Happily Ever After – 6/28/2007
(appearing in the online version of Foschini Club Magazine)
Afraid that you’ll never find Prince Charming? Relax – you’re probably better off without him, says Lee Horn, who advises you to forget romantic fantasy, and make your own happiness. Remember the moment in Shrek when Princess Fiona’s long-awaited fantasy suitor, handsome Lord Farquar, dismounts from his horse – and she discovers he stands only waist high? His height, however, is the least of his, um… shortcomings. He’s cold, arrogant and out to use her for his own selfish ends.
Real love, the type of which happy-ever-after endings are made, comes in unlikely forms. And in fact, the great green ogre Shrek has qualities relationship counsellors say we should all look for in a life-partner. "Too many people marry with impossible ideals," says Zama Mabaso, Durban director of the Family and Marriage Society of SA. "One in three marriages now end in divorce, and our happiness, and that of any children we may have, is at stake. We owe it to them to marry only if we understand it will be forever." And this usually means dropping Prince carming for an everyday ogre who truly cherishes you and wants to settle down, and is prepared to throw himself into the unromantic realities of domestic life. So how do you find your ogre?
1. DECIDE WHAT YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT
Fiona thinks she wants someone handsome and gallant, and discovers what she really wants is someone warm, trustworthy, deeply-caring and fun. American dating coach Ronnie Ann Ryan recommends making a list of five "must-have" qualities, and measuring potential partners against them. Her own list, which netted her "Mr Right-for-me" (as close as we can ever really get to perfection), included:
* Someone with a good heart who is generous, kind, honest and ready for love.
* Someone who really wants to spend time with you and be in a relationship, and treats you well.
* Someone you can talk to and share ideas with openly.
* Someone with enough common interests that you can enjoy doing things together.
* Someone who adds to your life.
"Let go of perfection," she advises, "and increase your chances for finding a good partner who’ll make you happy over the long run."
2. BUILD FRIENDSHIP AND MUTUAL RESPECT
Shrek and Fiona’s love blooms only after they endure a number of hardships and adventures together, and discover they have similar ideals and backgrounds, and enjoy similar things. Their growing mutual admiration and respect is palpable, and it turns them into a team, each giving the other support whenever it’s needed. "It’s important to separate understanding and respect from agreement," says Durban psychologist Patrick Button. "You can’t feel secure or loved if you feel misunderstood, but you can be secure and feel close to someone who disagrees with you."
3. COMMUNICATE AND COMPROMISE
"For two people to stay together long-term," says Patrick, "they must be able to resolve their natural differences, confront issues, and find ways to handle the negative emotions that inevitably arise." Early in Shrek’s relationship with Fiona, he overhears her making what he thinks are hurtful remarks about him. When they bring themselves to discuss this openly, they clear up what turns out to be simply a misunderstanding, and are drawn closer than ever. Being able to talk out problems honestly, calmly and without interruption, is the key to negotiating a healthy compromise, say Leslie Whitaker and Elizabeth Austin in The Good Girl’s Guide To Negotiating (Little Brown & Co).
4. WATCH THE DETAILS
While it’s useful to be on the same page with your man in terms of major issues like religious beliefs and your attitudes to finances, it’s the smaller things that really count. Like being able to laugh together and constantly expressing your appreciation for each other in small ways, even just a passing squeeze or a special look. "It’s appreciation that makes lasting love possible," says counsellor and author Gary Smalley. The right relationship will make you feel good about yourself, relaxed and confident. Happily married couples express gratitude often, praise each other’s efforts, and are patient with faults. And they share their own little weaknesses, trusting their partner to protect their vulnerability. They know that nobody’s perfect – but that we can all find someone with whom we, personally, can find something pretty darned close to perfection. It’s called real love. So he’s fat and green with protruding tubular ears but a heart of gold? Go get him, princess!