Love as a Choice

By Guest blogger, Dayna Reader

I grew up watching the kind of movies in which couples met, fell in love and lived happily ever after. Love was portrayed as this big, magical feeling; it was out there waiting, you just had to find it and snap it up, and life would be great. I don’t remember seeing a movie that showed these couples dealing with real life issues 2, 10 or 50 years after their Happily Ever After. Try as I might, I can’t imagine Cinderella struggling with post-partum depression or alcoholism, or Prince Charming experiencing job loss or erectile dysfunction. And something tells me that “Belle and The Beast Go to Couples Counseling” or “Snow White Doesn’t Feel Like Having Sex Anymore” wouldn’t sell a lot of tickets.

So we’re raised to search for that perfect fairy tale love, and to believe that loving each other is enough. But loving someone and being successful in a long-term committed relationship are two different things. After 19 years with my own partner, I’ve come to believe that love is necessary, but not sufficient in and of itself to make a relationship last. There was a time in our relationship when, despite the love that existed between us, we just couldn’t connect meaningfully and we found our relationship falling apart. Like many couples, we had our One Big Issue that we couldn’t seem to resolve. So we ended up fighting about it every 6 months or so, which was always incredibly painful for both of us. It took us a long time (and some good therapy) to figure out that on it’s own, all of the love we had for each other wasn’t enough to get us through the really rough spots, or to keep us together. This realization was a huge turning point for us.

Maybe this is what it comes down to: if you’re expecting life and love to be like it is in the fairy tales, you’re going to be disappointed. Falling in love is the beginning, not the end of your story as a couple. Real life intimate relationships that last build on that initial romantic love with friendship, honesty, trust, perseverance, tolerance of each other’s flaws and differences, the ability to see the other person’s perspective as valid (especially when you disagree), the willingness to hold each other up during hard times, the willingness to be vulnerable, and most of all, the choice to continue working on the relationship so that it fulfills both of you for many years.

So if you’re going to stand up together and say “for better or for worse, and ‘til death do us part,” remember what that means. There will be lots and lots of “for better,” but I can guarantee that the “for worse” part will come eventually, and it may come over and over again. That’s when you’ll be called upon to make the choice to hold onto each other. And that choice is much, much bigger than simply loving each other. That choice is everything. That is what Happily Ever After really looks like.

Guest blogger Dayna Reader lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her True Love, 2 great kids and a tabby cat. She’s a full-time Mom, with a part-time private practice as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, specializing in couples counseling. She can be reached at her website or by email at She hopes that you find your genuine Happily Ever After.

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