Marriage is No Fairy Tale

 fairy tale wedding

When I got my married my wedding invitation said “At Last…The Fairy Tale Comes True.”

I have this pet peeve about simplistic statements about marriage.  Marriage isn’t simple.  It’s messy, complicated, and full of unexpected surprises of every variety.  It is also joyous and wonderful; but it’s not a fairy tale or a cliche. After 15 years of marriage, I can say that the fairy tales and cliches never come close.

The fairy tales don’t mention the endless laundry, the bathroom habits, or the sometimes unshaven legs; or the emotional toll of the pregnancies, births, and deaths.

When I got my married my wedding invitation said “At Last…The Fairy Tale Comes True.” It had castles and a Princess and a knight in shining armor.  I was finally marrying the man of my dreams.

My knight snores and farts a lot in his sleep.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just saying it’s not exactly courtly behavior. Instead of dancing at the gala ball, I have to get him quickly drunk so he’ll two-step with me at weddings. And I’m not bragging, but in the middle of the night I look more like the old crone with the apple than Snow White.

My knight isn’t exactly in shining armor, just a beat-up Nissan with gold paint.  He doesn’t lift me up over puddles or fight in tournaments in my name. He doesn’t rescue me from dragons.

He has even made me feel like a princess from time to time – and I don’t just mean a sleeping one.

But he has saved me. More times than I can count, he has stood by me, held me up, or wiped my tears. The kind of pain we have survived together is more real and less pretty than anything I ever read about.  Cancer, miscarriages, post-partum depression, funerals…these are just a few of the things that build up a true hero’s strength.  He has even made me feel like a Princess from time to time–and I don’t just mean the sleeping one.

And then there’s the cliche.

A few weeks ago I got an invitation to a wedding that proudly proclaimed “Today I marry my best friend!” It had two little kids holding hands and gazing adoringly at one another. The bride had gushed about the invitations, and how her marriage was going to be “completely joyous”–because she was marrying her best friend too.

Oh no, you aren’t.  And that’s ok.


Fifteen years ago I did NOT marry my best friend. You read that right.

The man I married didn’t know my ups and downs, my neurotic tendencies, and he didn’t know when to just go with them the way a best friend does.

The man I married didn’t know how quiet I get when I’m upset, so he couldn’t badger me to tell him what’s wrong the way a best friend does.

The man I married couldn’t encourage his best friend to write, because he hadn’t yet learned how much I love to do so.

The man I married didn’t know how to hold my hand through heartache, or how to hold my gaze in joy.

We didn’t have kids, so I couldn’t admire the way he protects them, and engages them, and he couldn’t admire the way I do the same.

The man I married didn’t know how to tell me the things that bother him, or how to work through things that bother me.

I had never seen the man I married sing in his off-key voice just to soothe his baby, so I couldn’t completely adore that.

The guy I married didn’t play guitar, so he couldn’t be patient and teach me so we could play together.

The man I married didn’t know that I like to dance, so he couldn’t muster up the courage to dance at least one dance at every wedding just so his best friend could be happy.

The man I married didn’t know how much I love tea, so he didn’t bring me a cup every morning just to be nice.

I didn’t know the man I married liked cheap beer, so I couldn’t tease him about it the way buddies do.

The man I married didn’t know that I like cheap EVERYTHING, because I’m what my father liked to call thrifty.

I didn’t know the guy I married would become Clark Griswold, making each of our family vacations a trip into a magical land.

The guy I married didn’t value my keen sense of direction, not yet having gotten lost so many times in Disneyland.

The man who married me did make me laugh…but he didn’t know the way I can be “air-tickled” and that puns make me giddy the way besties know.

The man I married couldn’t lean on me as much as I lean on him, the way best friends do.

The man I married didn’t know how to share things with me, the deepest secrets that best friends share.

