One of my personal blogging heroines is Nicole Antoinette (among other things, she cusses almost as much as I do). Awhile back, she wrote a really spectacular piece about taking a break from her boyfriend of over three years. She said that no one talked enough about relationships, unless they were either hilariously bad, or romantic comedy-esque good (I totally agree). And that, “so much gets left unsaid in the huge spectrum of love and heartbreak that falls in between. But that’s where 99% of us live….” And that, every now and then, "you have to admit that even though you love each other and care about each other, sometimes that isn’t enough."
I won’t lie—when I talk about MY marriage, and MY husband, I often get a lot of sighs and flutterings of, “I wish I had that.” But our relationship isn’t anywhere close to romantic comedy good. In point of fact, if you were a fly on the wall in our house most days, you might wonder if we were gearing up for the next Tarantino flick. It is what it is, warts and all, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But it got me thinking. When is “good enough” enough? At what point in time in your life do you realize that your Prince Charming may never come, and you’re going to have to settle for the frog? Will you? Have you already? Or would you rather be alone than settle?
Those are not questions I can answer for you. The truth is, the answers are as widely varied as the individual, because when it comes to love, there ISN’T ever one right answer.
But it does put me in mind of a couple of princesses I know. I’ve been working with both of them for a number of years, and the courses they’ve charted in their lives have been very different.
Cinderella had been married for well over a decade when she came to me and said that she was pretty sure she wanted a divorce. She had had enough, she said. She was not only NOT in love, she was also pretty well out of LIKE, too. Still, we explored a number of paths towards reconciliation. Counseling, self-improvement and journaling, among other things. So Cindy wrote her heart out. She poured her life into the written word, and in so doing, she made a number of stunning revelations.
She realized her prince had, in fact, ALWAYS been the frog. She had settled for him from the very beginning. Consequently, much of what she was feeling now was a deep seated resentment, the kind that can’t be wished away, not even by a fairy godmother. She didn’t like the way her prince treated her, and she most definitely didn’t like the way he treated their children.
And one day, she had had enough. She left her frog in disguise. She moved back in with her parents, and proceeded to build a life that she was proud of. Now, nearly three years later, she has charted her own journey. She has work that fulfills her, friends that sustain her, a cozy little cottage full of love that she and the kids call their own, and a new prince in her life. He may not be “the one,” but she has happily chosen to explore the possibility of this brave new frontier. For Cinderella, “good enough” just wasn’t going to cut it.
Snow White’s story takes a decidedly different path. Snow’s courtship and the early days of her marriage were pretty much straight out of a fairy tale. Her prince swept her off her feet, and promised her love, security, and the finest castle money could buy. It wasn’t perfect, but I truly think that Snow was happy.
And then life happened. Prince Charming spent more time working than he did with his beloved. And the kids? Fuhgeddaboutit. At some point in time, fairly early on in their child rearing days, Mr. Charming decided he was no good at this parenting thing, and simply left the care and feeding of the dragons to Snow.
And that castle? It broke the bank. So Charming spent even MORE time working, to the point that Snow often felt as though she was a single mom.
But Snow wasn’t ready to give up. She had chosen this life, dammit, and she was going to make it work. She embarked on an ever growing, ever changing journey of personal development—because if she wasn’t happy with herself, how could she ever be happy with Charming? She attended counseling, both alone and with her beloved, in an attempt to see things out and make it work.
Just the other day, they celebrated their anniversary. And despite all the difficulty, despite all the hardship, I truly believe that they love each other enough to stick it out, to keep doing the hard work. For Snow, “good enough” IS enough, at least for now. She has committed herself to the process, and in so doing, she is building a life that fulfills her, even if it doesn’t have a fairy tale ending.
The reality is, so many long term relationships are built on this stuff. Doing the hard work, sticking it out, being willing to find the flaws in your partner, and then, loving them—not in spite of those flaws, but because of them.
What matters here isn’t the path you choose. It’s that you OWN it. Your life, and your relationships with others are always in a state of flux. And you have so many choices that sometimes, just deciding what course to take can feel like an unbearable burden.
But there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to choose to see it. And once you’ve done that, nothing can stop you from getting there. In love especially, what matters isn’t the destination. It’s how you choose to get there that counts.
What course will YOU chart with your love life today?