?  Do we really think that once we’ve landed the guy or dream house that nothing else happens and nothing else is required of us?  In this Huffington post piece by Glennon Melton she mentions almost as an afterthought, “Happily ever after is not a thing.” I loved her article and I thought this point deserved more comment.  In fact, a lot of maintenance happens after “I do”.  Suddenly life ain’t so perfect anymore.  You aren’t getting your happily ever after! What gives?

When I asked other women doctors what the most important factor was in their ability to get everything done, they all replied, “marry the right person.”  Choosing the wrong spouse can waste a lot of time.  Decades, in fact.  Think about it, spending years of your life walking on eggshells, disagreeing about money, in-laws, chores,  child rearing, or sex.   That is a time-waster.  You simply cannot live a good life if you are chained to a bad husband.  Even good partners are tough.  Case in point, your husband’s fifties (God, let it pass).

Here some things that no one tells you and one or two that everyone tells you but no one believes:

1.Marriage means that you will spend the  rest of your life consulting with some one else about every little thing.  Nothing is too trivial to merit comments from your spouse.  From your hair color, to your vacation plans, to what to have for dinner, you will have to keep in mind someone else’s thoughts on every little matter.  I’m not saying you need permission– that’s ridiculous– but just that someone else will have an opinion and there will be a negotiation more often than you would like.  If you don’t believe me, change the arrangement of the living room furniture, buy only your favorite foods, and cancel cable to save money and let me know how that goes.

2. Sexual dry spells are not a sign of failure. Here’s what happens: kids get sick. Partner gets sick.  You are exhausted working full time and taking care of sick people and you get sick.  You get better, hubby gets a cold sore. That goes away, you get your period. He goes out of town, you get annoyed, and he throws out his back reaching for a towel.  You run out of birth control pills because you forgot to go to the gynecologist and now she can’t see you for 3 months because she just had a baby herself…Life happens. Forgive each other, move on, and try not to let the dry spells go too long.

3. Maintenance is not fun to do or talk about because..it’s boring.  With maintenance, the best you can hope for is that things don’t get any worse.  That’s what maintenance is.

4. You will go weeks with no conversation more interesting than who will pick up the kids.  This will be okay with you because interesting conversations often devolve into bickering.

5. that part about richer/poorer, sickness/health, better/worse? They actually weren’t kidding.

6. You will really screw something up by the time you’re 40. 45 at the latest, and only then if you’re super smart and talented.

7. If you’re lucky, you will still be married when your husband enters his 50’s.  This will not be enjoyable for anyone.

What is a thing?

1. Remembering that getting through life is like driving across the country at night without a map.  You will make it eventually, but you will never be able to see more than 200 feet ahead.

2. Wheel of fortune is a thing.  Good times follow bad, bad times follow good and nothing lasts.

3. Learning to keep your mouth shut is the number one cause of successful marriages.

4. Forgiveness  is the number 2 cause.

5. Life is too short to hold grudges.  That is a very true thing.

6. You aren’t perfect and don’t deserve a partner who is.

7. “Happily ever after” is really a confusing, exhilarating, exhausting, trying and wonderful life.  It’s teenage kids that borrow your shoes because you are now all the same size.  It’s being able to help your parents in some small way to thank them for all they’ve done for you.  It’s having belly fat contests with your husband and staying up all night with a terrified dog during a thunderstorm.  It’s reading all the Harry Potter books out loud five times.  It’s listening to “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder by the entire third grade and trying so hard not to burst out laughing during the elementary band concert that you burst into tears instead.  It’s taking a fantastic vacation to Santa Barbara and spending most of it trying to fly home to a sick child.  It’s moving at Christmas.  It’s making a fortune, and losing it.  It’s not knowing what the next 200 feet will look like.  That’s a thing.

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I resolve to become the most boring person alive for the next 2 weeks

Seriously.  Don’t you feel like that when people tell you their resolutions?  Of course, as I write this, I am also drinking weight loss fennel tea but that’s just scientific curiosity and has absolutely nothing to do with the time of year.

It seems the bulk of resolutions are dreary: lose weight, exercise more, save money type things.  Really, if January weren’t bad enough (-25F right now, I actually got a brain freeze in the grocery store parking lot) we have to promise to do a lot of things that we don’t want to do and then bore everyone with it?  Last year, I wrote about making resolutions that I could actually keep.  This year, I had a different idea.

I do like the idea of the fresh start of New Years.  Every New Year, I go to Office Max and buy a big accordion file for this year’s receipts, paystubs, tax documents, and insurance papers.  I get one in a pretty color and get some new file folders, pens, and post it notes to match.  By the end of the year, it doesn’t even close, but I can usually find the document I’m looking for pretty quickly, and in my chaotic life, that’s huge.  I also like to spend some time thinking about the past year and how the next one can be better.  Resolving to do anything on a daily basis is tough.  I eat every day, and brush my teeth, and pretty much every other activity might possibly be skipped.  Weekly lists might be better.  My list looks something like this:

Finish something

Do something new with my family like these fun people

Write something (which I am fulfilling now)

Give something

Sew something (because I like to sew)

Learn something: this week it was sundogs and light pillars and why we see them when it’s really cold.  Also Hong Kong binding.

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These ideas seem like a more manageable, fun way to bring more pleasure to life at home. I’ll let you know how it went in 2 weeks.

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