Relationships: No Such Thing As A Fairy-Tale Romance

by Jessica Goodwin
Originally Published: 
A red-haired young bride wearing a wedding dress while leaning on a stair handle

I married my high school sweetheart. It sounds so romantic and too good to be true, right? Some people think we have this amazing, serendipitous love story. The Washington Post even wrote about us.

Here’s the short version:

We were friends in high school. I liked him, and I think maybe he liked me too. We attempted a long-distance relationship our freshman year of college. That didn’t work. Fifteen years later, we finally got married. Then we had a baby, and we all lived happily ever after. The end.

The long version is much messier. Those 15 years in between college and marriage? Let’s just say, things have a funny way of working out. Over the years, our lives kind of ran a strange parallel. We both married other people. We were both unhappy. We both ended up getting divorced—all around the same time.

I can’t speak for my husband’s first marriage, but I can tell you about mine. It wasn’t great. I spent almost 10 years with a man who disrespected me, who treated me more like a roommate or a maid than his wife, and who eventually ended up being a husband on paper only. I put up with a lot of crap that I didn’t deserve, and eventually, I’d had it. I ended up walking out before we could make it to our 10-year anniversary.

When my current husband and I reconnected, we were both in the throes of divorce. We knew exactly what each other was going through. We commiserated over each other’s legal stresses. We sympathized over the emotional side effects of divorce. When we discussed our previous relationships, we discovered that we had a lot in common. We hashed out where things went wrong. We didn’t just place the blame on our former spouses. We knew we had to be responsible for our share of the blame, too. And we used that to figure out what we needed to do right the next time around—with each other.

When we announced that we were a couple on Facebook, friends and high school classmates had one of two reactions: They either weren’t surprised in the slightest, or they wondered how the hell we ended up together. No matter what, everyone seemed to chalk it up to fate and “if it’s meant to be…”

I’m sure fate had a little something to do with it, since it took forever for us to finally end up in the right place at the right time in our lives. We marvel at how our story eventually worked out, but my husband and I don’t lament the years that we could have spent together. And we agree that while we have a great marriage now, there’s no such thing as a fairy-tale romance. You have to work at it. Like I said, we used our previous experiences to learn from them.

We communicate. If there’s a problem, we discuss it. If one of us needs something, we ask. If one of us is acting strangely, we get called out for it. If something is bothering one of us, the other one knows it. I still have a hard time opening up, but the truth comes out eventually. I know that I can tell my husband anything.

We’re affectionate. We hold hands. We kiss and cuddle. We say “I love you” multiple times a day. We’ve been married for a few years and we have a kid, but yeah, we’re still cutesy and annoying. Get over it.

We appreciate. Besides saying “I love you” we say something else a lot: “Thank you.” Whether it’s making the bed, running to the store, pouring coffee, or paying bills, no deed goes unrecognized.

We do it. Our sex life didn’t die when the baby was born. Sure, it took a while to get back into the swing of things, but we make sure to keep the fires burning. This might mean having sex at random times of the day while the baby naps, but we don’t care. We’re like two horny teenagers most of the time, so we have fun with it.

We do other stuff, too—concerts, the symphony, winery trips, brunch with friends, whatever. Granted, our schedules have kind of slowed down now that we have a baby, but we still manage to enjoy the time we spend together, even if it’s just laughing over bath time or trying to catch up on back episodes of MasterChef on DVR. Just because we have a kid doesn’t mean we can’t still go shopping or out to dinner. And we bought tickets to a couple concerts next month, so once we get a babysitter all lined up, we’ll be going out and enjoying some “just the two of us” time again!

So, while some people think my husband and I have this wonderful love story, we know that it takes a whole lot more than just fate for a relationship to work out. It takes damn hard work to live happily ever after.

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