The quest for finding Mr Right is a universal fantasy, often associated with living happily ever after. From traditional fairy tales such as Cinderella to contemporary songs like CeCe Peniston’s Finally, the fantasy is continually perpetuated in our hearts and minds.
“It is ever so romantic, isn’t it?” says Sonja Lewis is an American journalist, novelist and marriage preparation course tutor who lives in London with her British husband.
“But when do we stop taking it, the fantasy that is, to heart and finally realise that the pursuit of happiness is far more about realism than it is imagination.
“Fair enough. So, then, how does a girl go about realistically pursuing happily ever after? What’s the plan? While I don’t know of any failsafe strategies to realise a dream, I can offer ten tips that will insure, the journey, if you will, keeping it real. First things, first:
1. Forget about finding Mister Right! Marry a person who is right for you. There’s a big difference in meeting the one right person, if there is any such thing, and meeting someone who is like-minded, and fundamentally compatible, someone you are interested in beyond the superficial and vice versa.
If there was only one right person for each of us, we’d have one in a million chance of finding him, and chance has no place in securing happily ever after.
2. Marry for love but make sure it’s real. According to some experts, romantic love, aka infatuation, can last from two days to two years. Often when the fire is gone, couples feel the relationship is in trouble.
Nonsense. All that has happened is that the veil of infatuation has been lifted, revealing warts and all. Only real love, which is as much about commitment as it is romance, is mature enough to weather the storm.
3. Do tell all. Secrets in marriage are far more dangerous than disagreements. But be wary of digging up the past. Let sleeping dogs lie, which is not the same as disclosing relevant information (i.e., your age, your medical background, family history, your bank balance, etc.)
4. Speaking of bank balance, agree a budget, even it is a loose one. This doesn’t mean relinquishing control of your finances – on the contrary. It means being in control and being responsible. Money, if not discussed, can be a catalyst for serious marital conflicts.
The key is to agree what works for you. One thing that works in my marriage is consulting on big-ticket items. Day-to-day stuff goes without saying. But be warned, agreeing on what constitutes a big ticket is no small feat.
5. Talk to each other. Ah yes, talking is at the heart of effective communications, as well as conflict resolution. But don’t confuse talking with grumbling. Know that all communication starts at home, with your thoughts.
Govern your thoughts for a smoother journey to happily ever after. And expect him to govern his, too.
6. Create your space together. When I moved to England nearly seventeen years ago, my husband had a flat. Loved it as I did, it wasn’t ours. After marrying we bought a house together and made it ours.
And though friendly decorating advice from family was not a problem for us, it is a common issue for many. Reject it quietly, even if it is meant with good intent.
7. Buy a good bed. And not just for good sex, albeit many experts agree that sexual intimacy, is vital to getting to happily ever after.
Even so, too often we forget the importance of getting a good night’s sleep for a healthy beginning daily. Every day counts, literally.
8. Plan time together and plan time apart. Planning time together might come easily at first but after a while, sometimes owing to career, family, complacency, etc., it loses its priority. But there’s nothing like an exciting date to revitalise a marriage. Do things that you enjoy together, regularly.
But don’t forget that marriage doesn’t rob you of your individuality. If anything, it accentuates it, as you take on your new role. Occasionally, plan time apart to do the things that express your individuality. Discuss how much time works for each of you. But be careful of over or under doing it.
9. Keep Love Alive. Much has been said about keeping the romance in marriage. The best advice I’ve come across comes for Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. The author explains that each individual tends to feel love in a specific way–either time, kind words, physical affection, kind acts or presents.
Conversely, we are inclined to offer love according to the way we want it. Not a good route to happily ever after. Find out our partner’s love language and express love in their language, not your own.
10. Forgive Each Other and Apologise, too. In fairy tale land, hurt rarely happens. In the real world, it inevitably will occur, no ifs, ands, buts and or’s. And when it does, deal with it.
Holding onto grudges may temporarily offer a feeling of power, but letting go makes for a happier, healthier all around existence. And saying you’re sorry ought to keep you happily ever after, finally and sincerely.
“So much for fairy tales and money back guarantees, eh. Still it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of insurance. Take it from an old hand at it—getting to happily ever after is a lifelong journey.”