My mom raised me on Disney Princesses. All the classics of the 90’s ranging from Cinderella, Ariel, Belle and everything in between. Some of my fondest memories with her involved the Disney classics. I would watch in awe as the beautiful girl, who got the shit cards in life, was rescued by the handsome prince. They would fall in love and live happily ever after. I watched my mother live that life, allegedly happy, with both my dad and, some years later, my step father.
At 16 she was the emotionally damaged teenager with a dark family history that she was conditioned to think she couldn’t escape. In swooped my dad on his metaphorical horse to save her, to take care of her and make sure she was okay. I came along two years later, and they lived happily ever after. Except, they didn’t. Things started to break down. They fought, a lot. Not to worry, his best friend came to the rescue. They ran off, got married, had 2 beautiful children and lived happily ever after. Or did they?
In short answer, no. The last few times I had seen my mom, I noticed the continuing deterioration of her mental and physical health but, seeing these events transpire as a child lead to some pretty fucked up beliefs on what ‘Happily Ever After’ really was. Boy meets girl, boy saves girl, boy and girl live happily ever after. If it doesn’t work out the first time, try again, but make sure you stay with this one no matter what the cost. Love them more than you can love yourself so that you can overlook the emotional abuse and the anger issues. Fall so deeply that you never even think to look at another human being.
I tried to follow suit. For every relationship I was in, I fell hard. Within months there were talks of marriage and children with every partner I’ve had since I was 16. They were the one. They were the one strong enough to carry me emotionally. They were the one to make me happy, to give me the world, to rescue me. I had finally found my prince.
It was never happily ever after. Arguments would start, needs would not be met. All the relationships that were before my daughter’s father lead to cheating on my end. Looking back, I’m not proud of it, and if any of you are reading, I am truly sorry. I needed that validation and I was terrified of walking away from the idea that they were “The One“. My embarrassment over being wrong doesn’t excuse or justify my actions at all.
I had always felt terrible about it. The lying, the deception, the broken trust. I found myself snooping through their phones when they weren’t looking because I was terrified of the same betrayal, while they did the same to me. I was found out a few times and I would cry and swear that I would never do it again. However, we’d become distant with each other as, all trust was lost, and those relationships would disintegrate until I would finally swallow my pride and pull the plug.
I found what I thought was my Happily Ever After at the age of 18, with the father of my child. Everything was great for 5 years. We lived in a house, we got married, we had a beautiful daughter. Life finally started feeling complete, like the fairy tale was playing out exactly like I had pictured it when I was a child. Things changed drastically at that 5 year mark. I began losing myself to the ‘mother’ and ‘wife’ labels and attention from other men made me feel good about myself. I was far too stubborn to walk away from or sacrifice what seemed like the real and true Happily Ever After I had been waiting for. Isn’t this what I wanted? Isn’t this the life I had hoped for since idolizing those beautiful princesses? How selfish must I be to want something different?
Our perception of what happiness was had been what society deemed as ‘making it’. From an outsider’s view, we had everything. What people don’t tell you is that, relationships are hard, for anyone. Lines of communication need to remain open, codependency is an easy pit to fall into, we’ve been taught that all needs must be met by one partner. It’s possible, but unless you’re willing to continually update boundaries, constantly work on speaking your partner’s love language, and communicate, it’s easy to let things fall apart.
From a young age, we’re force fed these stories of meeting the one, falling deeply and utterly in love. Yet we never learned, or even talked about, what to do after. We were left to conclude that having reached this point, all hard work was done; once we had those details down, it was smooth sailing from there.
We were taught to give all of ourselves to one person and to do whatever we could to make sure they’re happy. We didn’t understand that we aren’t actually responsible for other people’s emotions, not even our significant other’s. We expect that it’s our partners duty to give all of themselves back to us as we have done for them, adding to the pressure on both of us as well as on the relationship. When we can’t keep our significant other’s need met, no matter what we do, we begin to question our own worth. When they can’t do the same for us, it’s still our worth we question. How is that happy?
I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t need to get married, have kids buy a house, or any of that crap to be deemed worthy. Your Happily Ever After is what you make it to be; that’s the ‘Happily’ part of it. If your relationship gets derailed, fight for it, yes, but once you start losing yourself, it’s time to reevaluate things. Are they the one? Or are they the one for that specific chapter in your life?
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