The fairy tales do a disservice to young people. The entire story tends to be focused on the meeting and falling in love side of a life long relationship and rarely do you see the inner workings of a successful marriage between two strong, dominant personalities. There is no such thing as “happily ever after” and it turns out, that’s a good thing.
How boring, I should think, it would be to arrive at some place in your life where you’re “done” or “finished”. Because, then what? The movies and stories imply that you, once you arrive at “happily ever after”, will then just sit around all day staring at your partner, smiling. Sounds more like prison than paradise to me.
I married a very good man who also happens to be an alpha male. He is strong, chivalrous and intelligent, a natural leader with amazing critical thinking skills and used to being in charge. Not because he has a need for power but, rather, because he continues to be the best person in the room to lead and decide. He has the perfect skill set to run things like teams or projects or groups.
And then he married me, another alpha.
I’m used to being the decision maker. I’m often the one in the leadership position and am very comfortable there. What works for each of us very well in the workplace has been the source of great conflict in the home. When either one of us is tired or stressed or overwhelmed, we revert to our comfort zone of being in charge. When we are at an impasse, we both are used to being the deciding vote which doesn’t work when there are only two of you. When my husband spends too many days traveling for work, for example, he sometimes enters the home like a manager, asking for updates and reports and trying to delegate work and assignments to his family like staff members.
You can imagine my response to being talked to by my husband like I’m his assistant. Those nights don’t go well around here.
Being married to a strong man, a good man, an alpha male isn’t an easy thing. It is, however, a great thing. He and I challenge each other all the time. Sometimes the challenges bring us closer together, like parenting as a united front to our two charismatic kids. Sometimes the challenges are harder, like how to treat each other like partners every day, regardless of being tired or overwhelmed.
The thing is, by working on a marriage with someone like him, our relationship is so much deeper and so much more meaningful than it ever could have been with anyone else. Marriage, a successful marriage, isn’t ever just an easy endeavor. You have to show up, every single day, and cherish your partner. Love is the easy part when your are lucky and find it. The marriage is the work.
And it should be.
My husband is many things, including the love of my life, but if we assumed that we were “there” once we said, “I do,” we never would have made it. We decided early on that there were things more important to our marriage than anything else:
We want to be married more than we want to be right
This is the most important relationship we will ever cultivate
The success of our children depends on our success as a couple
People have often commented on the quality of our marriage and single friends have told me they want a relationship like the one I have. That’s a nice thing to hear. But they don’t always know that we argue and disagree, just like everyone else. We go through times of stress where we don’t always talk to the other like a partner and have challenging times.
We aren’t living “happily ever after.”
We are challenging each other and becoming better people because of it. We are experiencing a deeper relationship than most, I think, because we show up every single day. We show up when it is an easy day. We show up when it is a difficult day. We show up for the other person even when we’re mad at the other person.
I’ve never been so challenged in my life as I have in my marriage to this man. It isn’t easy. I’m glad for that. If it was easy it would never be this good. If it was “done” it would never be the adventure we get to live together. I’m not living “happily ever after”.
We are living married ever after.