Happily-ever-after is for fairy tales – and fairy tales are bullshit.
When you’ve been through relationship after relationship, each time fervently hoping that this one will be the one – the one that’s really truly right, the one that lasts forever – and each time slowly coming to the bitter realization that no, it’s not going to work out this time, either, it’s easy to start making a list of all the things you’ll look for next time; all the ways that the one will be different.
When it’s the right one, we’ll never have a huge fight over nothing. I’ll never storm out the door in a huff and feel embarrassed afterward. He’ll never say something that hurts my feelings – or if he does, he’ll realize right away and say how sorry he is, and I’ll know he really means it. I’ll never be irrationally jealous of his exes, or stalk his old social media posts searching for a photo or comment that will make my stomach drop. He’ll never hide anything from me. I’ll never bitch about him to my girlfriends. He’ll never snap at me and make me cry. I’ll never look at him and wonder, ‘what the hell am I doing with this person?’ He’ll never let me down.
The right one will always deflect a fight by making me laugh. He’ll always chase after me if I run away. He’ll always kiss me at the exact moment I want to be kissed, always hold my hand, always want to have sex when I do. I’ll always be kind to him. We’ll always be patient with each other, and gentle with each other’s feelings. He’ll always tell me how he’s feeling and be willing to listen to me talk about my feelings. I’ll always be absolutely sure he’s the one. He’ll always think I’m adorable, even when I’m PMSing and behind on a deadline and on the verge of a panic attack. I’ll know I can always trust him. We’ll just click, because we’re so good together, so in tune with each other, so perfect for each other.
This, of course, is complete and utter bullshit.
The truth is, any number of my serious relationships could have been the one. Almost every time I’ve been head over heels, there was overwhelming passion, plenty of potential, and no issue so terrible that it couldn’t have been overcome.
The problem was that in every case, one or both of us didn’t want to overcome our problems. Our mutual desire to stick it out and make it work wasn’t enough to work through whatever it was that made our relationship toxic. Some things might have been easy to work through with the help of a good therapist; others would have been tougher to tackle. Alcoholism, depression, poor communication skills, narcissism, immaturity, and just plain bad timing – I’ve had relationships done in by some combination of all of these. My friends tell me I have a thing for guys with issues; I think I’m just a sucker for a good fixer-upper.
Because here’s the thing: long-term relationships suck. All of them – even the very best ones.
The perfect person for you will also be the person who knows you well enough to hurt you like no one else can. They’ll cut you to the bone with a casual remark, or even a glance. They’ll disappoint you. You’ll have screaming fights in the street. You’ll look at him and wonder how you ever could have thought you loved him. He’ll say something so terrible, you’ll be sure you can never forgive him. You’ll get sick of each other. You’ll drive each other insane, rip open each other’s old wounds, struggle to forgive each other, decide you’re with the wrong person, go to bed furious – and then wake up in the morning and look at each other and decide to keep on trying, because you love each other. And love is worth it.
The person you need to be in a relationship with is the person who understands that you’re going to hate each other sometimes. The person who knows he isn’t perfect, and doesn’t expect you to be perfect either. The person who knows there’s no such thing as happily-ever-after. The fairy tale we’ve been sold all our lives doesn’t exist. And if it did, let’s be honest: it’d be pretty boring. What is even supposed to happen after the credits roll?
Of course, some couples are more compatible than others, and some people truly shouldn’t be together. But if you want to find lasting, passionate, fulfilling love, you’d better be ready to wade through some shit – no matter how great your partner is, and how good you are together. Because even two people who are a ‘perfect’ match – maybe especially two people who are a perfect match – are going to find themselves questioning whether they were meant to be at some point. They’re going to have terrible fights and hate each other. They’re going to have moments when they wish they’d never met.
And if they’re both committed to doing whatever they have to do to make it work, it’s going to be the most amazing thing that ever happened to either of them.
Images via tumblr and bravotv
Comment: Do you agree that love is hard work, and all relationships suck sometimes?
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Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn with two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.