HEAD COPY EDITOR
Look, I will be the first to admit that love can totally check all of the fairy-tale-boxes, but that in no way means that your relationship will be perfect. Sure, you should look for a partner(s) who will sweep you off of your feet. They should give you the kind of romance that leaves you smiling uncontrollably, but you can never expect them to be perfect all the time. It is simply unrealistic. Our society has sold an unhealthy image of relationships, and it is damaging our ability to experience and maintain love. Happily ever afters need to stop.
Every child grows up reading about how princes and princesses meet, fall in love, and go on to live happily ever after. There are so few examples in children’s media of healthy relationships. Not every single person that you fall in love with will be your one and only. In fact, according to YouGov.co.uk, only 27 percent of marriages are first-love marriages — that is, marriages where neither spouse had fallen in love with someone else prior. That means that for 73 percent of the married population, their marriage is the result of at least one prior relationship not working out. It is illogical to think that the very first person who you say ‘I love you’ to will be the last person you love, but society has trained us to see every first relationship as our shot at true, long-lasting romance.
Furthermore, these forever romances are supposed to be entirely blemish-free. Anyone in a long-term relationship will tell you that it just isn’t possible. We are all human. We disagree sometimes. We make mistakes. Sometimes, we may even accidentally hurt the people we love most. While it would be amazing to say that there is someone out there who will be so in sync with you that you will never be annoyed with them or disagree with them . . . statistically, it will not happen. Despite what fairytales may want you to believe, there are going to be some issues, but these are not the end of the world. In order to have a healthy relationship, you need to have an open dialogue with your partner(s) so that you can both address your needs, wants, and concerns. This is the ambrosia that will sustain your relationship even during the worst times.
In addition to communication, mutual care is an absolute necessity in a healthy relationship. There tends to be an unbalanced dynamic between those who take care and those who are taken care of, and this needs to be addressed. Often in heterosexual monogamous relationships, the boyfriend is the one who pays for each meal, who is expected to always lend a shoulder to cry on, and who should be ready to fight for his girlfriend’s honor at any moment. Meanwhile, the girlfriend is supposed to take on the emotional maturity in the relationship, explaining her boyfriend’s behavior away, having to always hang out with his friends, and condoning his ignorance of her standpoint on any and all matters because he’s a dude. All of these damaging ideas can be traced back to the fairytale stories of our youth. Cinderella, a story told a million times, links securing a relationship with freedom, independence, and happiness. Little Red Riding Hood can only be saved by the big, burly wood chopper. Even kissing a frog is better than being without a man by your side.
Every fairytale has its conflicts, but it’s never about the actual glorified relationship — well, except for Frozen, which, admittedly, did a lot of good for dismantling the happily ever after trope. Still, the male protagonist in the majority of fairytales is the Prince, or, at the very least, he is a hardworking man who can properly take care of the girl. He is the rock of the relationship, and he is ready to draw swords against any possible threat. This archetype has become so important to our society that it is ingrained in every little boy looking to find a girl to love one day. Moreover, girls are completely infantilized by these ideals and still buy into them. They are ready to become the lonely Princess, the misunderstood maiden, or the damsel in distress if it means getting the love and attention that they desire. This leads to girls being completely bulldozed in relationships. Rather than seeing themselves as equal, girls must be taken care of and pampered, though this doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be respected. As long as their man plays his part, he could spend all day yelling at games on the television while she cooks, cleans, and runs the rest of the household.
It is important to remember that happily ever after was an idea created and marketed by companies looking to sell the same type of love story year after year. As long as they could get us as a society to buy into the idea of love and happiness as a guarantee in real relationships, they could get us to buy in to their movies, merchandise, theme parks, and everything else. There is no such thing as an actual fairytale ending, but there is such a thing as love. If you are willing to work hard to understand your partner(s) and to give all of yourself in your relationship(s), then you will live and love happily. The ‘ever after’ . . . well, that can never really be promised, and it never should have been.