Why do so many marriages fail to bring happiness? After all, we are taught from a very young age that if we meet someone special and overcome all the obstacles put in our way to keep us apart, we will find everlasting happiness. Isn’t this the premise of all those novels and movies? The handsome prince, knight, unlikely hero rescues the beautiful, helpless, nubile ingenue and carries her away from her unsatisfactory plight, to enjoy lasting happiness. Cinderella finally wins her prince and they live happily ever after.
Have you noticed that those stories always end at the engagement or wedding and they finish with a vague promise that only happiness and fulfillment lie ahead for these two? “And they lived happily ever after”. Did they?
So, if this is the story society imprints on our youngsters, how can they realistically deal with the challenges and demands of modern marriage?
Teens have been raised with unrealistic expectations of marriage and the specialness of the person they will marry. Inevitably, those high expectations aren’t met. As the tedious grind of making a living, paying the bills and getting on with everyday life start to dawn, the illusion of eternal happiness begins to dull. Resentment and disappointment soon replace the joy and roses they felt they were entitled to. Some deal with this and take it in their stride, some even make the best of it, but many eventually walk away.
Picture a young woman leaving her girlhood behind. She has been conditioned to believe someone very special will court her. A knight, a capable breadwinner, a wonderful loving father, an adoring, supportive husband and an exciting lover. Now, these princes are few on the ground but that doesn’t stop her from dreaming that it will happen to her. So, she paints her current partner with that brush. She holds him up as a knight in shining armor who will deliver all the happiness she deserves. Only, she eventually realizes that he’s just an ordinary bloke, a goofy guy, warts and all, who falls short of all the redeeming qualities she has imbued him with.
After the first heady flush of lust and playing house wears off, maybe two years later, the illusion has been shattered. She starts noticing his faults and bad habits, she wants him to have more backbone, stop playing video games, do something with his life, and improve their economic outlook. She realizes that he’s not a good earner and he has no ambition or ability to become one. Furthermore, he resents her nagging and spends as much time with his mates as he can to get away from her sharp tongue and the constant reminder that he’s a useless, lazy slob.
Now, picture a young man who has won his princess. She looks lovely at their wedding but he’s got her now and he no longer has to be on his best behavior, he can relax and be himself. He has been looking for someone to mother him. She will cook and clean up after him like women are supposed to. She will look out for his daily comforts, organize him and also be a vamp in the bedroom at night.
He is surprized at first when things don’t turn out as he imagined. Three small children appear in quick succession and she no longer looks after herself, she lets herself go. She’s tired and crabby all the time and you can forget about any benefits in the bedroom after a day of running the household, looking after him and three kids, and going to work before coming home to cook dinner and do the housework. Worse still, she has her own opinions and is not scared of saying so. She nags him to help around the house and get a better job, and then she still wants to be wooed and courted with flowers and compliments from time to time.
She has changed from the playful, pretty girl he courted; which seems like a lifetime ago. Now she’s just somebody’s frumpy mother.
Some couples make the reality of marriage and daily life work, but many soldier on, unhappy with how things turned out. The secret to a good marriage? Face the realities, look for the positives, support each other and build a lasting friendship.