If you still want to believe in the stories you read growing up (& there’s nothing wrong with that by the way), just know this: Happily Ever After is not a Fairy Tale; it’s a Choice.
In my line of work I can take a bit of heat from some World-weary souls who think that because I have chosen the name Happily Ever After for my business, that I am a fantasist.
Which may or may not be true. Let’s be honest, we all have our own version of reality which is comprised of a huge set of beliefs that we have carefully collected, created and curated in our lifetimes. The amount of things that we believe which actually fall under the category of HARD FACTS is very small.
Because, like I always say: Even the Grass isn’t Green if you are colour blind.
The truth is our Worlds are completely our own. We quite literally write our own stories and, what many of us see as ‘Facts’ are actually just points of view at best. And whilst Science may appear to be the Stronghold of Facts, and it loves to quote the data to make itself appear more solid; actually it is not comprised of facts. A huge amount of Scientific theory has results that just fall within a bell curve.
Facts, on the other hand, are absolutes.
So Happily Ever After looks different to all of us. It’s actually deeply personal.
Why? Because what makes you Happy is going to be very different from what makes me happy and, crucially, what makes your partner Happy.
Happily Ever After is a Choice. But it looks different to everybody.
So, full disclosure, I love things like Marmite, Gherkins and Heavy Metal; these are things do make me really bum-wigglingly happy. But I know they are a matter of personal taste. And actually, crucially they do not give me the lasting, soul-filling sense of deep personal satisfaction that comes from true happiness.
So, what is Happiness?
This brings us to a larger question of what Happiness actually is. After all if you are choosing your Happily Ever After, you need to know what you are shooting for, right?
But, by way of comparison, let’s begin with the other bigee that people always want: Money.
It’s fair to say that people have always been interested in money and wealth but, as many a Millionaire has admitted to their chagrin, Money does not buy Happiness. No surprise there then. And of course you may feel that them saying this from the vantage point of their sun-soaked luxury yacht moored just outside Monaco is all well and good.
However, it’s worth remembering that to earn that sort of money takes an incredible amount of hard work and tenacity (unless you are fortunate enough to be born into it) and it must be a real kicker to have slogged away all those years chasing happiness, only to find that it is not actually hidden in that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…
Can’t Buy Me Love
In today’s World, Commercialism is practically a God for many people. We are promised Happiness through acquiring possessions (Note here who is getting richer and who is getting poorer in this equation!); however we instead find ourselves currently in an epidemic of anxiety, stress and depression.
I read a pinpoint meme about this the other day that said something to the effect of:
“Just buying my little $7 coffee to fill the void whilst staring into my little $1000 phone to fill the void. Anyway the void is still empty.”
And of course this is an article about finding your Happily Ever After, not a diatribe about the evils of commercialism but it’s an easy trap to fall into, to believe that Money, in & of itself, will somehow ‘fill you up’.
*Spoiler Alert*: It won’t.
Even the creator of the World’s greatest and most elegant luxury Brand, Coco Chanel, knew that: “The best things in life are free; the second best are very, very expensive.”
I am utterly in agreement with Coco on this point. Love is definitely at the top of my List in life. However, my personal weakness is luxury holidays, hotels & food. And the kinds of places I want to travel to, sleep in and dine at don’t come cheap. So they are an occasional treat. Perhaps because of that, I enjoy every moment of these experiences and I am also profoundly grateful for them.
In fact, I have often wondered if that lifestyle were my norm, Would I love it as much? Would I be as grateful? Would I become someone else?
For Richer, For Poorer
I imagine not, but to illustrate this point, let me take you back to 2013 – the year we became Husband & Wife. When we got married, we chose to do so alone; just the 2 of us, 8000 miles from home on the Big Island of Hawai’i. We blew our budget staying at, what was at the time ranked on Trip Advisor as, the World’s Best Hotel. The Four Seasons Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu was… well words cannot describe it really. It was the hotel that ruined all others for me. It was utterly faultless.
It’s a resort that is the choice of the Hollywood Elite and A listers. The year we went, Beyoncé & Jay Z had stayed, Charlize Theron was pictured hanging out by the pool and Jack Osbourne (son of legend Ozzy), had got married there. But that is not why the place is great. These people stay there because it is great. And absolutely EVERYBODY is treated like an A lister there (which included giving you what you want; giving you things you didn’t even know you wanted and doing it all with absolute courtesy, grace & the utmost respect to your privacy).
Some guests had got the brief wrong though.
The day after we got married, we were hanging out at the Adult Only pool chatting to some other residents and a guest turned up who was loud, demanding and actually if truth be known, shockingly rude. Our experience of the staff there was that they could not be more polite, more helpful, more over-and-above-the-call-of-duty if they tried. However this girl huffed, puffed and complained her over-entitled way around as she right royally disturbed the peace on that glorious Hawaiian afternoon.
Personally, I was thrilled to be there and, even if that was a place in which I could hang out in all the time, I knew I would always treat all the staff with courtesy and respect. After all, it was actually their good graces that ensured I had a wonderful time there. However, I watched this girl with curiosity (& equally a good amount of annoyance) because I couldn’t understand at the time what was motivating her unpleasant behaviour.
