What, exactly, does happily ever after mean?
It’s written as the last line of every fairy tale; it has its own acronym – HEA – in the romance writing world, and every English speaking girl and boy has heard it when read a bedtime story.
But what does it really mean? Does HEA happen and then the hero and the heroine NEVER go through another bad moment for the rest of their lives? They live on the wings of their love for evermore, never to have a bad day or a moment that’s not filled with undying bliss?
Does it mean never to grow old and complacent with one another? Never take the other for granted, or become so dependent upon the other that you lose you own identity?
Does the happily ever after take into account how the hero and heroine’s lives are changed forever when they have kids? No longer allowed to sleep through the night because of feeding schedules, diaper changes, midnight upset tummies and bathroom accidents? Not to mention all the childhood illnesses and traumas that come hand in hand with child rearing. And don’t get me started on the teen years.
Does the HEA provide for lost jobs, school tuition bills, mortgages and braces? Aging parents and no health insurance?
I think for me, as a romance reader and writer, the HEA that comes at the end of the story, is not the end of the story, but the beginning of two lives filled with all of the above.
And a lot more.
The easiest way to explain myself is to simply refer to my own life.
When I found my HEA and married the love of my life, we moved away, right away. We were now geographically far from family, friends, secure jobs and the lives we’d made for ourselves where we’d been. Skype hadn’t been invented, and there was no such thing as a cell or mobile phone yet.
No, this wasn’t the Stone Age, just the 80’s.
We were entirely dependent on the two us, alone. Weekly phone calls to family were the norm, but the friends began to wax and wane, too involved in their own lives to devote much time to catching up.
To say I was lonely in the beginning would be to underscore the situation. Hubby was at work all day, while I was looking actively for employment, not an easy feat in a small, rural upper mid-west town.
Many things could have affected our relationship at that time. The isolation, loneliness, dependency on just the other for emotional, spiritual, and varied kinds of support, could have led to a negative outcome for our marriage. The saying “familiarity breeds contempt” has some backbone to it.
But it didn’t because we had each other and knew we only had each other. I’ve always thought that being taken away from family, friends and familiarity could either make or break a young marriage.
It made mine. Totally.
When you have just one person – a person you love without end – in your corner all the way, all day and every day, your HEA can’t help but come true, despite the outside influences that topple into your lives on a continual basis.
You’re forced to talk to one another, lean on the other, seek advice from the other and just plain interact with the other. You must support one another in any way, and every way, possible. In its simplest form, you’ve only got one another. From this, bonds can be tightly formed.
Everlasting bonds. Happily Ever After bonds.
So, when you come to the last page of that romance novel, and the hero and heroine have declared their love and desire to be together for eternity, believe it. Because those kinds of HEA’s do come true. Every day.
And for ordinary people, too, not just fictional characters.