Overrated Fairy Tales

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I wrote the following for something (probably Southern Weddings?) but never published it.  At least, I don’t remember publishing it.  So, I’m not really sure if you’ve already seen this one somewhere.  I figured I’d go out on a limb and recycle it here today.  Sorry for re-gifting you a blog post, imaginary friends.  Don’t take it personally. 

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Once upon a time, a handsome blonde boy fell in love with an incredibly attractive and intelligent redhead, and they decided to get married.

“Let’s live happily ever after,” the redhead said dreamily, batting her eyelashes at her handsome love.

“Okay,” he agreed.  “With you, life will be perfect.  We will never fight, our babies will be delivered by stork and raised by fairies who will teach them how to sleep through the night and pee in a toilet, our jobs will pay us millions of dollars to sit around eating bonbons all day, and your mother will only interfere when we ask for her opinion.  Life will be wonderful.”

And they lived happily ever after.

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Until the first day back from their honeymoon and they got into a fight in the car on the way home from the airport about if his new authentic Hawaiian shirt was really “accidentally” left at the hotel or if she left it on purpose.  She’d never appreciated his ability to pull off a bold print.

And then there was that whole nine month pregnancy thing before their first baby arrived when she pretty much complained from the time she opened her eyes in the morning until she closed them at night, occasionally throwing in an appropriately timed, “You did this to me!” when the mood was right.

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Oh, and there was that whole period of time they were potty training their toddler that the handsome blonde boy seemed to go temporarily deaf in the middle of the night when the tot cried out, “Daddy!  I had an accident!”  And yet, his clever, redheaded wife pointed out, he still managed to hear her change the channel from ESPN to Lifetime from three rooms away.

Of course, they ended up with respective careers in public education and public theater, so the million dollar paychecks never quite made it into their bank account.  And sitting around eating bonbons all day was replaced by walking around all day telling middle school boys to keep all of their body parts to themselves and insisting that all flying scenery be fire proof.

And they moved only about 30 minutes away from the mother-in-law, so it’s anyone’s guess how that whole opinions-to-herself thing is working out…

No, that fairy tale never came to pass.  Very few actually do.  Which is good, because if all fairy tales came true, we’d all be walking around dodging angry dwarfs, fire-breathing dragons, and ugly stepsisters.

The idea of a happily ever after in marriage has always intrigued me.  Mostly, because I’ve changed my own mind about if that’s actually possible in life at least a dozen times so far.  When I was a newlywed, I believed that happily ever afters really existed and that the goal of marriage was to work towards that happy ending.  Later in my marriage, during those transformative years when we were transitioning from a couple to a family, I had a hard time believing in happily ever afters at all.  I felt like babies were going to cry and poop on me for the rest of my life, and whoever saw a princess ride off into a sunset with poop on her dress?

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But as life has settled down for us in the past year or so, I’ve changed my mind once again about happily ever afters.  I do think they are possible.  But who really wants one?

Did you ever stop to think about why most fairy tales end with that catch phrase?  It’s because the real story, the real meat of the fairy tale, comes from the action before the ending.  No one cares too much about what happens after the prince and princess ride off into the sunset.  That’s no fun.  Just rolling around, making out on the back of a horse that’s walking over beds of rose petals.  That’d be fun for about five minutes.  The real story in a fairy tale is in the struggle and the imperfection of the characters.  It’s not about looking forward to the ending in a story.  What makes a story worth reading is what happens before the story ends.

Marriage is one of those things that is best lived in the present tense.  You can’t go forward if you’re holding on to the past, and you can’t honor the past if you refuse to move forward.  This means, happiness in marriage lands you somewhere in between.  And what’s in between the past and the future?  The present.

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Be present in your marriage.  Plan for the future, yes.  Remember where you’ve been, yes.  But be present in the here and now.  Appreciate your spouse for what they have given you today.  One of the recurring complaints my husband makes about me in our marriage is that I don’t appreciate the little things he does.  And he’s right.  I really struggle with focusing on today in my marriage, and, instead, I point blame at things he’s done in the past or I worry about what’s to come in the future.  And all the while I’m fussing over those things, the day-to-day love in our marriage passes me right by.