The thing is that she could have chosen to be nice, kind and polite towards the staff (which ofc costs nothing – money apparently does not buy happiness OR good manners in her case!). She could have chosen to look at her divine surroundings, take a deep breath in and just be in the moment. She could have chosen to appreciate the fact she currently was setting foot on one of the most magical places on earth and realise that, even if she stayed in places like that all the time, she was still incredibly blessed to live that life.
Instead she chose to be loud, rude and ungrateful; spreading her negative, angry vibes out into the World.
So this begs the question:
What was her experience of that Hotel in comparison to mine?
I imagine not a great one. Could she have chosen to enjoy herself? Well, yes of course she could have. Her ‘anger’ was all about insignificant 1st world problems like her sun lounger not being at the perfect angle or her drink not being quite cold enough. And honestly, most of us would probably think that someone like that needs to just get a grip!
You have a Choice. You ALWAYS have a choice.
The larger point here though is that you always have a choice in how you experience the World. Some people will never just be able to see the blessings in their life; even if their over-entitled bottom is sitting right on them! Other people will see the World with a different filter. A filter which allows them to see all the beauty; all the possibility that surrounds them.
The same is true for your Relationship.
It’s a little known concept that the things we love in other people we love in ourselves. Conversely what we dislike in others, we also dislike in ourselves. Carl Jung was an exponent of this idea of the ‘Shadow Self’. The things that annoy us in others are the things that we cannot, do not, or will not own about ourselves. In this way other people act as our mirrors. Nowhere is this more painfully, brutally true than in your Love Relationship.
So essentially, every time your partner annoys you, essentially they are getting angry with themselves. And vice versa. The behaviours that your partner exhibits that annoy you are actually things that you do not love & acknowledge about yourself.
Ergo: the angrier you are, the more you actually dislike yourself.
So essentially, every time you get annoyed with each other, it’s time to look at that reflection of yourself and consider why this is upsetting you so much.
Reflections & Mirror Images
The way we see things in Relationships is often the cause of most of our relational issues. We quickly forget that the other person is in fact ‘other’ to us. They are a separate entity with entirely different life experiences, values and beliefs.
We ‘expect’ and ‘assume’ a lot but of course our partner is not often in possession of a crystal ball and what you take to be an unwritten rule may actually be a total unknown to them.
The amount of hours that couples across the globe waste annually trying to hash out who is ‘right’ is outrageous. Especially because you 2 are both dealing, not in Facts – as we established earlier, but in Beliefs. Who is ‘right’ is usually a matter of conjecture, memories are famously unreliable and ofc everyone remembers the past differently – that’s why is called HiStory.
But there’s a very simple solution to that particular conundrum:
Agree to Disagree. There is literally no rule anywhere that says that couples must agree. And once you see yourself as what you are: an entirely separate person from your partner, you are free to understand that you 2 can simultaneously hold differing opinions. I know. Radical eh?!
Now of course, how you handle disagreements does have a bearing in whether this works for you. If you cling on to the notion that you are correct and are only giving lip service to the fact they believe something different, then this will not work for you.
You do in fact, need to listen and understand their point of view an an intellectual level. You need to clarify with them exactly what they mean and ensure that you do in fact understand their point of view correctly. Almost as though you are trying to write a non-biased, factual report. Try to take the emotion out of it.
And it is when you begin to takes steps such as this, that you begin to build your Happily Ever After…
Happiness has been defined in many ways over the years, but this is my definition:
“Happiness is when Life aligns with your Expectations.”
Invariably our expectations play a huge part in whether we feel happy in any area of our life. We imagine things will play out in a certain way, only to find that the reality is very different.
Nowhere is this narrative dissonance more true than in Love. The very nature of being ‘in love’ means that, due to a wild hormonal ride that we go on for (on average) about 2 years, we actually don’t see our partners in the cold hard light of day. We see them through rose-tinted glasses. Which is why, at some point you might feel like you experienced some false advertising; that you were ‘sold a lie’; that they are not the person that you originally met; that they have ‘changed’.
In reality, the only thing that has changed is that the hormones have worn off and you are seeing them without distortion, possibly for the first time. Often this new reality feels like a disappointment.
Actually it’s a cruel but necessary sleight of hand by Mother Nature. Because you will invariably end up with someone who feels like they could be your worst nightmare on many levels. However, the magical experience of falling in love will make you overlook these traits. Or at least it will do in the beginning.
This is how your Happily Ever After begins:
Thanks to a combination of naturally occurring hormones in your system, you do start off seeing the beauty and the possibility in your partner. You see the best version of them but you also see them in an almost caricature format. In this state, they become a figure of soaring expectations. The vast proportion of which they have no say in or any hope of living up to.
So if Happiness is when life aligns with your expectations and they actually have no hope whatsoever of living up to the incredibly lofty presuppositions that you have placed upon them, then it’s fair to say you start out in the game of love at a disadvantage.
So I imagine that you think I am going to tell you next to simply lower your expectations…?
Actually I am going to tell you to make them *realistic*.
