When Happily Ever After Fails

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 3:22 AM
It’s because I believe so strongly in the power of love that I’m largely turned off by most romantic novels, movies, and songs. I gravitate much more to what I term “optimistic realism” --- comprising anything that recognizes that loving another person takes singular valor and hard work.

Love (the kind that lasts) is dirt-under-your-fingernails messy; it must be fought for and defended against the push and pull of everyday living, which is it’s natural predator and worst enemy. For it is the mundane things that claw at and, unchecked, tear down the promises exchanged with such hope and devotion.

Don Henley writes in the song The End of the Innocence that we have been “poisoned by these fairy tales.” I don’t know that I would go so far as that, but I do think the myths we hold on to about romance make it harder to find and recognize love when we are graced by it. Prince Charming is supposed to fight dragons and rescue the damsel in distress all without damaging his perfectly coiffured mane of hair (and, no, he’s not gay). But only in the fine print do they both find out that the dragon is not some outside creature that needs to be slain once (to then leave the couple gazing in one another’s eyes, undisturbed, throughout eternity) but that instead, the dragon is the daily struggle, the daily decision to be loving at all costs. And it is a fight in which both people must engage.

When we find someone who has the characteristics we admire, we rejoice and call it love. But how hard is it to love beauty, kindness, humor, self-control, generosity, and whatever else is on the list of Things We Look for in a Mate? It’s how we react when confronted with the stuff we don’t want that makes the difference.

He’s lazy. She’s vain. He never picks up a sock! Why does she need so many shoes?

We broke up; we weren’t really compatible.

I’m writing this piece because I just finished watching The Story of Us, one of the most romantic movies I’ve ever seen. Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfiffer portray a couple who’s on the brink of divorce after 15 years of marriage. Their happily ever after has failed as both realize there are things about the other person that get under their skin, that drive them nuts, that are completely unacceptable. [Spoiler Alert] They manage to stay together only when they accept that such is the multifaceted nature of love. Love isn’t only “happily ever after”: it can be hurtful at times, confusing at times, lonely at times….but always present.

He’s lazy. She’s vain. He never picks up a sock! Why does she need so many shoes?

But I made a commitment to be loving and I will honor it anyway.

Love is unconditional, but it is never blind. Being loving means intentionally setting aside what I wish you were so that I can see, really see, who it is that you are. Being loving means not being afraid of the word submission, not resisting being accountable to you. Being loving means choosing to be vulnerable and uncomfortable and disappointed and angry all the while letting my heart expand to encompass you…ALL of you.

The Story of Us is one of my favorite movies because it does not gloss over the complexity of love in its rush to bask in the romance of it. When happily ever after fails, love is what remains.


Adding the Story of Us to my Netflix Queue. Sounds like it's up my alley, thanks for such a thougtful blog. And I agree with your assessment of love and the daily dragon.
Also, BIG thank you for the supportive words you left on Ken's blog. I was very touched to see you there and to realize how far your kindness extends, even to those you don't know. Ken is a great guy and feels things very deeply, so I know that your comment did not go unappreciated.

Let me know if you like the movie once you see it. I'm going to guess "no." For you, I'd recommend Ladyhawke. It's also on Netflix, available through the Watch Instantly feature. It is set in medieval times and also has Michelle Pfiffer in it (I just realized). It's the story of soulmates who are separated by an evil curse and must fight great odds to be reunited. Does that sound familiar? :)

Ladyhawke was a minor inspiration for Soulmates. It's a great movie, and I'm glad for the comparison!
Mad Love is another movie that inspired Soulmates. Casey (Drew Barrymore) IS Jamie.

My turn to add a movie to Netflix. I've never seen Mad Love...looking forward to seeing who you're basing Jamie on!

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