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Last weekend, my husband had to work from 9:00am until 10:00pm from Friday through Monday.  That left me home over a three-day weekend with our two kids, one toddler who is potty training and one  baby who had pink eye.  I knew it wasn’t his fault, but I was really irritated.  But you know what?  Every night Chris came home for dinner and to help me put the kids to bed and then he’d head back up to his office to keep on working.  So, I had a choice.  I could be mad at him for how my weekend had turned out, or I could choose to be grateful for what he was doing in that moment.  I chose to be grateful and for three full hours every night, we had a really great time getting the kids fed, bathed, and put to bed together.  And then, yes, he had to leave.  And, yes, I was irritated to be alone again.  But had I not chosen to be grateful for what he was doing in that present moment, I would have missed those fun moments splashing with him by side of the tub during bath time and I would have missed catching up with him in the kitchen while I cooked dinner and he gallantly fended off our hungry children (who were starting to resemble fire-breathing, hungry dragons by that time).

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When we wait for and expect the happily ever after ending, we sometimes miss the once upon a time that’s happening today.  So, be present in your marriage and appreciate the happiness that is in your relationship today.  Don’t worry about the angry sea witches and the evil queens.  They are there to keep you striving and growing.  And sometimes it takes a fire-breathing dragon to fan the flames in a relationship.  Enjoy your once upon a time, and I promise you that the happily ever after will work itself out.

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Family pictures by the oh-so-talented Jenn Hopkins Photography.

If you’re feeling so inclined, this week are the nominations for the 2013 Bloggies and you can click here to nominate Marriage Confessions for any category you think we’d fit.  Voting ends on Sunday and finalists will be announced in February.  Last year, MC won Best Topical Weblog, which was amazing, and the year before that we were finalists for Best Weblog of the Year (!!) thanks to votes from you fine folks.  We’d really appreciate your support again! 

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13 Thoughts to “Overrated Fairy Tales”

  1. Kate, you give me such inspiration to be a better partner in my marriage. I think you and I have very similar personalities because I also have issues with being upset or angry. I’ve been trying to keep your posts in mind lately and have really felt like it’s helping! Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. It’s ridiculous that whomever had the opportunity to publish this didn’t. I’m glad you chose to post. Really well done Katie.

  3. Sarah

    You’ve definitely posted this before 🙂

    It’s just as good the second time around.

  4. I like the idea to focus on the “once upon a time”. I think sometimes we are rushing to the “and they lived happily ever after”, that we don’t think about all the troubles the characters went through to get there. I hope you enjoy your “once upon a time”. : )

  5. I really needed to read this this week. Thank you for posting this and being so open and insightful.

  6. Becky

    Ditto with Nain…you must have ESP Katie. Holy cow, when I grow up {tho at 45, I’m not sure I ever will ;-)}, I want to be as insightful and mature as you are….and yes, I’ve been reading you since y’all lived in Connecticut.

  7. Mae

    Great advise! I will def try to keep it in mind when Kevin rolls away from me and throws the blanket over his face as I try to poke him awake b/c Parker has woken up for the 4th time to be tucked back in (going through what I’m hoping is just a phase) or when he loads the dishwasher so that it’s all full, but fails to run it so I don’t have any clean sippy cups in the morning. I’ll have to think about the times he takes both kids to Publix to pick up a few things just so that I can have the house all to myself for a bit or the times he lets me sleep in.

  8. I never liked the princesses, I always wanted to be a ninja. I feel this has adequately prepared me to deal with a toddler who consistently pees as soon as he gets off the potty. Because you never see a pissed off ninja, they just kinda do their thing.

    I love this post. I have a friend who thinks that marriage is the thing that will make her life perfect. She has no idea of the work it takes to make a relationship not jus survive, but thrive.

  9. Amy

    This is a wonderfully realistic post, and it’s inspired me to try to be more ‘present’ in my relationship, thank you.

  10. It’s my first time here and I love it! This post is so human, so true and real. Why is it so hard for us to be grateful, to notice the good little things? I am a newlywed and I am just as you describe, I still do believe the happily ever after, but I am not thinking it will come on it’s own. We know to work hard at it. I have noticed around me how females can complain and complain and forget to notice their husband does, I am sometimes sliding into that myself 🙁 You just gave me an idea to write a post one day about all the things I appreciated about my husband that day. Thanks! We should all do that!

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