It was official. Another marriage had come undone. What began with love, laughter and promises of forever, ended in resentment, frustration and a restraining order. What followed were petty accusations and tales of stolen dreams.
I’ve seen it all before, so I can’t say that I was surprised. Others were in a state of disbelief. After all, we had known the husband for years. How did he go from being a loving and responsible husband and father, to being a worthless bum and a loser? Why was our friend now choosing to paint such a horrible picture of her husband now that the marriage was ending? As friends, we were all there to support her in the transition. After all, life for her and her children had been forever changed; and that change was accompanied by a pretty substantial amount of stress and drama. But something in her limited accounting of events didn’t quite add up. Something was missing from the story she told. There were just too many holes. Things had gone from perfection to complete ruin in a matter of months. No one dared to ask, though. No one wanted to appear unsympathetic, and our dear friend invited no unsolicited questions or comments.
What we did know is that her husband had lost his job about a year earlier and that our friend had become increasingly frustrated by the financial strain his lack of income had created. She began to speak of her husband, not in loving terms as she had in the past, but as a loafer, a leech and someone who was living off of “her” money. In times of plenty, they had been “we”; they were a team. They were inseparable. They were strong. But in the lean times, the “we” had become “I”, “me” and “mine”. The mere mention of his name, which used to inspire a soft smile to play across her lips, was now cause for eye rolls and teeth sucking. And while it had been perfectly acceptable to discuss the pleasant and often exciting details of their relationship in happier times, it was clear that that we were not to dig too deeply into the reasons she now gave for her decision to quickly jettison her marriage. “Why do women do that?!” another friend asked in frustration as we stared at the rather large pink elephant sitting in the middle of the room of that demised relationship. My response? “Blame Cinderella.”
As grown up as we like to think that we are, far too many of us remain little girls seeking that fairytale ending. We hope to find our prince, get married and become a princess. We have a vision in our minds about how it will all play out and we are fine as long as our lives closely follow the Disney formula. But nowhere in that childhood fairytale did we read about a jobless prince, too many bills, and disappointments. Nowhere in the story was Cinderella ever confronted with the possibility that she might someday leave the castle with no prince, an empty back account, and bad credit. There was nothing written about her returning home in shame to that wicked stepmother and those evil stepsisters. Cinderella, after marrying her prince, lives happily ever after. End of story.
But life is not a fairytale and we are not Cinderella. We are real women, living real lives and experiencing real situations. There is no failure, no shame and no defeat. There is only life. And perhaps our goal should not be to achieve the fairytale, but to face life’s inevitable challenges with grace; understanding that we alone create our own stories and our own happy endings.