Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful, innocent young girl. The young girl’s parents were very proud of her, and gave her plenty of freedom to be herself. She was allowed to be a tomboy, and she would play cops and robbers, monster trucks, and gun wars with the little boys in her neighborhood. She got along just as well with other little girls, as long as the other girls were OK with playing outside alongside the boys.
As the little girl grew older she settled into a new home with her family, made new friends, and learned to like the new town. She could still play basketball with the boys through middle school, and she always preferred being outside over inside.
Even though she was a tomboy and preferred doing things that were less “girly,” she still held on to a few societal norms about girls. She tried out makeup, tried making her hair look nice, dated boys, and dreamed of the fairy tale love that so many young women hope for.
Her fairy tale might not have been the Cinderella or Snow White kind of fairy tale, but she wanted so badly to meet a man who would love her, care about her, take care of her, and respect her. As early as middle school, she started dating boys regularly. She was never single for very long, and several of her relationships lasted for a substantial amount of time. In fact, she spent her last year of high school and first year college in the same relationship, and shortly after that one ended she began a relationship with a man that lasted 4 years.
During all of the relationships the young woman had, she strived for perfection. Perfection has different meanings for everyone, but she tried incredibly hard to be the person she thought the men she dated wanted her to be. Somehow, she was under the impression it was her job to be the perfect woman, the woman her man wanted her to be. If she could just do this, she would get her fairy tale. It didn’t happen though — no matter how hard she tried, each of these relationships ended.
Finally, she began the 4-year relationship. The young woman worked jobs that she wasn’t passionate about so that the man she was with could pursue his dreams. She made dinner, despite hating to cook. She exercised regularly in order to maintain the “ideal body” her boyfriend wanted. She ran errands and set aside her studies to accommodate him, and she was physically intimate with him whenever he wanted her to be, whether she wanted to or not.
He never stopped her from doing these things. He never asked her what she wanted out of life. If she did bring it up, it was dismissed as unimportant. She didn’t know any better, and she felt like no matter what she did, it was not good enough. If she left, she felt no one would want her, so she didn’t dare leave.
The independent, strong, confident little girl had almost disappeared. The young woman wanted so badly to find a man, marry him, and live “happily ever after” that she allowed herself to enter into an unhealthy relationship. One day, she decided to go for a walk, clear her head, and think about why she was so unhappy.
On her walk she thought over every aspect of the relationship. She thought to herself, what difference does it make if I’m single for the rest of my life? I’m so unhappy in this relationship that it can’t be any worse. So that night, she told her boyfriend she was leaving.
This sort of conversation had happened many times before, and somehow she was always guilted into staying, but she was prepared this time. She didn’t allow his tears to sway her. She didn’t cry, she simply stated this was not right, she didn’t feel their dreams were aligned, and she needed to leave. With that, she packed up her things and headed to her parents house.
An entirely new journey began for the young woman the night she left. She took time for herself, reflected on her life to that point, and did a lot of soul-searching. She realized that she had no idea who she was. She had been pretending for so long to be someone she wasn’t, someone she thought men wanted her to be, that she didn’t know what she wanted in life, from a partner. She promised herself she would find out before she started dating again.
The young woman was single for a year, and was perfectly content with that. She wanted to meet someone on her terms, and she wanted something that would last. She began dating again, but this time she didn’t stay with any man simply because she thought she would never find another man who would consider her. She knew she could do just fine on her own.
After dating several different men and realizing that none of them were right for her, she decided it was time to stop trying so hard and just let it be for a while again. Just as she was giving up for the time being, she decided she would go on one final first date. She told herself though that if this one didn’t work out, she was done for a while.
She didn’t bother getting dressed up. She was a t-shirt-and-jeans kind of girl, and she didn’t enjoy doing anything special with her hair, so she decided to go to this date in jeans and a sweatshirt. If he doesn’t like it, too bad. This is me, she thought.
They met at a bowling alley. Things went well, they had plenty to talk about, and he didn’t mind one bit that she was dressed in the most comfortable outfit she had. He respected her completely, wanted to hear all about her dreams for her life, and listened intently while she told him her insecurities about dating again. He was, in every way, the perfect gentleman she had always dreamed she would meet.
After several more dates, the two knew it was right. They shared similar goals, understood each other well, and were completely comfortable being themselves around the other. Exactly one year from the day they met, the couple married.
This is where the story should conclude with “And they lived happily ever after.” Real stories never end here though. Fairy tales lead us to believe that after we overcome one major obstacle in our life (or, more accurately, numerous obstacles), and we achieve our goal or marry our soul mate, that’s it. We never find out what happens after that.
The point here, though, is that this isn’t a fairy tale. Life never is, and most of us learn that from a relatively young age. There are several lessons in this story, and I’ll discuss those in my next post. However, I do think it’s important to mention that even though life after marriage is never perfect, we can and should appreciate the tough things that happen in our lives. And we should learn to recognize that even though a true fairy tale ending — a true “happily ever after” — never happens the way we think it will, there’s no reason we can’t recognize the great things we have when we have them.
This story is true, and it is my story, in a nutshell. My husband and I will be married 2 years in October. We have already had our share of ups and downs since first being married, and we’ve met several challenges along the way. Just because every moment isn’t perfect doesn’t mean I shouldn’t recognize that I got what I always wanted, even if it doesn’t look like it did when I was a little girl wishing for the perfect ending.