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When girls are growing up, most of them dream of finding their Prince Charming and living happily ever after. And it really didn’t seem like such a difficult thing to do. In fact, for most girls, it doesn’t even dawn on them that it wouldn’t happen in their lives.

However, as adulthood sets in, somehow that ever-elusive happily ever after seems to keep getting more and more out of our reach. This is not to say that some people don’t find it – they do. But even if you did find your Prince Charming at an age-appropriate time to get married and have children, not everyone actually lives happily ever after. At best, most are lucky if they find satisfactorily ever after. Others find unhappily ever after. And still yet for others, they find single ever after.

So what went wrong? Why is it that most girls and young women dream about their wedding day and living out the rest of their days with the love of their life? Well, the reasons are too many to discuss in one article. So we’ll just cover three.

  1. Fairytales

Many parents in our culture read books to their children – and many of them are fairytales. And unless someone has been living under a rock, they have most likely seen many of the classic Disney movies as well.

happily-ever-after-forest-books-door-treeCinderella and Snow White both found their Prince Charming – and their happily ever after. They even had the odds stacked against them. The Wicked Stepmother (Cinderella) and the Wicked Queen (Snow White) were huge obstacles for them even finding happiness, let alone happily ever after with the man of their dreams.

But, of course, they do! Watching these kinds of movies growing up subconsciously programs us to not only want – but also to expect – that simplistic version of happily ever after will happen for us, too. And when we are bombarded with these messages and expectations from a young age (when we are most susceptible to suggestion), it’s no wonder we all expect ride off into the sunset with our own version of Prince Charming.

  1. Chick Flicks

Most chick flicks are just a Disney fairytale in disguise. For example, let’s take the classic romantic comedy, Pretty Woman. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a billionaire who is in town for a week and hires a prostitute to keep him company while he’s there. At first, it was simply for companionship. But as the movie progresses, they fall in love (of course).

happily-ever-after-chick-flick-woman-at-movie-eating-popcornAt the end of the movie (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it), they seemingly part ways. But just like a Disney movie, the billionaire later realizes that he is in love with the prostitute. So what does he do? He arrives in a while stretch limo (aka White Horse) and save the prostitute from a life of misery (just like Cinderella). He even climbs up the ladder to her apartment to whisk her away into happily ever after.

One interesting thing to point out about this movie is that this ending was not the original one – they were supposed to go their separate ways. But when they showed the movie to a test audience before its release, they all hated the ending. They wanted them to end up together, so the producers of the film actually re-shot a new ending. This is good evidence for people’s expectations of happily ever after (in movies, but probably for themselves too).

And of course, Pretty Woman isn’t the only chick flick that follows this formula. Almost all of them do.

  1. Reality TV Shows

You might think this one is way off base. How can a reality TV show perpetuate happily ever after? True, not all reality TV shows reinforce our desire for everlasting love. So let’s just focus on two shows in particular: The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

happily-ever-after-man-holding-red-rose-woman-walking-beachIf you haven’t seen these, then here is the premise. One man (or woman for The Bachelorette) gets to date 25 women/men and narrow them down to one with whom he/she will live happily ever after.

This is everyone’s ultimate fantasy – to be chosen by one man or one woman out of all those other people to get married and ride off into the sunset with. Everyone wants to feel special and to feel like they found their soul mate. These shows play into that desire perfectly.

The Bachelor has been on the air for a very long time – since 2002, which is a long time for a TV series. And The Bachelor/ette franchise has only grown in popularity ever since, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, the show has had spin-offs such as Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise, where the former contestants come back to try to find their happily ever after once again.

What Does This All Mean?

If you’re a married or single woman over 40 and are thinking to yourself, “Why haven’t I found my happily ever after?”, you are not alone. Most people probably think that other people have found it, so why not them?

We need to realize that the images and storylines of fairytales, chick flicks, and romantic reality TV shows are not always realistic. Easier said than done.

Our logical minds know that love isn’t that easy. But deep in our hearts, we wish it were. And that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep looking for your Prince Charming (or work on your marriage/relationship), you just need to have more realistic expectations. True love isn’t an experience where everything is perfect all the time. Instead, it’s an experience where we make the choice to love imperfect people and help them become the best they can be through the process of loving them.

Happily ever after may not look like you once intended or hoped it would be, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have your own version of it. Life becomes what you believe it to be, and it all starts with your beliefs and attitudes. So keep your chin up, your heart open, and have confidence that we can all live happily after – it just looks different for everyone.

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