Discovering how to live happily ever after...
“And they lived happily (aside from a few normal disagreements, misunderstandings, pouts, silent treatments, and unexpected calamities) ever after.”
― Jean Ferris
“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.”
― Jodi Picoult
When I was a little girl, I knew exactly what I wanted out of life: to have a successful career in something that I love doing, marry Prince Charming and live happily ever after! That was the dream until this crazy thing happened…I grew up! By the time I reached the ripe old age of 12, I was what I now like to call a seasoned and cynical realist.
(Now just in case you’re wondering how “seasoned” and “cynical” one can be at the age of 12, let me just say that life had dealt me an interesting set of cards when I was really young and learning to play the hand I had been dealt made me grow up real quick, so, believe me, I was seasoned!)
Back to the issue at hand…
I remained an unrepentant cynic through the years and I had pretty much given up on all things love and romance. I hated chick flicks, Valentine’s Day and the idea of marriage because it seemed to me that everyone who was in a relationship – be it marriage or simply just dating – seemed incapable of making this love thing work, so why should I bother! It seemed like everywhere I looked, relationships seemed to break down quicker than a cheetah chasing its prey and I would often wonder to myself: “Why would anyone do this to themselves!”
Because I saw no good examples of what true love can look like, I resolved to stay forever cynical when it came to love and to keep myself – and my precious, little heart – heavily guarded! Now, that doesn’t mean that I saw all men as unattractive nor does it mean that I never had romantic interests in men – Lord knows that despite my cynicism, my 13-year-old self would have readily jumped into Brad Pitt’s arms – however, I never pushed myself to act on any of my feelings towards any man…EVER!
"When I was a little girl, I knew exactly what I wanted out of life: to have a successful career in something that I love doing, marry Prince Charming and live happily ever after! That was the dream until this crazy thing happened…I grew up!"
No, I still noticed good looking men and once in a while, I’d even have a crush on a certain guy but I never – and I mean never – became the lovesick girl who forever wondered if the object of my affection lay in bed at night, pining for me as much I did for them. The knowledge of who my crush was always deemed highly classified and best believe I exercised extreme prejudice when deciding who was worthy enough to be privy to such sensitive information. The lucky custodian of this information would have to swear on pain of death that they would take the identity of my secret lover to the grave! For my part when my crush would be around I’d always play it cool. I kept the butterflies in my stomach under control, I made no awkward and silly attempts to draw their attention to myself, I kept my affections and interest to myself but most importantly, I made sure that I never entertained any thoughts that “the love of my life” (yes, he changed a couple of times as I was growing up!) and I would ever be together! Only in my dreams were we ever happily together because, in the real world, love, romance and relationships don’t last! That was my steadfast belief and I clung to it for the longest time, so it is nothing short of a miracle that today, I am a happily married woman (four years and counting, baby!) who is a proud mother of two!
So, the obvious question to ask is: “How does a girl turn from seasoned and cynical realist to happily married mush?”
Well, this crazy thing happened…I grew up!
And the older I got, I came to realise that my beliefs – namely those that had to do with love and romance – were not all based on solid truth. All that I had seen and experienced when it came to love and romance was not all there was to see and experience when it came to love and romance, and if that was true, then there needed to be two major shifts in thinking that needed to take place in my mind and heart when it came to romance:
"Growing up in a home where romantic love was not properly modelled to me, I had a poor understanding of what love was to begin with (hence why I became cynical.) This lack of understanding not only affected and shaped what my view of love – romantic love – but it also shaped my expectations when it came to love."
1 – Understanding that other people’s bad experiences when it comes to love and romance, don’t have to be mine, and guess what, they don’t have to be yours either!
Grabbing a hold of this truth was one of the hardest things my mind has ever had to grasp! And why it was so hard to understand was because I came from a broken home. My parents’ marriage, for as long as I could remember, was not a good one and it ultimately ended in divorce. Now, I am not here to air my parents’ dirty laundry because that would be taking away from the point I am trying to get at which is this: you learn what you live.
Growing up in a home where romantic love was not properly modelled to me, I had a poor understanding of what love was to begin with (hence why I became cynical.) This lack of understanding not only affected and shaped what my view of love – romantic love – but it also shaped my expectations when it came to love. In my mind, because my parents’ marriage was bad therefore all marriages were bad! If their marriage failed, then all marriages fail! And the crazy high divorce statistics certainly seemed to substantiate my opinion! That was “the truth” that I had learnt as I lived.
But here’s the kicker… other people’s bad experiences don’t have to be mine and they don’t have to be yours either because of this amazing thing called CHOICE!
I become more and more convinced with each passing day that choice is one of the most powerful things a human being possesses and how we choose to exercise it plays a huge role in what our lives can become! You can choose to relive all you have ever known, or you can choose to pioneer a different life and a different course for yourself! If all you have known in your life is brokenness, abuse, disappointment, pain, deception and anything else that is negative, you can choose to either perpetuate that cycle for yourself or you can choose to have all that dysfunction end with you. You can choose to either keep feeding into toxicity or you can choose to make a clean break and try to create something that is new and healthy! And that applies to your love life as well! Just because you may have come from a broken home and just because the bulk of the marriages you see around you tend to end in divorce, doesn’t mean that this has to be your story. You can choose happiness and wholeness and healing despite your background and you can choose to build a relationship that is based on God, love, respect, healthy communication and trust and have that relationship be successful! You can come from a broken home but it doesn’t mean that you have to recreate one!
