Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Beyond the Myth of "Happily Ever After"

Most of us have had the experience of becoming infatuated with another human being. It may be a lover or soul mate, an infant or child, a friend, teacher, celebrity, stranger (or even a pet). We feel an intense connection to this person that seems bigger than life. There's a magic that feels dreamy and otherworldly. In these moments we're transformed, and we believe we will never suffer from loneliness or the ordinary again.

But eventually that feeling fades, and we fall back down to earth. It's not a bad thing, but it's not very magical-feeling either, and it can be intensely disconcerting.

In her book, Gift from the Sea (1955), Anne Morrow Lindbergh discusses the seasons of love, and how we humans tend to get attached to the first, romanticized  phase of a relationship (spring), and almost inevitably feel a sense of failure and grief when the relationship changes (and moves on to summer). It is at this point that many relationships end or take a difficult turn.

Lindbergh suggests that the problem lies in our expectation and desire to experience that exclusive, "being loved alone," feeling continuously and permanently (which is what the "happily ever after" myth promises). It's not that true love isn't continuous, but that those one-and-only moments are not continuous, but are instead intermittent.

Lindbergh writes, "One comes in the end to realize that there is no permanent pure-relationship and there should not be. It is not even something to be desired. The pure relationship is limited, in space and time. In essence it implies exclusion. It excludes the rest of life, other relationships, other sides of personality, other responsibilities, other possibilities in the future. It excludes growth. The other children are there clamoring outside the closed nursery door. One loves them too. The telephone rings in the next room. One also wants to talk to friends......Life must go on."

What if we didn't get fooled by the "happily ever after," and accepted that life and relationships are ever-changing? What if we enjoyed the one-and-only moments fully and didn't cling to them or let them go by unnoticed? My guess is that there would be a lot more magic and joy in our daily lives.