The Myth of Ever After

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Does anybody else have a picture like this from college? Mind you, my hand isn’t featured because I’m the one taking the picture. You know, the roommate without a ring on her finger. Photographer Extraordinaire. AKA Fiancé-less. But not for a lack of searching. My platform sandals hit the college pavement in August 1998, ready to run. Radar on full blast. Mission ready.Ever After, here I come!

Three years later and an embarrassing number of failed attempts at falling in love (no wise cracks from any witnesses), my shoes—along with my hope—lost their tread.

If we’re being honest, my feet had been chasing after that dream since I was about ten-years-old. I can blame it on Disney movies or Seventeen magazine or shows like My So Called Life (Jordan Catalano, anyone??). Or maybe God purposely created us with a yearning for love. But regardless of whether that desire is conditioned or designed, somewhere along the way, it became dangerously skewed.

One of my all-time-favorite movies is Ever After. There’s a part where Prince Henry’s wrestling over a source of turmoil we all wrestle with at some point:Is there really someone for everyone? Like THE someone?

“Do you really think there is only one perfect mate? What if the person you’re meant to be with never appears? Or she does, but you’re too distracted to notice? Let’s say God puts two people on earth and they are lucky enough to find one another. But one of them gets hit by lightning. Well, then what? Is that it? Or perchance you meet someone new and marry again. Is that the lady you should be with? Or was it the first? When the two of them are side by side, were they both the one for you and you just met the first one first? Or is the second one supposed to be first? And is everything just chance or are some things meant to be?”

This scene cracks me up. One, because it’s a bit comical to see a guy spiraling through the crazy thought processes that you’d expect from a woman. Two, there’s just something humorous about a guy in tights and puffy sleeves trying to be deep and philosophical. And three, it does such a great job at illuminating the stress we put ourselves through with this pressure of searching for the perfect ONE.

Which brings us to problem #1 with this myth.
How many times do you hear this future someone being referred to as your other half? What does that imply? That something’s missing. That you’re incomplete without him or her. And finding the one will make you whole and will bring you the fulfillment you’ve been waiting for.

Bzzz. Anh-anh. Negative. X times infinity wrong! Talk about pressure. If you go into a relationship with this mindset, that person will always let you down. Even if they long to fulfill you, they’ll ultimately fail. They simply can’t live up to a role that doesn’t belong to them.

Love will not complete you. It will humble you. If we go into a relationship looking for someone to meet a need, instead of a partner to grow with, that relationship will end with the number one justification given for most divorces: “I deserve to be happy.” Because here’s the real translation of that mindset: I went into this thing looking for you to bring me happiness. You failed. I’m bailing and searching for it somewhere else.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The ideal of there being someone out there made just for you is a romantic notion. It’s why we gush over movies and get butterflies on first dates. There’s something captivating about that dopamine-driven, euphoric feeling. And I think it’s a part of love we’re meant to enjoy. But did you catch that? It’s a part, not the whole.

And herein lies problem #2.
We chase after an idealization of only part of the story. We don’t seek a relationship; we seek a feeling. And when that feeling fades, we abandon ship and drown in disillusionment until we find the next life preserver to evoke that feeling again.

Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s a commitment.Love doesn’t usually happen in races through airports to profess your undying love to one another. It’s not always delivered through handwritten songs or dances on the beach under the perfect starlit sky.

Ever After Demystified
You know what love typically looks like? Picking up clothes from the floor and placing them in the hamper because you know it means a lot to your wife. Or snuggling with your husband while watching the super bowl because you know he wants you with him. It’s closing cabinet doors. Shoveling snow. Making dinner. And carving time in the busyness of life to go have coffee together.

Love is a friendship. A journey of growing together, of bringing out the best in each other, and partnering in all God has planned for you together. Is there happiness? Of course. Is there romance? I sure hope so. But if we look to our spouse to be the source of our fulfillment, we’ll miss the joy and contentment of something far more lasting.

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