Now don’t get me wrong, trying to end the cycle of brokenness and toxicity can be one of the hardest things you will ever do! Trying to go against all that you have ever known and all you have been conditioned to believe as “truths” in order to build a new and healthy life can be terrifying and extremely challenging – especially if you are trying to do it on your own! And that is why I would recommend that you don’t try to go it alone. If it is at all possible, try and find women in your life who you trust and women who you feel are a good example of strong women who seem to have good marriages and have them be a part of your journey to healing, happiness and wholeness. Have these women support you, give you advice, challenge you, cry with you, laugh with you and just journey with you as you try and create a better you with a better story. Their input will be hugely valuable to you!
2-Realising that the past does not necessarily foreshadow the future.
So, we can agree that your ex was most probably less than stellar. I mean, sure, he probably had his strengths and weaknesses but all in all, I guess his bad didn’t outweigh his good otherwise he wouldn’t be your ex, right? But let’s be honest for a minute – even if your ex was a complete idiot, the fact is that heartbreak…sucks! Whether you thought he was the one or whether you were still seeing where things were going, the ending of a relationship always hurts and at times, it can be really hard to not let that pain become discouraging.
"I become more and more convinced with each passing day that choice is one of the most powerful things a human being possesses and how we choose to exercise it plays a huge role in what our lives can become! You can choose to relive all you have ever known, or you can choose to pioneer a different life and a different course for yourself!"
It can be easy to fall into distrust and (you’ve guessed it) cynicism when it feels like every man you date seems to be no different than the last! So, if you’re in this boat, I have some good news for you: your ex is not the only kind of man there is!
(Thank God for that!)
Now, I have to be honest with you and tell you that I was never a huge or even a moderate or even a minimal dater. In part, it was because:
A) I had daddy issues (it comes with the package when your parents are divorced and your mom was an amazingly resilient and strong woman who wore both the hat of mom and dad. I saw her be strong and learnt to be a strong woman myself so, long story short, I just didn’t trust men to “be the man” – especially when it came to relationships!) All this to say that because of my daddy issues, I wasn’t in a real big hurry to sign up to be with a man!
B) I was cynical because I saw a lot of relationships around me end. From Hollywood tabloids to friends and family, it just seemed like love and marriage didn’t seem to last so, why would I invest a lot of energy in something that seemed to be doomed? It just didn’t make sense to me at the time, so that in turn made me less eager to involve myself with someone romantically.
C) I wasn’t willing to go through a string of men in the name of finding the one. Serial dating is not a sexy look and I was not about to have a reputation of being the girl who dated everyone and anyone! I’ve always felt like it is easier for a woman to remove gum from the bottom of her shoe than it is for her to shake the reputation of being a…you know! And because I never wanted such a thing to be said of me, I decided to pretty much never pursue romantic interactions with men. That said though, I was never the girl who had a string of men dying to date me in the first place so that made staying single considerably easier.
Truth be told though, as I began working through my cynicism, I found that I actually didn’t mind being single a whole lot because ultimately, I had peace in my heart that when the time came I would find the right man for me at the right time. Now, I’m not saying that there weren’t days when I wanted a man and wanted to be in a relationship – especially when my cynicism started falling away – but I also wasn’t so desperate that I was willing to jump into the arms of just any man with a pulse! In my heart, I knew that despite all of my baggage, I am still a quality girl and therefore, I was willing to wait for a quality man!
So, all in all, I was always pretty chilled when it came to the whole romance thing but then one day, I met him and I thought to myself that he couldn’t be any more perfect, any more handsome, any more “the one”…and it turns out that he was an absolute flop! He broke my heart, damn near broke my spirit and for days, I was a weepy mess at my sister’s place, eating ice cream, staying in our PJ’s and hating men! The pain of this heartbreak almost made me swear off men in general – no joke! I actually promised both God and myself that I wouldn’t date again until I was 30…I was 23 at the time but I was so, super serious! Then, in February 2012 my husband unassumingly walked into my life and has forever changed it for the better! He has his strengths and weaknesses but he is open, honest, trustworthy, gorgeous and won me over through his integrity and his character!
"...your ex is not the only kind of man there is! (Thank God for that!)"
Now, I know this sounds all dreamy and like I am promising you the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but what I’m really trying to share with you through my stories is that there is hope!
Our life’s course – especially in the domain of love and relationships – does not have to be confined to all you’ve ever known! All your negative experiences of love don’t predict that you will never find love!
Your daddy issues don’t have to stop you from finding true love.
Statistics don’t have scare you into fearing the worst for your relationship!
And your ex is not the only one kind of man in this world!
And while we’re on the subject of your ex, here’s something I think you need to know about him: your ex is not the bar you should be holding all men to or the lens through which you should be viewing all men! If your ex was a poor excuse of a man, celebrate that you have cut your loses and moved on with your life! Yes, I know that even though he may not have been the best guy out there, you still liked him and you are still hurt from what he did to you (because like we discussed earlier, all heartbreak sucks!) but I hope that through the passing of time, you will come to be encouraged by the knowledge that even though he hurt you, he did not break you and from now on, you will move forward in life being a littler bit wiser, a little bit smarter and a whole lot stronger! At the risk of sounding cliché, there are still some good men out there who are nothing like you ex in a good way! No, they will not be perfect – they will come with their own baggage and issues and things that y’all will need to work through – but guess what, they will perfect for you and together, the two of you can work to make something beautiful out of your love! Just because you may have had a poor sampling of what a good man is doesn’t mean that you won’t one day find one who genuinely is a keeper! So, hang in there!
I hope that as you have read this (former) cynical girl’s guide to romance that something inside of you is inspired and encouraged as you remember that love is always worth it!
And may you find your Prince Charming and may you two live happily ever after!