Friday, July 17, 2009

Giving "Happily Ever After" a Chance

I wonder how Cinderella felt after she and Prince Charming had been married for two months. That’s how long it’s been for Daniel and me now—two whole months. I guess you could say we are still in the honeymoon phase of our marriage, even though our honeymoon trip only lasted one week.

That’s not to say that we are perfectly “happy” all the time; even our very young marriage has its share of sharp words, tears, and apologies. In even our very young marriage, we deal with messes, broken appliances, and leaky sinks. We worry about money, we worry about the future, and we worry about little things like the wolf spiders and pincher bugs that keep finding their way into our house (at least I do). We sometimes disagree about what it means that the kitchen sink area be “clean” and how often the grass needs to be cut. And I get unnecessarily irritated when Daniel starts to fall asleep before I’ve finished my nightly routine that takes so much longer than his.

Did Cinderella have these kinds of problems? How about Snow White or Aurora? They were all supposed to have lived “happily ever after,” right? (Plus, they all ended up with servants and so didn’t have to worry about cleaning and mowing lawns, but I won’t go into that)

“Living happily ever after is for Disney characters,” according to one reader who posted a comment on last week’s blog entry. When I read it, I had no problem agreeing with that very true statement. In real life, we can’t all ride off into the sunset with the one we love and live a life of luxury. Taking it a step further, Linda Miles was quoted in a daily marriage tip last week, saying: “All those ‘and they lived happily ever after’ fairy tale endings need to be changed to ‘and they began the very hard work of making their marriages happy.’”


I’ve been thinking—what does it really mean to “live happily”? Is “happily ever after” really just for Disney characters? Or is it what is promised to all Christians by our God Himself?

Living life as a follower of Jesus Christ is not supposed to be easy; He told us, in fact, that it would not be easy. Daniel and I were called to the marriage vocation, meaning that living our lives together as a married couple is the way we follow the Lord, from May 16th forward. And while following Him is not easy, it is happy. This is because true joy is found in living the life of a disciple of Christ. We are told that we will have “peace that surpasses all understanding,” etc. (Phil 4:7).

So, if real happiness lies in following God and doing his will, and married couples in the Church follow God through their ever-sacramental daily married life, then getting married and living “happily ever after” doesn’t actually seem that far off the mark. Being truly happy is about finding fulfillment in loving and serving God and others, particularly your spouse if you are married.

If this is the case, then in the sense that Disney characters live “happily ever after” at the end of every fairytale, real life marriages really can’t be that way and shouldn’t be expected to be that way. But it is true that “He who finds a wife [or husband] finds happiness; it is a favor he receives from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22).

None of us are perfect. Daniel’s and my marriage, like every marriage, is going to take some hard work. Only God knows what sorrows and difficulties lie in the road ahead for us. We can’t expect to live easily ever after—but happily ever after is something we should be striving for.


Anonymous said...

My fiance & I just lived our Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend. Two (out of the many) things I took from that weekend were that unity (not happiness) is what a married couple should strive for, as well as living life (as a married couple) by striving to make 'life-giving' decisions...i.e. being unselfish and doing what's best for the couple, always with God in mind. I enjoy your blog; thank you for taking the time to maintain it & for 'keeping it real'. I wish you and Daniel nothing but the best on this beautiful journey!

Becca said...

I completely agree with your discussion about "living happily ever after." It seems so much more relevant and possible when it's put into a Christian perspective. Congratulations on being married for two months! I know that God will help to guide you and Daniel through marriage's ups and downs and to ease your worries! By the way, I meant to ask this in your last entry, but what part/aspect of your marriage and wedding preparations do you feel was the most difficult?

Anonymous said...

Only recently have people expected "happiness" in the "happily ever after" sense from marriage. It was really our parent's generation that really made divorce common. Why? Theirs was the first generation that expected "happiness" from marriage. Unfortunately, the media sends us messages where we believe that marriage is a wedding/all about me. Only when we put the proper perspective on marriage (aka the purpose of marriage is to help your spouse get to heaven) can we fully embrace the suffering of the cross which Jesus uses to draw us nearer to Him.

Anonymous said...

Disney chracters do overcome some level of adversity before they reach their "happily ever after". I believe that in my 11 yr+ plus marriage we do live happily ever after even though every day is not easy and we constantly strive to treat each other with the respect our spouse deserves. Keeping focused on Jesus is the key. Congrats on 2 months. If you need a sugestion on what to blog about, as a member of our parish's Pre-Cana team I would like to know more about your marriage prep process and how releveant did you findit to your married life - what should they have discussed that would have been helpful to you. I would be interested to hear what you and Daniel think.

Keep smiling and your focus on Jesus.


Karen said...

It's so funny you made the comparison here to Disney characters. I had those same thoughts a couple of weeks ago when my husband and I took our 3 blessings to Disney World. There were lots of songs about wishes and dreams and how they can come true if you believe in them. WRONG ANSWER! I mean, I don't want to crush my kids' dreams, but just because you believe in them, doesn't make them come true. The same can be true for prayer. Just because we pray for something, doesn't mean we are going to get it. And when that happens, our children fall away from God because they think they should get whatever they pray (or wish) for.

I guess I might have gotten a little off there, but it's along the same lines of your post. My husband and I have been married for just over 9 years, and it has been a rocky road, to say the least, the very least. We have had to give ourselves, not 50%, but 100%. I had this misconceived notion of the very fairytale you mention in your post. And when that didn't happen for me and my marriage, I was not happy. But now that I've found my faith, I realize that marriage isn't about happily ever after. It's a lot of hard work. It's a lot of communication. It's a lot of self-giving. It's a lot of respect for your other half.

Thank you for putting your life out there and telling the truth. God bless you and your husband and keep up the good work!