By June, I was exhausted from the heartbreak of losing Nala and the inner turmoil of questioning if we were doing the right thing by moving forward with the wedding.

The emotional wounds were still fresh, but the deposits to the wedding vendors were paid.

I told myself, “If I can’t commit to a lifetime with him during our lowest point, then I shouldn’t commit at all.”

Every day for seven years Evan and I chose to be together – and on June 23, 2018, we agreed to all of our future days in advance.

Marrying someone when you’ve been with them for 7 years (living with them for 6) is very different than marrying someone after 1 or 2 years. I would have married him that early on and I would have smiled with the blissful ignorance of a child waiting for Santa’s presents; but here’s the thing –choosing to be grateful for what is real is far better than believing in a fairytale.

Growing up, I never dreamt of my wedding day, but I did dream of my prince charming, my soul mate, the one person in the world that would “get” me and think I was the best human being in the world.

When I daydreamed of what my soul mate would be like, I always thought of how they’d make me feel, but I never thought of how I’d make them feel.

After a lot of failed relationships, I’ve learned that you only get what you giveyou can’t expect someone to be everything you need without also trying to be everything they need, and neither of you can be everything, and that’s OK!

I’ve had a lot of great examples of successful loving relationships; my sister and her husband, my mom and stepdad, my grandpa and grandma, and Jay and Bryan (who starred in my documentary The Right To Love) are just a few examples.

People would ask my mom, “What is the secret to a happy marriage?” and my mom would always playfully but very seriously answer with, “Low expectations.”

This may sound like the most pessimistic view on love and marriage you’ve ever heard, but the more you apply this logic, the more it makes sense.

Placing unrealistically high expectations on the other person makes them just as doomed for failure as placing unrealistically high expectations on yourself.

If loving yourself is conditional, meaning you only love yourself if you fulfill a subjective expectation, then you don’t really love yourself. The same goes for your significant other. If loving them is conditional and based on them reaching some idealized expectation, then you don’t really love them. You also probably shouldn’t marry them, because how can you commit to being with them for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health?

I guess that’s why they say “you have to learn to love yourself before you can love another” (who says that? I have no idea… but people should say that!).

For my husband and me, our low expectations for each other are:

–       Always do your best to do the right thing

–       Be considerate of others

–       Always strive to improve upon yourself

Those guidelines are broad enough to encompass other good rules to live by, like don’t go to bed angry, always communicate, give each other the benefit of the doubt, etc… but ultimately, respect each other.

And one more thing… because I was a sappy and sensitive child, every movie I watched repeatedly as a kid was about love. The Notebook, Grease, A Walk To Remember, Love Actually, Sleepless In Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, While You Were Sleeping, Titanic, 10 Things I Hate About You, Dirty Dancing, Princess Bride, Romeo + Juliet, Notting Hill… they’re all about love and they’re all messy love stories!

An idealistic (and foolish) mind focuses on the Happily Ever After and ignores the messy, but every great love story is messy. The only perfect part is the love that makes those two people battle the odds to be together.

So, to all of you “seeking Mr./Mrs. Right”: when you let go of the fairytale, you’ll find your Happily Ever After.

My $1+ Patrons and PayPal subscribers will get early access to the video of our original wedding vows/ wedding letters.

Engagement and wedding photographs by Taralynn Lawton Photography