“Almost no one is foolish enough to imagine that he automatically deserves great success in any field of activity; yet almost everyone believes that he automatically deserves success in marriage.”
~Sydney J. Harris
If I could fiddle with this quote a bit, I would substitute the word “happiness” for “success.” Because I believe that every married or engaged or dating person I have ever known–and I include myself–expects happiness in marriage.
Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a problem. If we didn’t expect some measure of happiness in marriage, there would be no reason to marry, would there? But that’s not truly the issue here. The issue is the concept that the happiness (or success) should be “automatic.” We behave as if marital happiness should be assured, and if it is at all elusive, the marriage itself (or one partner in particular) must be defective in some way.
I spent most of my waking childhood hours writing stories, and every single one ended with someone getting married, followed by the default phrase: “And they lived happily every after.” It never occurred to me to end my stories any other way. If the Prince and Cinderella were truly a love match (or, in the case of my own stories, Henry and Henrietta Chipmunk), then of course they would be happy “ever after.” It would be a natural, nearly unalterable state.
In truth, however, if we are able to take a breath and face reality, happiness is never assured. It’s an outgrowth of our own choices. I choose how to treat my husband. I also choose how to interpret his treatment of me, and how to react, whether that’s with an action, a word, or even a thought.
Happily Ever After is possible–with the inevitable ups and downs–but it requires intention and effort.