We’re all familiar with the phrase “…and they lived happily ever after.” We know that phrase is used at the end of almost every traditional fairy tale we’ve ever heard. Girl loses her shoe, and the prince forgets what she looks like but finds her by trying on shoes and makes her his princess. Girl lives with seven dwarfs, gets permanent narcolepsy, and is awakened by a magical kiss. These are two examples of happy endings. Yet somehow, we believe fairy-tale endings should be a given in real-life relationships, regardless of the effort we put into achieving that highly sought-after epilogue.
A comedic approach is the wife says, “All I want is a happy marriage!” and the husband responds, “Make up your mind – do you want to be happy or married!?” We know in any relationship the ultimate goal is to be happy; everyone wants to be “happy.” Yet, either we’re not willing to put the work into creating our own “happily ever after,” or we just don’t know how to do it.
Let me preface what I’m about to say with this: I’m far from a marriage expert, and for a guy who hit the snooze three times on his alarm this morning, I’m not a motivational speaker, either. But I believe I have a perspective that will help anyone in a relationship, which I formed after hearing a pastor speak at the vow renewal ceremony of my sister and brother-in-law’s 25th wedding anniversary. His words still resonate whenever I need to encourage myself, or when sharing this wisdom with anyone who would ask for helpful marriage advice. The pastor said: “Marriage was never intended for bliss. It was intended for growth. When you grow together, therein you will find your happiness.”
Wait – what? You mean I have to continually evaluate my convictions and learn to live outside of my comfortable cocoon? I had my own ideas of dealing with conflict early on in my marriage. I would go for a run to relieve my stress whenever the wife and I had a quarrel. But I found myself wearing out at least two pairs of running shoes every month, so that wasn’t a justifiable remedy. I look back with regret on some of the things I stubbornly held onto for the sake of “that’s just who I am” or “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I’ve come to realize my wife’s requests to drop bad habits or unflattering traits haven’t made me any less of a man. On the contrary, they’ve made me an improved version of myself – a better man.
There’s a saying that woman could not compete with man’s strength, so God gave her intuition. As much as I may resist it, I believe my wife’s intuition could be God’s chisel that breaks away the rough edges I cannot see and ultimately makes our journey towards achieving that happy ending seem much more tangible and within reach.
What does this process of growing together look like? I guess the simplest way is to take a step back and let someone grow from their own indiscretions and lapse of judgment. Not every mistake or insensitive remark requires a corrective response or belabored disappointment. Idiosyncrasies and annoying habits were probably already there when you first met, but they were overlooked because you saw so much more to admire about them. I know when I behave badly, being alone with my own conscience convicts me more than someone else’s words ever could. Most times, allowing me to wallow in my own mud is the best response my wife could give to de-escalate a situation.
We know there are an infinite number of ways to pursue happiness, and as the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant?” Sure, salsa would help, but you do it one bite at a time. Every personal or professional quest is just an accumulation of small steps. Growing in a relationship you value has a ripple effect that reaches far beyond your own objectives. When you’re committed to each other, you preach the gospel of true love to others and you bless the lives of those who love you.
Dennis Muñoz is a freelance writer, local author, and family man