*Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series—lucky you! Follow Galina to get notified when the next article is available to read. And read Harsh Truth #5 here.
I am not a princess.
My husband is not a prince.
As ridiculous as writing this now feels, accepting it as truth was once a rude awakening for me.
Like many, I was seduced by stories depicting a love that makes all problems disappear…
Songs, books, and movies where just meeting the right person is enough for happily ever after.
Though the relationships I observed all around me—starting with that of my own parents—painted a much starker picture, I believed that, given the right person, I could avoid such a fate.
Despite all signs to the contrary, the fantasy of happy marriage (or lifelong romance) is extremely persistent.
It’s instilled in every one of us.
Even in the face of statistics, we continue to believe in finding “The One” and the long-term bliss that’s sure to follow.
We are only now starting to talk more openly about the underlying work this kind of committed relationship requires.
I married for love, but then took much of my relationship for granted.
Living in a romantic coma, I expected “being in love” to take care of everything.
It did not.
My husband could not save me from life. I had to learn the hard way that I was not his child, but his partner. And that even “being a very good girl” did not magically solve all of life’s problems.
It’s naïve and irresponsible of us to expect that a marriage could succeed without conscious effort from both sides.
It takes two for any partnership to work.
One partner cannot be expected to do the lion’s share of the emotional labor without doing irreparable damage to the feeling of connection that brought them together in the first place.
It’s time for both men and women to take off our rose-colored glasses and sober up, to shatter the outdated gender molds prescribed by our patriarchal society and roll up our collective sleeves.
Because a real happily ever after requires huge personal investment from all those involved.
Even then, expecting a state of perpetual happiness and bliss is just not realistic.
Fairy tales simply don’t tell us the whole story.
We must let go of the fantasy, abandon the quest for stability and permanence.
Promises of “forever” only blind us to the truth.
And the truth is, nothing is permanent.
Least of all our relationships with other, constantly-evolving, changing, feeling humans—not without our sustained presence and ability to evolve and shift in the mutual dance.
Marriage is a living thing.
No couple can survive this most challenging of human constructs without teamwork, communication, mindfulness, and compassion.
If you’re under the spell of fairy tale romance, it’s time to wake up.
It is not true. It does not exist.
Your fantasy blocks your capacity to live the life you have with those who actually share it.
Your attachment to some ideals stops you from letting real people in, relating to them as they are.
You’re bound to live in perpetual disappointment because of who they are not, who they can never be…
Unless you wake up from the dream, and start doing the real work.
The security and certainty we seek from other people and define as love is not love at all.
Love does not preclude us from conflict or protect us from the hardships of life.
Love does not guarantee us a perpetual state of bliss.
Over the last 32 years of my relationship, there have been moments when I could neither believe I once loved this person nor imagine myself capable of loving him again.
And yet, I do. Again.
Because my love is mine.
My love has surprised and humbled me.
It flows and stalls, and shifts and hides according to my own psycho-emotional and even physical processes.
It is not a permanent state and requires presence and commitment.
My love required me to choose it. Time and time again.
And that was among the hardest things I had to learn to do: keep my heart open.
Love isn’t always happy or romantic.
It is often messy and challenged by life.
No relationship can survive without our ability to tolerate discomfort, willingness to engage in repair, and most importantly, readiness to look at our contribution to the state of affairs.
If you are not cultivating your own joy, you are setting yourself up for misery.
If you are not keeping your connection open and alive, then love will not save your relationship.
If you are not working on your relationship, then you are taking it for granted.
Love is not a fairy tale. It’s something far better.
And the only way to find it? Unlearn everything.
(My group coaching program, Safe to Be Me—starting September 22nd—offers the supportive space, caring community, and expert guidance you need to begin rewriting your love story.)
P.S. I know what it’s like to live with a lack of depth and safety.
I know the despair of feeling unseen and taken for granted, and the disappointment, resentment, and frustration of feeling trapped in my relationship and in my life.
During our most difficult times, I often felt anger, and even hatred, toward the man who shared my bed.
Dispirited, lost, unclear of who I was, I didn’t know where to start to regain my spark…
If this sounds familiar, Safe to Be Me was created for you.
I’ve read book after book after book (from Brené Brown to Esther Perel and everyone in between), worked with a therapist, a Jungian analyst, and an astrologer, diligently followed the most popular relationship advice, meditated, prayed, journaled, gotten energy healing, Reiki sessions…you name it.
Nothing worked, until I did this work.
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