7 Reasons Real Marriage is Better Than Happily-Ever-After
The fantasy:Prince Charming (*cough* Richard Gere *cough*) sweeps Cinderella off her feet.
Reality:Your husband, God love him, barely remembers flowers on V-Day and your anniversary, but he does a million other things that are—we swear—so much better. You don't need grand gestures to have a happy relationship, says matchmaker and relationship guru Bela Gandhi, founder of the Smart Dating Academy, and should instead focus on seeing "that his character is good, and that he treats you with kindness, interest, and respect," she says. Take note of the things he regularly does and give him chivalry credit for them, like when he always takes the wheel so you can sleep during long car rides, or gives you the last sushi roll. And if you want more, remember that chivalry can be taught, says Gandhi. She suggests giving him specific feedback, like how much you loved it the last time he planned that wine-tasting date. Positive reinforcement does wonders to make him even more of a prince—and you may get a shiny necklace in return. 😉
The fantasy:After overcoming extraordinary odds, Noah and Allie marry inThe Notebook. In their old age, Allie develops dementia and Noah refuses to leave her side, reading the story of their relationship to her daily in the hopes that she'll remember who he is.
Reality:Even the happiest married couples lose a bit of that starry-eyed glow at some point. (Dinner by candlelight at age 80? We'll be impressed if he makes reservations for date night next week.) But that infatuation is replaced, instead, by long-term companionship, trust, and comfort—and you can still have the hots for each other during retirement. "Some new research shows that couples in their golden years have more passion and sex than they did when they were younger," says marriage therapist Tara Fields, Ph.D., author ofThe Love Fix: Repair and Restore Your Relationship Right Now. "Deep intimacy and passion comes from really feeling safe enough to reveal your authentic self. When you're vulnerable and accepted by your partner, it creates a love—and a sexual passion—that couples just can't have in the beginning." It might seem far away, but it's worth investing in your relationship now to reap the benefits of a loving connection that lasts until, well, death do you part.
The fantasy:Rose plans to run away from her rigid family expectations and start a new life with Jack (before things sadly go awry...).
Reality:Marriage doesn't mean independence from obligations and the ability to jet off to Fiji spontaneously. But instead of feeling like partnership is a ball and chain, remember that it's actually a major gift. No one looks forward to certain kinds of relationship drudgery, like doing yearly taxes and setting the household budget. But thereisa sexy part about it all—the fact that you both love each other enough to slog through it all together. "When you go through life challenges and realize the other has your back and you consciously choose to grow together instead of apart, your relationship is much more likely to last," says Fields. "When you've been there for each other when your child is sick or someone loses their job, it creates a different, more profound kind of passion." It shows a commitment level that's impressive and meaningful, and way cooler than shouting "I'm king of the world!" at the top of your lungs (though we're still not against doing that from time to time).
The fantasy:Edward knows better than Bella when it comes to what's best for her well-being inTwilight, and Christian takes care of Ana financially and lavishes her with gifts inFifty Shades of Grey.
Reality:While it might be fleetingly seductive to imagine being with a super-dominant (not to mention sexy) man, the truth is that no healthy woman wants a marriage with that kind of power imbalance. "We've moved away from rigid gender roles where the man has to be the caretaker, and instead a woman can be strong and able to take care of herself," says Fields. And a survey by Match.com proves it—over half of single men found it attractive when women had high-powered careers, a clear mark of strength and independence. "Women used to give up work for family, and now they [might be] giving up family for work," says Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist for Match.com. So whether you're the primary breadwinner, handle the household bills, or simply take the lead in planning your family activities, know that it's cool to take on an empowered role—as long as it doesn't tip the scales. "Balance is important," says Fisher. "You might get the perfect job, but if you lose your husband, that job may not look so perfect in the long run."
The fantasy:Nick and Elizabeth reunite after their divorce inThe Parent Trap, re-falling in love in a matter of days—and never address the problems that led to their split.
Reality:Love does not, in reality, conquer all—and it's definitely not enough, on its own, to sustain a long-term partnership with kids, careers and, well, life. Marriage involves fights—lots of them—and work to make sure they're done in a healthy way (because let's just admit: they're unavoidable). "If you can use fights as an opportunity to get to know yourself and your mate, and leave your ego behind, then you're fighting in a healthy way," explains Fields. Research suggests that some kinds of fights can actually nurture and improve a marriage, while others can destroy it. In the study, couples who felt free to express their anger in appropriate ways were happier in the long run than those who became defensive, stubborn, whiny or withdrawn during an argument. The point? Rather than brushing your differences under the rug, fight it out—it could bring you and your husband closer together.
The fantasy:Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett marry inPride and Prejudice, but only after botched proposals, countless false rumors and gossip, and numerous social gaffes by friends and family in their circle. Translation: D-R-A-M-A.
Reality:A little drama's normal, especially during courtship and the early years of a marriage, but no relationship can survive on it. In fact, after studying more than 350 couples over a 16-year-period, research shows that when one partner thrives on those music-video-worthy fights (ie: slamming doors, calling names, leaving), the relationship is 46 percent more likely to end in divorce (so basically, the hot makeup sex afterward isn't worth it). Instead, Gandhi says you need to fight constructively, and rely on each other and healthy new activities to keep things spicy. "Do something spontaneous together, get active, or even get scared together from time to time," she says. "Novelty has been shown to build attraction." Another reason to have that regular date night: one study showed that couples who felt bored just a few years into their marriages were less satisfied later than those who regularly kept things interesting. Not sure what to do? Try these 50 fun, drama-free ideas.
The fantasy:That guy you recently met is, well, tempting. And it's just sex, so we're cool.
Reality:There's nothing like falling inlovelust to spark energy and excitement (thanks, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin), but there always comes a time when the chemically-induced butterflies (sounds sexy, we know) turn into been-there-done-that, and that's the moment things get interesting. "Feelings of safety and attachment take the place of those early hormones, and even though seeing his name flash on your phone may not make your heart race like it did when you dated (or were FWB) doesn't mean you're not in love," says Gandhi. In fact, it could just mean that you've graduated to a more meaningful phase of connection that's based on trust, belonging, and real love. Think about it: who do you feel most comfortable with when you're feeling terrible, the first person you want to call with big news, and the one who knows your pet peeves and secret dreams? Him, him, and him. That magical kind of intimacy is worth way more than a few first-kiss butterflies or no-meaning rolls in the hay.
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