The man I married was not my best friend. He was only a shadow of the man he would become. Today I AM married to my confidante, my love, my best friend. We have spent the last 15 years learning who we are, who we want to become, and what we are together. Every day has not been a joy–but best friends don’t skip out on the rough times.They hold your hand through them, and help you enjoy a nice bottle of wine after all is said and done.

Every day has not been a fairy tale or filled with joy; but it has been worthwhile, passionate, and true.

Photo Credit: Flickr/starrynight_012

About Sandy Roffey

Sandy Roffey is a writer, mother, and former educator. She lives in the Northeast with her coffee-loving husband, two non-conformist teens, and a tyrannical three-year-old. She has studied Anthropology and Early Education, and her writing has been featured on Huffington Post and BlogHer. She is currently writing a novel and blogging about her attempts to keep her sanity after leaving the workforce and managing the kids at


  1. This reminded me so much of my husband – and made me realize just how unfair, never mind unrealistic, my expectations can be. I married him because I never wanted to be without him; he added so much to my already-full life, and I knew we would be each other’s rock through hard times. On top of that, I respect and adore him immensely. Sometimes I forget these things when he forgets to take out the garbage or hold my hand when we go out or seduce me on a regular basis. I printed out two copies of this: one for me to carry and one for him to read. Thank you for such a sweet, gentle reminder!

  2. At first I was taken away by all the things you listed that your husband didn’t know about you and couldn’t be your “best friend” then I got to the end and understood, all those things he is today because only time and experiences will open you up fully to who you are over time. Well Said!

  3. Sandy Roffey says:

    Thank you for the feedback, all. Michael and Kat, in trying to illustrate a point and trying to be amusing/whimsical, I seem to have inadvertently made you feel as if I were attacking other relationships. Instead, what I was trying to point out was that you *do* grow and change in your marriage–it isn’t all flowers and romance. Was I closer to my husband than my other friends? Sure. But still not as close as I am now.

  4. I got the writer’s point as she being tired of cliches and expectations people create when they are getting married. I have seen a ton of those wedding invites that mention “marrying best friends” and “fairy tales coming true”. I do not think she is saying some people do not marry their best friends, but that some people expect that their SO becomes one automatically after marriage even when perhaps they were just dating for less than a year and hardly know each other because they haven’t been really honest.

    Marriage takes work and that is what she is saying; It may take a little more effort to some than others, but it isn’t a fairy tale; and this come from someone who was married and divorced.

  5. I agree with Michael. Some people figure out people are their best friends first, some have to work on it.

    I feel like this author was thoroughly entrenched in society and has had the opportunity to realize that all society does it tell people a load of crap. Many people (actually progressively more it seems like) are able to get to this point before getting married.

    I know it feels like everyone has had the same experience as you. But I can tell you, i’ve talked to your kind before. Your the kind of girl that looks at me and starts a conversation assuming you know everything about me. like: the one time that otherwise practical lady said to me “do you remember planning your own wedding” to try to prove to me that I could be an event planner, to which I said “my mother in law did most of my wedding planning”.

    Don’t think you know people.

    That said. I AM very glad you were able to learn those things and grow into being best friends. It is actually a heartwarming story. 🙂

  6. Just because you had to grow into the best-friend status with your husband, does not mean the other person was indeed not marrying their best friend. After a decade of marriage, my wife and I have proven what we are made of, we have grown and had changes of heart and opinions; some of them bringing us closer, others pulling us apart. But it must be said that when we married 10 years ago, comparing what my next closest friend knew about me to what she knew about me: it was no comparison, my wife knew me better than my own siblings or even my mother, let alone my next closest friend. And I’ve spent the past 10 years proving to her just how much I understood her back then, more so than her next 5 closest friends who all abandoned her. In short: at the time I was married, my wife was indeed my best friend, and I was hers… and we still are.

    So I would thank you kindly for not stuffing us into the mold of your life in future. Just because you learned your story is not unique, doesn’t mean everyone has the same story.


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