I have a confession to make:
I love fairy tales.
I take comfort in their predictability and guaranteed happy ending. Its the same reason I love happy music and smutty novels: escape from this crazy sexy ride we’re on called life. That’s why last week found me hauling it to the opposite end of NYC to catch an afternoon screening of Into the Woods. Well, that and discounted movie tickets to be precise. 😉 While watching I found myself surprised by some atypical fairy tale character behavior and the awesome lessons it had for creating your fairy tale relationship.
My love for ITW runs deep. In fact, it was was my musical of choice during the summer of 2007. I was taking summer classes and that was the soundtrack that fueled long commutes and late nights. On more than one occasion I got caught having a dance party in the parking lot as I belted out one last song before heading to class. Please note: I am as tone-deaf as they come so this never sounded pretty.
I’m still not 100% sure I know what a rutabaga looks like but I can sing every word to the entire 14+ minute prologue. I loved it that much. And yes, I was that girl in the movie theatre singing and dancing along. Isn’t that what you do at musicals?
As I watched the movie, and despite being overly familiar with all the music, I was struck by some of the interactions between couples. Spoiler alert from here until the end of the movie. For instance, Prince Charming cheats on Cinderalla who of course finds out from her bird friends. What impressed me was how the character handled it: by talking about it and ultimately deciding they didn’t belong together. The scene was a blip in the movie, one you could easily miss, but it stood out to me as so important. Two adults actually discussing how they weren’t getting what they needed out of the relationship and making the difficult decision to end things there? Let’s see more of that!
Another scene focuses how the baker and his wife’s adventure in ‘the wood’ has helped them to grow, independently and as a couple. They’re more confident now and trusting of each other. They see how together they can do things they couldn’t do alone. Of course they talk—er, sing—about it. Yes that talking thing again. Keep it coming!
Way to go Stephen Sondheim. Way to go.
If you’re getting the idea that ITW isn’t your typical fairy tale, you’d be right. The story goes beyond the happy ending we know (and love…just me?) and adds its own twist. Ultimately, it takes the characters to a different happy ending, one that looks and feels nothing like you’d expect. That’s the point.
Life is constantly going to throw twists and turns and wolves and witches and giants in your path. Your relationship will be challenged. Your happy ending might not look like you expected. You might have to have the tough conversations or go totally outside the comfort zone. You might have to make the decision you don’t really want to make. There may be cures and scary times and tears. That’s all ok and it doesn’t mean your happy ending it isn’t possible or that you don’t deserve it—you do, 100%.
Let me say that again: you deserve your happy ending.
This leads to two major take aways for your relationship.
- Be open to the fact that you happy ending might look differently. This can be taken in a couple of ways. First, your happy ending might look different than society tells you it should. Remember though — its yours and yours alone. Take some time to turn inward and figure out what will truly bring you happiness. Secondly, it might look different than you plan. In the movie, for example, the baker loses his wife but gains the family he never had + confidence as a parent. You know what you want yours to look like but keep an open mind that something different could also get you there.
- Have hope that your happy ending will come. If you’re struggling with some aspect of your relationship, don’t just give up or stop trying. Relationships take work and sometimes you need to think creatively. What is it that you need to get your happy ending and how can you get this need met? Is there an alternative to the need that will fulfill you? This process can be difficult, I know. It might bring up some truths you aren’t super happy to face. It might make you question things. It might lead to major changes. Breathe deep and remind yourself of #1. This quote from Your Inner Pilot Light that illustrates this concept so well:
Be willing to let you love land flat if someone is unable to receive it, understanding that their lack of receptivity is not a rejection of you but rather an inability to receive love, usually stemming from a deep underlying sense of unworthiness. But also be willing to have your love embraced. Be willing to make someone’s day. Be willing to hear laughter and see upturned smiles. Be willing to see tears and to feel fears on your own face, because every single one of us craves love and belonging and way too many of us aren’t getting enough…
Underneath all the relationship tropes and gender stereotypes, the non-existent “twists” and predictable plots, fairy tales are about one thing and one thing only:
The most powerful magic of all.
Your Partner in Passion,
P.S. Chris Pine can sing and sing well. It was amazing.