Happily…Maybe…After?

I currently have a running argument with my best friend. She loves “Beauty and the Beast” (Disney’s cartoon version). In her mind, Beauty and the Beast is a story about hope. Its message is compassion. As she puts it…we all have a beast within us. We all hide our vulnerabilities behind a shield. All it takes is one person to show us a little patience and love to invite us out of our fur-covered shell and show ourselves as we really are.

I see an altogether different story. I see a message folded in a bottle and thrown toward little girls everywhere. Do not worry, little girl. If you find yourself falling in love with a man who is emotionally unavailable, ill-tempered, and spoiled…all you need to do is love him enough and he will transform into a prince.

He may have cheated on all the women before you…but you will be the exception.

He may growl at you for things that may or may not be worth fussing over…but all you need do is be patient, and the storm of his temper will eventually give way to Spring.

He may swear he doesn’t deserve you. But he does. You just need to insist on it. Show him. Prove it to him.

I definitely like my friend’s version better…I just happen to believe my version more.

So when I stumbled upon it amongst the “free movie” selection on Xfinity…I thought “why not?” And I made a point to watch it with as open a mind as I could muster.

As I watched it, I observed how my system responded. My emotions rose and fell on cue. I hated Gaston right along with Belle. I warmed to the beast beside her. And I felt her exhilaration and delight the moment the spell was broken.

Of course I did. I’m a highly sensitive person. We HSP want nothing more than to believe love can conquer all and compassion will win the day. It’s a lovely quality. At least…I think so. But it can manifest in a multitude of ways (and some of them are dark). For example…highly sensitive people tend to be empathic. So it would seem natural to imagine that they might attract (and be attracted to) those who might have low self-esteem or who might be suffering from emotional pain. In extreme cases, it could involve falling in love with someone who has a personality disorder such as narcissism. 

We want to go deep and connect. So when another person is willing to be vulnerable with us and share their fears and struggles….they may as well have injected us with a hard dose of love potion #9.

But leaving aside all that…I think my real problem with the story of Beauty and the Beast is the same problem I have with most fairytales. I don’t think I believe in happily ever after. At least…I don’t believe in it the way Disney’s classics and romance novels in the supermarket invite me to.

We live in a world that tells us we need to find our “one.” We need to find a relationship that is intellectually simulating, emotionally satisfying, and sexually explosive. We need to find a mate who will be our best friend, our lover, our confidante. He or she must be attractive, intelligent, adventurous, romantic…and of course…must have a good sense of humor.

And they must remain that way…forever after. 

But no pressure. I mean…there’s over 7 billion people on the planet, which means you’ve got to sift through a whole lotta needles to find your one stick of hay (and if you don’t find it, you…of course…cannot be complete because you are only one half of a larger whole that will only ever be integrated once you find your significant other) but no worries! You’ve got this!

Don’t worry…I’m not such a cynic that I don’t believe in love. Of course I do. As I write this, I’m in a relationship with a man I love very much.

But he doesn’t always think of me as a beauty. And there are plenty of times I don’t see him as a prince charming.

Does that mean we didn’t find “the one.”

Or does happiness only come maybe after….after both people give up the idea of finding someone “perfect” and instead look for something real? Or, perhaps we should try living happily…maybe….after we let go of any attachment to finding a mate in the first place.

According to Elaine Aron, love is particularly complicated for highly sensitive people. They tend to be, on the whole, less happy in their relationships. Oh joy.

She writes:

“HSPs have nervous systems that pick up more on subtleties in the world and reflect on them deeply. That means, for starters, that they will tend to demand more depth in their relationships in order to be satisfied; see more threatening consequences in their partners’ flaws or behaviors; reflect more and, if the signs indicate it, worry about how things are going.”

So…then…for highly sensitive people…happiness with a partner can be particularly challenging because we are spending so much time teasing out the details that our overactive little nervous systems are picking up. Every nuance is detected on our radar. Every reading worth scrutinizing.

Does that make highly sensitive people too demanding? Does it mean we won’t ever find long-lasting love? Is it a problem if the answer to both of those questions is “yes?”

If you identify as being a highly sensitive person…what are your thoughts about the notion of a “happily ever after”?

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