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The Fairytale Myth

    We all love fairytales, don’t we? They’re such perfect stories filled with beautiful princesses and true love. It’s the fairytale that all you have to do is sign up for Cougar Life and your prince charming or beautiful princess will sweep you off your feet, without laying any of the groundwork, and that it will feel like a magical fairytale and you’ll all live happily ever after.

    These are the tropes that we were taught in the Disney movies that we all (and don’t lie to us,cubs!) watched and adored as children. When we grow up we don’t really think about how we might have internalized those messages, but there are things that we forget along the way. We forget about the hard work that went into finding true love and, more than that, we forget that the story ends right at the beginning.

    The Disney couples are in their honeymoon period when the movie ends and while that’s great, you’re not going to see how Cinderella and her prince fight over doing the dishes or how the Beast gets in these moods that even the curse breaking can’t cure.

    You’re not going to see the ups and downs accurately portrayed, but that’s the ideal that we hold onto regardless of whether we’re cougars or cubs. Fairytales are magical and true love will find the way. When in reality, 69% of a couple’s problems are recurring, according to John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

    The problem with that is that while fairytales definitely are magical, they aren’t an accurate reflection of dating life. In fact, it often tends to be the opposite. There are double crosses and sometimes the bad guy wins, sometimes people get dragged down to hell in fairytales (we’re not talking Disney here), or other times they end up strangely bloody with their eyes pecked out. The original fairytales are gruesome and nonsensical reads, but that’s not what we learn about while we’re growing up.

    So I’m saying to you now, as adults, let the fairytale go.

    Some of you might have already done so and if you have, kudos! The reality is that these ideas of true, passionate love end up putting a lot of pressure on a relationship. In fact, the pressures that we put on finding that perfect love story are even more intense around the holidays, and the whole process ends up being more stressful than enjoyable.
    We fuss about our relationships, we analyze and pick them apart as we strive for a perfection that will always be just out of reach.

    We end up psyching ourselves out because relationships weigh so heavily on our mind or we worry about being alone. Was she really angry about that one thing? Did he really mean it when he said he was thinking about me? We turn these little things over in our minds until they become very serious problems when what we really need to do is just relax. Breathe in, breathe out, let it go!

    I’m not trying to be a cynic here and I’m not trying to say down with love. I’m saying that we should let go of this magical ideal of love. Let go of the Prince Charming or the impossible heroine. Let go of thinking that relationships should be easier than they are because if you think about it, they’re just two people who are trying to messily force their lives together. The pieces don’t fit perfectly and it’s going to take a lot of work from both of you, but when you can make that happen, it’s golden. It’s not instant, and while love can have us feeling all kinds of wonderful, relationships take work.

    It’s not going to be a happily ever after where it’s always euphoria and sparkles. Expecting that is unrealistic. People get tired. They get worn out and worn down. The more that you can let go of that ideal, the more understanding that you’re going to be in a relationship and the more you’re going to find that relationships (while still work) become a little bit easier.

    I think that we as humans (particularly in this day and age) tend to make things more difficult than they need to. Remember to breathe and leave those shimmering happily ever afters to the movies.

    Not believing in fairytales doesn’t mean you can’t be happy…

    Relationships take work. Real work, not just chasing down your fairy princess and kissing her awake. Time Magazine finds that people score their relationships satisfaction at 86% in their first year of marriage, while that number declines to under 50% in the seventh year. That’s because the magic of the honeymoon period has dissipated and couples are having to work harder to keep that spark alive in their relationship.

    The key to keeping your fairytale alive is surprise. Don’t be predictable, but surprise your partner with those little everyday things that you know they value. Cook their favourite meal, give them a back rub for no reason other than to make them feel better, and try to keep tuned into each other’s feelings. The goal here is to build a friendship that makes the two of you a team and a support system.

    The Atlantic states that the secret to love is as simple as kindness, while a simple search for “secrets to a happy marriage” will result in thousands of results. Everyone wants to find their happily ever after, but people are starting to learn that you have to work for it.

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