Maintaining Happily Ever After

It’s Cinderella’s fault. This idea of happily ever after. She meets her handsome prince, they sing, dance and then ride off into the sunset with the words “And they lived happily ever after” on the movie screen. Every little girl in that theater walks away dreaming of her Prince Charming.

But what happened the next day or the following week? Did Cinderella discover her Prince did not put the cap back on the tooth paste or left his dirty clothes right where he took them off? What if her kindness toward animals resulted in the castle resembling a zoo? What tools did they have in place to navigate the promise of happily ever after?

My Prince arrived in 1986. He wore polyester pants and had a great sense of humor. I was able to look beyond his fashion emergency and appreciate that we could laugh together. I remember the night we were at the beach with a full moon overhead. He bent on one knee and looked me in my eyes and asked “Will you marry me?” I gasped, smiled, threw my arms around him while saying a big “Yes!”

Let happily ever after begin!

That was over 28 years ago and I am grateful to say we are able to live happily ever after, but it has nothing to do with fairy tales and white horses. It is a result of hard work, getting the tools needed to understand one another as well as laughter, and commitment.

With 1 out of 2 marriages ending up in divorce (see our Divorce Healing Counseling services), how does a couple manage to make it work, and enjoy the relationship, not just endure it? I work with couples regularly who come to counseling stating “If this doesn’t work, the next step is divorce court. Please help us.” I reassure them marriages can be repaired, but mending the pain will take time.

There are behavioral tools that can be implemented to help the healing process begin.

  1. Develop a grateful attitude. In our home we take time to notice and praise one another. When I wash the clothes, David speaks his appreciation. David takes care of the trash, I thank him. When relationships are rocky, finding small areas for which one can be grateful is important.
  2. Greet your spouse when he/she comes home. When one of us walks through the door we get up and greet him/her with a smile and words like “You’re home! I’m so happy to see you.” It feels good to be celebrated!
  3. It’s important to learn how to comfort one another. This is one of the techniques taught in counseling.
  4. Each morning ask: “How can I serve my spouse today?”
  5. Compliment your spouse in private and in public.
  6. Humor-commit to laughing together.
  7. Agree to get counseling when you are at an impasse.
  8. Is what you are about to say or do going to set your marriage up for success or for failure?
  9. Make time to go out on dates and make memories.
  10. Ask forgiveness…ask forgiveness…ask forgiveness.

I encourage couples to choose one or two each week to begin implementing in their marriages.

I’m excited! David and I have a dinner date tonight at Cinderella’s castle. If she stops by our table, I’ll take the time to thank her for inspiring David and me to discover how to create “happily ever after” in our relationship. I’m also delighted to report my Prince no longer sports polyester pants, but he still has a great sense of humor.

~ Sandra B. Stanford, LMHC

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