True Love is Not a Happy Ending

In last week’s blog I mentioned two lies that the world wants you to believe, but I only got around to talking about one of them. I promised that this week I would talk about the other one. This lie is that true love is a happy ending. Well, it’s not.

I don’t mean to sound cynical about love – I’m a big fan of love. But think about any romantic comedy you’ve ever seen. Are you picturing Hugh Grant? OK, now how does the story go? Boy meets girl, girl rebuffs boy, boy pursues girl, girl gives in and falls in love… blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of these movies. Susie and I even went to Notting Hill in search of the Blue Door (found it, too). But the problem is that these stories perpetuate the lie, because they all end at the beginning.

All of these stories end with the couple finally “getting together,” whether that means getting married or whatever, but after all the conflict in the story, the writers want you to believe that all that is over and now it’s going to be smooth sailing. In the case of Notting Hill, the film ends with the couple married, peacefully sitting on a park bench, as though all their troubles are over.

However, anyone who’s been married will tell you that this is just the beginning – and there will be more conflict, more arguments, more “boy says something stupid to girl” or “girl tries to read boy’s mind and misunderstands his intentions” or “boy briefly looks at another girl and gets busted” or… you get the idea. The need for understanding, forgiveness and reconciliation is really just beginning.

A relationship is not like a house – with a house, you build it, and then when it’s done you live in it. But a relationship is never “done.” You never “arrive” at a point where all the conflict is behind you. In fact, a relationship is more like a tree: it’s either growing or it’s dying.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to want a relationship that gives you a sense of security or stability. But the security comes from unconditional love, not from a lack of change. Unconditional love says I will love you if you change, and I will love you if you don’t. But the truth is, staying the same is not really an option. Like I said last week, the world wants you to believe you don’t need to change or grow, and so we may fear change as though it is a loss of something, or some part of ourselves. In reality, we will all change – it’s just a matter of whether we will become more like the people we were created to be, or less like the people we were created to be. In the end, love (like life) is a journey, not a destination.

The truth is, true love is a beginning. And that’s actually good news, because it’s exciting – it’s embarking on a new journey. But real love is also work, because for the relationship to grow, the individuals have to grow – which means we each have to put the other person’s needs ahead of our own.

In Spiritual Blueprint I wrote a paraphrase of I Corinthians 13. I felt that while Paul’s words are great (one might even say… inspired), he puts a lot of what he’s saying in the negative (love is not this, love is not that…). I thought it might be nice to look at it from the positive angle. So my paraphrase goes something like this:

If I can speak eloquently, but use that gift to be hurtful, it is worthless

If I understand human nature and psychology,but use that to manipulate or humiliate, it is worthless

If I am generous toward strangers, but mean to the ones closest to me, I am a hypocrite

If I give so much of myself to things outside the home that there’s nothing left at the end of the day, then all that hard work is for nothing

Love is patient

Love is gentle

Love is trusting, always assuming the best of the other

Love is a servant to the other

Love seeks the best for the other, before the self

Love gives what the other needs, before asserting its own rights

Love always gives the other the benefit of the doubt

Love is forgiving, always willing to forget the mistakes of the past and start again with a clean slate

Love is always truthful

Love sees anything done for the other as a labor of love

Love has a positive attitude and remains optimistic about the future

Love never gives up

When I was a child, I thought everything should be handed to me, and others should do the work for me – I thought love should be easy, and I should be the center of attention

Now that I am an adult, I have to admit that I don’t know everything, I’m not the center of the universe, and love takes work to grow

But at least I know that my efforts will be rewarded, because the love that we build will never die

Thanks for reading my blog!

Jim Papandrea

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About Jim Papandrea

Jim Papandrea is an author, educator, and singer/songwriter. Visit his website at:
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4 Responses to True Love is Not a Happy Ending

  1. Hi Jim,

    Wonderful post! Married life is a journey of the heart, which is a treasuring journey. I like the parable of Jesus from Matthew 13 about the man discovering a treasure buried in the field and selling all he has to buy that field. That’s marriage – a commitment to one’s spouse.

    On the treasuring journey of marriage, I use the analogy of using a L.O.V.E. compass, with the four reference points of direction: Listen, Observe, Value and Express. Always in motion; always a new horizon!

  2. Rob Ayoub says:

    Hi Jim,

    While I understand where you are going with this post, I have to argue your point that true love is a lie. I certainly understand the points about the Hollywood version of true love and sure that’s not reality, but then again – don’t we all have some of that Hollywood in our love journeys with our spouses? I think its part of the journey – those silly, funny moments, the frustrations and the romantic “story” of our love lives is part of it.

    My wife and I have a sign that hangs in our kitchen that reads “And they lived happily ever after…” I had a friend make the same argument to us that you make here – that the sign is unrealistic, what were we thinking, did we believe it, what a load of —-, etc. My wife and I are not naive, but our answer to my friend was essentially “sure, there are going to be tough times, but at the end of it all, we want to be able to say that we lived happily ever after, maybe not perfect, maybe not all the time, but if we can put aside all those nags, imperfections, and challenges, then the sign is true”

    I know there’s people that feel like they don’t have to work at love or marriage and I do agree that is a huge problem. I also believe that without some hope of even a little slice of Hollywood, a marriage is just as doomed to fail. Marriages need some “Awwwww” moments.

    • Hi Rob – thanks for your comments. I’m not saying true love is a lie – I’m saying that the idea that true love is an “ending” is a lie. I completely agree with you about the true love, and even about the living happily ever after – I’d like to think my wife and I are in the process of living happily ever after – but the point is that it’s a process, and not the end of something. Sometimes when I blog I get a bit hyperbolic – I suppose I’m trying to use a bit of satire or even sarcasm to make my point, but the reality is that I am a romantic. And I guess maybe that’s the lesson: if you want to be a romantic, you have to keep at it, and never assume you have been romantic enough to just coast from here on out. My wife and I have made a pact to act like newlyweds forever, because newlyweds go out of their way to serve each other, give each other the benefit of the doubt, etc. The bigger problems come in when you stop doing that. So thanks for your thoughts! – JP

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