The other day, while reading The Paper Bag Princess, and Amelia Bedelia ,to my granddaughter, I realized that these children's books contain a couple of valuable relationship nuggets.
Relationship nugget #1 is from The Paper Bag Princess. It’s DON'T MARRY A BUM.
The Paper Bag Princess tells the story of a princess named Elizabeth, who was going to marry a prince named Ronald, but then a dragon came along and smashed her castle, burned her clothes, and carried off Ronald. So, Elizabeth makes herself a dress out of a paper bag, tracked the dragon down, and encouraged him to wear himself out by doing outrageous feats. And then, after the dragon is out stone cold, Elizabeth finds Ronald and rescues him.
At this point, Ronald says, "Elizabeth, you are a mess! You smell like ashes, your hair is tangled, and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess." Elizabeth then responds, "Ronald, your clothes are really pretty, and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum."
The book ends with "They didn't get married after all," and there's a picture of Elizabeth dancing off into the sunset.
The takeaway is, before you seriously consider marrying someone, make it a point to be with them in lots of different situations, where you can see the actual sides of each other. Take your time getting to know them, and look at them from all angles, and if there's any indication that you've got a Ronald, walk away fast. When you're working with a Ronald, there's little hope that things will improve down the road.
Relationship nugget #2 is from Amelia Bedelia. It’s HAVE AN ASSET.
In the book, Amelia Bedelia, Mrs. and Mr. Rogers hire Amelia to clean their house, but can't be there on her first day, so Mrs. Rogers leaves Amelia with a list. Amelia takes the list literally and does EXACTLY what Mrs. Rogers has written. When Mrs. Rogers comes home, she is shocked and unhappy with Amelia, and just when she's ready to tell Amelia, "you're fired," Mr. Rogers puts a piece of lemon meringue pie in her mouth, and she forgets all about being mad. It turns out that Amelia Bedelia makes the most AMAZING lemon meringue pies ever, and that's her saving grace. So, Mrs. Rogers learns to speak Amelia's language, and Amelia learns to clean the house to Mrs. Rogers’s satisfaction. And, Amelia makes lots of delicious lemon meringue pies that both Mr. and Mrs. Rogers love, so everyone ends up happy.
The lesson here, is to learn a skill that makes you irresistibly attractive. Or at least develop an irresistible personality. Be the kind of person that other people want to be around. When I got pregnant and married at seventeen, I had NO IDEA what I was getting into. Basically, I married a Ronald, and I was no Elizabeth, or Amelia. I didn't bring a lot to the table, and how we lasted for sixteen years, I don't know! After we divorced, I dove straight into two more ill-fated marriages.
I assure you I am experienced and I have learned some important things over the years. I know that once you're married, it's easy to get complacent and in a rut, and to let unhappy and frustrated emotion build-up so much that it leads to painful blowups and splits.
Successful marriages require effort and work, and there are some basic things you can do that will get good results:
DO focus on what's right with your partner and learn to speak their language. Patiently work at partnering with them and keep focusing on what you LOVE about them. Remember what made you fall in love. Act like you're still dating and still try to impress them. Be genuinely friendly and fun to be around!
DO NOT point your finger and blame whenever things go wrong and don't throw your spouse under the bus. Be responsible for your own words and actions, and don't be above apologizing and saying I'm sorry.
DO dwell on the things you love most about your spouse and give them sincere compliments often. Put continual effort into improving yourself and becoming the best and brightest person that you can be! Say thanks, and I love you, every chance you get. Whether you are married or not, upgrading yourself and going out of your way to treat other people with kindness and respect will improve all of your relationships and pay off nicely.
In short, do not be a Ronald, and take a cue from Elizabeth and Amelia.