Is the happily ever after an obvious consequence of being in love? All romances start on a thrilling note – those butterflies in the stomach, that lovelorn look, the light touches and the excitement of getting to know the other person. All the sweet little things seem to be leading towards your happily ever after. But soon, the thrill of pursuit is over.
Most of the firsts of romance are over — the first skip of the heartbeat, the first exchange of secret glances, the first holding of hands, the first declaration of love, the first kiss, the first lovemaking! We have what we had been chasing. The magic slowly dies and we are left wondering: is this is the happily ever after we had been dreaming about.
After The First Rush Of Love, Comes The Comfort
Now, we have unfettered access to the other – both emotional and physical, our first desires have been satiated, and since we have vowed commitment to each other, we are certain of the access in the future too. We naturally think we will only progress toward the happily ever after. But something is different. The comfort makes us a little laid-back.
The charm of opening our intimate space to the other and the privilege of being in another’s intimate space has lost novelty. We are no longer dying to know his favorite dish or song, no longer apprehensive about her likes and dislikes, or curious about what hurt her in the past or whom he was closest to. Our beloved reciprocates our un-frenzied state.
The edge has waned, and with it, the anxiety and uncertainty and the chemical rush of being on that edge. We may call it maturity — or finding comfort and peace with one another — but in a very real sense, we feel blasé about it. Besides, falling in love too fast had meant merging, and now that merging has run its course.
How To Sustain The Happily Ever After?
Sometimes, the ‘unmerging’ that follows falling out of love, is ego-shattering and often traumatic. A happily ever after may not be in the books for your relationship.
But addicted to the stupor, to the charming state of feeling alive from our very core, we long for the feeling and unwillingly blame either the other or ourselves for the fizzed-out romance. What we had overlooked in the romance stage now bothers us; the very qualities that had appealed to us may now turn into irritants; what we had seen as the other’s simplicity may now seem boring; what we had earlier perceived as perfectionism may now seem nagging; the extrovert now seems aggressive; the quiet listener, closed and aloof. Exasperated, we ask, ‘Are you really the person I fell in love with?’
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Just as they were not Prince Charming, to begin with, they do not really turn into frogs when the chemical cocktail’s effects subside.
Romantic love is notoriously precarious—obsessive, erratic, consuming, fleeting, exhilarating, depressing. Once requited, it can slip easily into boredom.
It craves security and possession of the beloved, yet when this very craving finds fulfillment, the situation may seem stifling with time! So it might make you question repeatedly, is there a happily ever after?
In all other relationships (where romantic love is not at play), emotions and intensity are allowed to wax and wane. Though never comfortable or pleasant for the one at the receiving end, it is accepted without much fuss and chaos.
But in romantic love, these phases are taken as aberrations and appear as chaos. A friend wrote, ‘Why does (love) have to be irrational and like a drug-induced high…all grand and emphasized through every action and thought…why can’t it be allowed to be a little passive…allowed to wane a bit at times…why can’t you just like someone you love sometimes without wanting to get into their heads…without expecting them to fire you up every time without fail.’
The attraction between couples typically wanes after two years, yet television, movies and magazines actively encourage the notion that fading romance and boredom is a sign of a failed relationship. Mass media brainwashes us with unrealistic portrayals of romantic love contributing to the construction of impossible expectations.
The glorification of romance as never-ending, glamorous and fulfilling is repeatedly reinforced via innumerable mediums. Many industries and businesses depend on it — the fashion industry, health and wellness, television shows, music, literature, and of course, Bollywood!
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A ubiquitous feature of Bollywood cinema is happy endings, the perfect happily ever after — concluding a film with the union of a romantic couple. Besides, they oversimplify the process of falling in love and revalidate this eternal ideal forcing us to think that it could and should be achieved.
Deepak Kashyap, counseling psychologist and a certified life-skills trainer with a private practice in Mumbai, said to me during an interview, “What ruins romance is when you try to convert it into a three-hour Bollywood movie. Any book, any movie, any webcast is time-bound, and real life is long and boring. When you pack life of three decades into a three-hour movie, you are expecting something different. And when your expectations are not fulfilled, you either attack yourself, others, or life.”
Where has my happily ever after gone?
Social media — Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc. — with their ubiquitous posts and exchanges have massively propagated the myth of romantic love. What does not get posted are the affairs, the ugly fights, the dinners without having exchanged any words, and other deeper and everyday issues. I have always felt that what we see on social media is mostly half-truths.
Dr Rajan Bhonsle says, “So-called happy marriages are not really that happy. They look good on FB. They appear happy at parties, and you think they are happy. A happily ever after is only a constructed reality. I stay in an elite area, Cuff Parade in Mumbai. Most of the couples in my area have come to me, socially, as neighbors or with their issues.
“On the outside, they appear great but all of them have serious issues and relationship arguments. Well, we hide it because everyone need not know. Just like when you have an illness you do not go about telling it to others but consult a doctor. So they come to me. For a long time, I would think, ‘They seemed so good together’. I see a totally different side. But to others, they still seem perfect. I always tell my clients, don’t be fooled by other projections of their perfect married life. Everyone has issues, they are just good at hiding them!”
Another therapist, Salony Priya, based in Kolkata, specializing in marital therapy said, “I can say with some amount of experience that the happy-in-front-of-others couples form the majority in our society. On the face, you will not suspect a thing. They go to clubs, parties, lunches and dinners, host beautiful evenings, and have impeccable manners with the guests and each other. You would say, ‘What a nice happy couple’. But in reality, their husband-and-wife relationship has been over for years. Many even sleep in separate bedrooms.”
Yet there is real mettle to the relationship that has survived decades. It is in the small and big compromises that the couple makes a day in and day out. It is in the letting go and holding on. It is in standing strong when the other is enfeebled—and often switching places. And certainly, there is no cause for public display of marital issues! It is our own foolishness that we get swayed by the images people generally project.
This is an excerpt from the book Chaos: In Romance, Sexuality and Fidelity by Raksha Bharadia, published by Rupa Publications.