Dear Marcie,

I am 31 years old and have been married to my husband for a little over four years. The first year of our marriage seemed to be our happiest. I was still excited coming off the ceremony and felt a tingle of joy every time I used my new name. I’m not sure how long after that things changed, but the excitement between me and my husband has now been replaced with serious talks, some arguments and the toil of life. In a nutshell, I just don’t feel happy like I used to and I miss it. Am I being too demanding? How much longer should I go on like this before I consider throwing in the towel?

Disenchanted

 

Dear Disenchanted,

Once Upon a Time... We were young and repeatedly told the numerous picture-perfect fairy tales on the various ways one can experience true and everlasting love. Well I’m here to tell you, life isn’t scripted and things happen that we never planned for.

As I’m sure you’ve learned by now, nothing in life is as assured as the “fairy tale ending”, nonetheless I have found in my personal quest for that end that there are seven fundamental guidelines that are essential for a “blissful” relationship: Honesty, Respect, Love, Passion, Communication, Friendship and Understanding. But these things are not easy to achieve and never handed to you by a winged fairy. A brilliant columnist, whom I respect, stated it best: “‘Happy Marriage’ belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to ‘deliciously low-fat’.” This is closely followed by the American ideal of the pursuit of happiness, when happiness is a tough expectation in any endeavor involving other human beings. ESPECIALLY in a marriage.

The kind of happiness one achieves from marriage is the long-term happiness of having grown, shared, worked and succeeded together as a couple and family. Not the ephemeral emotions tied to courtship and dating that fade and leave us ultimately wanting more. It’s this expectation that contributes to the growing divorce rate among young couples. Strive together for the seven guidelines. During the toughest times remember why you chose your husband as well as the vows you took. Recall if there was ever a time you may have taken him for granted. Contemplate whether or not you could have changed that final result. Don’t be afraid of growing individually while growing together. There is nothing wrong with a little distance to keep the heart yearning. Relationships take time and understanding and, just like us, will have flaws. If it’s meaningful and realistic you will encounter tiffs and conflict at some point, and how hard you work at it and how you conduct yourself will determine if you persevere together.

So you ask, how will I know I’ve achieved my “Happily Ever-After”? Well, that’s the warmth you feel when you look into his eyes; the joy you feel from sharing moments and experiences and being in each other’s presence; striving to want to be a better person not only for you but for each other; and, even the heartache of not being able to share and spend time with each other when you want it most. It’s the kind of real happiness that comes from succeeding at commitment, and a deeper and truer kind of love that places your spouse’s happiness above your own.

The greatest love is being able to fall in love with the same person at different stages of your life. The richness of fulfilled commitment and the evolution of love throughout will always be the kiss that awakens you from the sleep of the shiny red apple.