Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Get to Happily Ever After

I was poking around on Facebook the other morning when I ran across this...
(Image removed due to legal concerns. You can find it here:

The little girl in me loved it. Romance! Prince Charming! Happily Ever After! In a castle! With servants! And animals who fly through the window to make my bed and my clothes and do my hair!

Needless to say, reality cold-cocked me shortly after and I started laughing.

The ideas in that image are great... for fairy tales and romance novels. As someone who makes her living (in part) by selling romance, I get it. We want that. Where things just click and it's perfect and lasts forever with no fights and no messes. It's one of the reason women (and some men) love romance novels (or novels with strong romantic elements). We grew up on happily ever after and we crave it.

The fact of the matter is if real life is a fairy tale, it's more like the stuff going down on the new show Once Upon a Time. (If you aren't watching it, you should give it a chance, it's a great show.) Basically, it strips away all the shiny happy veneer and delves deeper. It's like the fairy tale world's seedy underbelly where happily ever after can happen, but you can bet the world's going to do its best to get in the way.

Aren't they adorable?
Kind of like life. Real romances, the kind that last, have a whole lot of struggle and more than their fair share of pain. My parents just celebrated their 52nd anniversary last week. They didn't make it that long because everything fell into place and the birds sang and the trumpets called and they were carried off to happily ever after on a flight of butterflies and rainbows. They busted their asses for it. They fought (sometimes in front of the kids, or at least loud enough for us to hear it), they had money issues, they had in-law issues, they had "bad" kid issues. The real world stepped in front of them on the happily ever after trail and blocked their path. But instead of running away, they fought that (even when it meant fighting with each other) to get back on the road again.

Over the years, my parents reached an understanding of who they each are and how they work best together. They still fight (dad retiring was a challenge for both of them), but they've had those battles with reality for so long, it's kind of a foregone conclusion they'll win (like the heroes in fairy tales and comic books).

So, yes, I write romance stories where the reader is left with the feeling that everything's going to be great and the couple is going to fly off into the sunset because that's the dream, the ending we all hope for. The thing about romance novels is the characters still struggle and fight, it just all happens before the end of the book. I often wonder if one of the reasons so many marriages end in divorce isn't because people look at the wedding as the real life equivalent of the end of the book. It's not. The end? It's that 'til death do you part deal. If you make it that far and you're still in love... that's your happily ever after.

Wait for your prince/princess, but then be prepared to fight every day to keep them. That's love. That's romance. My parents get it. I wish more people did.



  1. Great post Julie. My husband and I will be 5 years married this summer, ten years together this spring. He and I fight like children and love like there's no tomorrow. I have no doubt we'll make it to the happy ever after because each day we work at it. It's not easy, and there have been dark times where we've looked at each other and wondered if it would be easier to walk away. The short answer was yes. It would have been easy, but the real question was would it have been worth it? No, not ever. He is my best friend. I can still remember the week after our wedding, when everyone was asking me how I liked married life. I looked at them as said it was no different than being engaged or dating. I simply had a different last name and another ring to wear. We were in it for the long haul, with or without the white wedding, and when you've already conquered living with each other, sharing finaces and raising kids, adding the last name and ring are just another check in column. He's my Prince Charming but instead of a glass slipper and happily ever after, he gave me smiles and kisses, gray hair and extra weight, finance issues, a house with a broken garage door, and love.

    1. Yep, happily ever after has a lot fewer ball gowns than Disney movies would make you think. LOL


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