Littles loves princesses. She loves to dress like them, pretend she is one getting married, and read about them. Her book shelf houses a variety of stories about princesses, with her favorite being a four-story anthology of Disney princess weddings. We’ve read them a hundred times each. The plot is always the same: meet your prince, plan your dream wedding, live happily ever after.
Ahem… that isn’t real life.
What these stories don’t tell her is the days after the wedding when your gown is rolled up in a ball and the idea of taking it to the cleaners seems like a lot of effort is only the beginning of the effort. They don’t talk about waking up and realizing that you are going to spend the rest of your life dealing with Prince Charming’s magazine hoarding tendency that you hadn’t previously grasped and all the other small things that somehow have a powerful rub.
The fairy tales don’t include the moment words escape your lips that you immediately wish you could take back… and that knowing you hurt someone you love is beyond painful. The “I’m sorrys” and “I’ll try harders” aren’t in the pages. The unmet expectations, resentments, and empathetic misses are nowhere to be found.
After fifteen years of marriage, I know I’m living the fairy tale. It includes all the parts Littles’ stories don’t. I feel compelled to tell her the whole story. She needs to see all the beauty and grandeur of our love for each other, but she also needs to witness that acceptance and forgiveness are at the center of that love.
It’s not that I want to quash her romantic hopes of what marriage could be. More so, I want her to know that when she has her first or hundredth argument with her spouse, it isn’t because they have a bad marriage or aren’t meant for each other, it’s because a marriage is made by two imperfect humans. I want to bear witness to the fact that it isn’t about the mistakes themselves, but how you navigate the mistakes that matters.
When it comes time for Littles to find a partner, I want her expectation to be for a relationship based on loyalty and mutual respect, because that has been our model to her. While there are many times marriage is about making it work, without loyalty and respect the commitment cannot survive. If she finds herself in a relationship lacking in either, my hope is she will know we support her in moving on, because both parties deserve better.
Today, my husband and I celebrate fifteen years of marriage. I loved him that day more than I thought I could ever love someone, yet our love has grown exponentially over the years. He just gave me a kiss goodbye before departing for work and said, “I can’t believe it has been fifteen years.” I couldn’t agree more. It feels like yesterday and forever at the same time.