We’ve likely all been there.
Teen, suddenly insecure about our bodies, our charms, our jokes, the coolness of our preferences.
Because, of course, we entered that phase in our life. The phase where you are ‘looking for the right one’. For ‘your better half’. ‘The one’. ‘The one and only’.
And most people remain in that phase for the rest of their life.
How did we get here? How come, we brilliant, confident, curious, happy and mentally self-sufficient kids grow into needy, validation seeker behavior?
I call it the ‘happily ever after’ hype. It’s what we’ve been subtly fed since four year old, while watching the first cartoons.
The ‘happily ever after’ concept inoculated into our brain as a limiting belief is part of the price we pay for enjoying flashy entertainment.
And it is especially targeted at girls.
The story: Girl sets out into the world, discovers what she is passionate about, works towards that, meets challenges. Meets a possible partner, and they feel attracted to each other.
Now, the age old story, from hundreds of years ago, says that ‘one shall find THE partner and they will get married and live happily ever after’.
Only that society has changed dramatically in the past hundred years. Now, not getting married, will not shun you from society. Having more than one romantic relationship is not only possible, but probable. And very common.
And despite being told since early age that such relationships will grow into ‘and they lived happily ever after’, enough times, people experience distressing ever-afters.
Deciding to end romantic relationships because each of the two people grow into different individuals then they were at the begging becomes the obvious, sane and expected thing to do.
Yet, I see countless situations when, after such a breakup, the woman still feels like she’s missing on her ‘happily ever after’.
And allowing movies to seed such ideas in the unconscious mind, without adding details on the complexities of real life — like: happily ever after is merely one of the many possibilities of how life could unfold. There are so many other situations!
But what’s the problem with looking for ‘happily ever after’? After all, it’s more likely you’re going to find it, if you know what you’re searching for, right?
The unconscious by-product of the entertainment core-scrips is the inoculation of two ideas. One, that you are not enough as an individual. You need to need someone. You need to get approval from someone.
Second, that state of initial ‘bliss’ does not fade. You shall find a partner and he will look at you with deep, watery eyes, well into old age.
In other words, girls are taught that ‘being in love’ is ‘love’. That this feeling will last and should last a lifetime .That love is the initial infatuation, whose chemical effect fades in time (proven: dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine constantly decrease in your brain and that’s what we call ‘no longer in love’).
Well it doesn’t last a lifetime, and beyond the hundreds of examples you and I can think of, it can be also scientifically proven.
We need to tell girls that the state of being in love is not necessarily the goal of a meaningful life.
Yes, that can be the choice for some.
But there is so much more to be discovered in life, when you are being taught, from an young age, to approve of yourself instead of creating a nagging inner voice.
Let’s create stories to tell girls: it’s your freedom and responsibility to make choices for your day, your week, your month and your life (along with the relationships in it), so that you are content with yourself.
Then, you bring yourself as a whole person into a relationship, not a needy, perpetual-validate-me person. And learn how to recognize a partner who is also a whole person.
Let’s share nuggets of wisdom for girls from early on, not just droplets of ‘fun’ and ‘adventure’.
The movie industry won’t do it very soon, but we as parents, teachers and regular people shaping the society, we can do that.
Let’s tell variations of how the story might continue, after the ending scene, with the ‘happily ever after’.
We can find inspiration in the life around us.
How would a real life story sound like? Maybe like this, one of the many examples:
‘So they got married and had beautiful children. She dedicated her days and nights to raising the little ones. In the meantime, she began working little by little, on her dream project, of [any example here: creating a business that helps other people].
And he gradually started disapproving of her. Deep inside, he wanted her loaded with house care tasks, and readily willing to listen to him whenever he had an accomplishment.
He, too, was grown inoculated ideas, about how people fall in love and get married. Then men set out into the world, pursue their dreams and have achievements, women have children (with lifelong work attached) — which makes them both happy and thus, live happily ever after. Because, that’s what women want, right? to marry and have children.
But she was disappointed with him not supporting her. And she gradually began to act in creating a life where her dreams matter too. Where they both share responsibilities for the children and the home, and set apart time and brain space to pursue their passions.
Sometimes, this leads to a harmonious family, with new habits. Most times, though, it arrives at one point with both of them accusing the other one ‘You changed! You’re not like when I met you!’
This it’s not something we should accuse each other. Yes, we change. How can we prepare for that?
Having realistic expectations — that yes, more responsibilities will come. That, yes, from the beginning these should be shared.
That girls should have an education and an income of their own, so they have more options in life.
And that no, it’s not happily ever after for everyone. It’s sometimes overwhelming, frustrating, hard, and sometimes peaceful, sometimes joyful. Not just ‘happily’.
Let’s continue the story after the fairy tale ends, because the less preconceived ideas that life has a ‘happily ever after’ in youth, less disappointment and drama in families, later on.