The fairy tales promised “happily ever after.”  But in today’s society happily oftentimes comes after the divorce settlement.  In reality, ideal love — love that is unconditional — is one in which you love someone from the bottom of your heart despite behavior, actions or even qualities. However, the world of love is often entwined with happiness.

Little girls were raised to believe that someday our prince would come. Indeed for Cinderella, she found her dream when Prince Charming slipped her foot into the glass slipper.  Then there was Snow White who was awakened by the kiss of her Prince — who, as the tale goes, was destined to find her. And they too lived happily ever after.

The 3 problems of "happily"

1. If you loved me: Too often we find ourselves saying: “If you loved me you would . . . (remember my birthday; make plans for our anniversary; send me flowers for no reason at all).”  In reality the message is this: “If you do these things for me, then I will be happy.”

There are two questions to ask here. Will little gestures and remembrances really make you happy? If so then why not tactfully or playfully remind your guy in advance?

Here lies the problem. We expect men to think like  women. And they don’t. Male companions, lovers and spouses rarely come with a degree in "Romantic" and those who do are keepers.

2. Mind reading:  We want men who intuitively know what it is that we want. One of my favorite interviews was with a young man who complained of  “sexual shutout in hidden agenda hell.” He said, “She wants me to read her mind. I tell her: ‘Look, you see this car manual. It shows you where the problem is so you can repair it. Pretend I’m a car. Tell me what you need and I’ll try to fix it.’ ”

Now here is the Catch-22 of “If you loved me.” A couple may seek therapy because this is the man’s way to prove love to his wife, who often repeats, “You never do anything right.”

David M. Allen, M.D., who writes A Matter of Personality for Psychology Today, is a professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee .  He tells me:

“Such a man might think he is supposed to take her statement as an instruction on what she wants or needs from him.

“I try to look at a couple from the standpoint of their family-of-origin. A possible scenario about her family would be that she has to be married to an incompetent man because for some reason her parents would feel threatened if her marriage were happier.”

A point to consider — if her husband changes and becomes more independent, he upsets the dynamic, leaving his wife unable to cope. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

3. Lack of focus: Here is a thought regarding wishes and the photographic process.  To get a clear picture one needs to focus.  Most of today’s cameras do that for us.  But in the days before technology, if we moved, even slightly, the photo would be blurred. If we are blurry or unclear is letting our partner know what it is that we want --   they will only see a blurred picture.  And this works both ways.

The secret to happiness

Think about “If you loved me,” and “Mind reading” and “Clear focus” before you decide that your Prince doesn’t understand the concept of happily every after. In essence this is all about communication. Instead of the “we need to talk” conversation, how about suggesting the “happiness” talk?  Ask each other “What would make you really happy today?” Then let the dialogue begin.

Copyright 2012 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved/  on Twitter @ LoveColumnist

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