Why? Because being In Love literally drugs you. So as much as you would not trust your own mind if you’d downed several glasses/bottles of fizz, it’s safe to say that in this respect you should not trust your own expectations of your partner when you are in love.
The feelings of being in love are what has inspired writers, poets, artists and other creatives for centuries. We have all heard the hyperbole of 1000s of love songs, claiming to love another person without end, to the moon and back, forever and a day. Love actively encourages us to exaggerate; To see our partner more as a Superhuman than just plain old human.
And as much as you love them and they are absolutely great, they are simply not a metahuman.
You have to get real – which doesn’t mean lowering expectations. It means going on a fact finding mission to discover all there is to know about them and yourself. And we’re not talking about what their favourite colour or hobby is here. In our Relationship Training we go deep into personality typing, understanding your individual values & needs, as well as really understanding your behaviours too.
This process not only engenders greater understanding and compassion, you also learn why you 2 are so well suited (even despite appearances!) and you uncover so much more to love, admire and respect in that person.
Most of the issues in relationships are triggered by not understanding each other, both on a surface level but also on a much deeper level. With this understanding in place however, you will automatically start to eliminate a huge amount of the expectations that you feel they are currently not living up to. You will know them on a more intuitive level so you are not assuming what they are thinking or doing anymore and this person will finally become aligned with what you expect of them.
This is when your Happily Ever After starts to become a reality.
And Happily Ever After, as well as beig a choice, is something you chose to build and to create.
And this is not without it’s trials.
It’s said that Walt Disney (who is ofc the modern day father of all Happily Ever Afters) was rejected more than 300 times by bankers and financiers for his idea for his Theme Park- which he dubbed’ the Happiest place on Earth’. He was no stranger to adversity though – having been actually Bankrupt once (and extremely close to it several times after); fired from an early job for a ‘lack of creativity’ and suffering a nervous breakdown. It’s said he started drawing as a child as a mental escape from his abusive father and, given this history, it’s little wonder that, only just beneath the surface of a Disney film, lies such a tangible darkness.
Behind the famous Fairy Tale Castle that we all now associate with Disney lay the often grim Reality.
Disney had to have a relentless belief in the face of 100s of knockbacks in order to make his Fairy Take a reality. And the reason I share this with you is that this is much closer to what our understanding of the Fairy Tale needs to be.
Yes, it’s entirely possible to create it but it’s unlikely to come easy or without a fight. In fact as Disney himself said:
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all the troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
I agree with this 100%. My Marriage breakdown was the single most powerful event in my life and it has enabled us to entirely raze our Relationship to the ground and build our very own Happily Ever After. And because we have done that intentionally, we have created something that perfectly suits us and that is the reason we are so happy today.
Sure, I would have loved to have avoided the pain and the heartbreak but wow! So much good has come out of it.
I share this with you because I know that If I can save my Relationship then you can too. Sure it might not be easy and there will definitely be doomsayers along the way who want to see their World in a miserable cynical way. But you don’t have to agree with them! You can choose to believe in Love. Not only that you can choose to believe in the kind of Love that people write songs about and you can believe that that Love can last forever.
Because actually, you can choose to make that a reality.
So to my critics who feel that I don’t understand the realities of life; who think I believe that Love is all you need simply because I still have faith in the dream and that Happily Ever After is an illusion, I say this:
I know as well as most, that life is not all rainbow skittles and giggles. I also know that our time on this earth is short. The thing that we all share is our capacity to Hope and to Love. We ALL want to be Happy. These are not ignoble aims. Neither are they things which hurt other people.
My aim is only ever to validate those people who are Romantics like me. To tell those people that they can have the Fairy Tale and they can have the Epic Love Story they have always wanted but,
just like a real Castle, there’s a whole lot of real-world action that makes that possible.
Personally, I would love to inhabit a world where we all understand that Relationships take Work but that ‘work’ wasn’t such a dirty word in this sentence. That ‘Work’ simply looks like having an open mind to both modern psychology & ancient wisdom and to be open to try new things. I would love it if people would ‘work’ just as hard for a great Relationship as they would to make money because they know that Love will enrich their lives far more than money ever can. Love can actually fill the void.
I’d love people to feel like the Fairy Tale is not a trade off for Reality. That the 2 can co-exist. It’s simply a matter of having the right skills, strategies and knowledge. I’d love to save people the massive hurt and heartbreak that is caused by all the current faulty information that they carry around and to give them new and empowering beliefs that will help them to be wonderfully happy always.
Because there’s nothing wrong with believing in a Happily Ever After.
And if believing in the enduring power of Love and wanting to help other people to experience a life of Happiness with the person they have chosen to be their human; if that makes me a misfit or a rebel then I am absolutely fine with that. I like to see things differently. And you know why?
“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.“
Holly Skey is a Relationship Repair Expert, founder of Happily Ever After and creator of the Happily Ever After Relationship Training programme. She helps people who still want to believe in the Fairy Tale, to fight for their Marriages out in the real world. If you want to drop her a line to talk about Marriage, Marmite or Heavy Metal (amongst other things), you can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s sitting in one of the many turrets of her fabulous castle, just waiting to hear from you 😉