From a young age we are told stories of 'happily ever afters' – of walking off into the sunset hand-in-hand and finding a soulmate who 'completes us'.
And though most of us are well aware we aren't living in a fairytale and can get by without the castle, somehow the perfect ending part sticks. We wander off into the world in search of that one person who holds the key to a blissful existence.
When Anna Whitehouse (AKA well-known mummy blogger and author Mother Pukka) and husband, Matt Farquharson started interviewing people for their new book, Where's My Happy Ending, they probably weren't expecting that one of the most poignant answers would be: it doesn't have to exist.
The couple asked a wide range of people from a former sex-worker and her ex-gigolo husband to celibate monks and free-loving hippies, how they felt strong relationships were formed, and crucially, kept.
One of the people included in the book is a philosopher. His answer to the question became one of the biggest lessons Anna and Matt took from the experience.
'The big lesson for me came from the interview I did with a philosopher who talked about celebrating "good enough"', Matt told Red Online. 'He’d researched 300 years of myths and fairytales about finding the right person and settling down - love will find a way and everything will be solved. But actually if that’s what you expect, then you’re always going to be disappointed.'
Instead the philosopher spoke of a place that at first seems less romantic, but is actually a better expectation on which to build a solid, loving relationship: 'There’s a place quite close to "happily ever after" that is "good enough" and we have this weird idea that not reaching a perfect, blissful state is some kind of failure, when actually it’s impossible to reach.'
But it isn't actually as doom and gloom as it sounds because, as the philosopher concludes, 'you can get close to [your fairytale ending] and be very happy there.'
It's a poignant reminder to all of us that a happy reality is better than an unattainable dream, when it comes to relationships, and it isn't the only piece of advice in the book that resonated with the pair.
When interviewing a sex worker, Anna learned that men and women approach sex differently, but both can find what they're looking for by 'doing it more'.
'I interviewed a sex worker who said that women need cuddles to be able to have sex, and men need sex to be able to have cuddles,' Anna explains. 'And if people don’t work that out, she makes a living. So I suppose it’s a little bit controversial, but it’s basically saying ‘do it more’ even if you don’t necessarily want to, because it will bring you closer together.'
If you're feeling inspired to do so but aren't sure how, here's the 5 best sex positions to reignite your spark.
And if you're wondering how the couple have put all these newly-acquired knowledge to use in their own relationship, the answer is they've chosen the advice that most resonated with them and started to adopt it in an authentic way.
'I think the main thing we’ve learned is to be more considerate of each other. One of the things that’s stuck with me, I heard staying in a free love commune in rural Portugal for a few days,' Matt explains.
'They were mostly ecologists and environmentalists who decided that free love was a better way to live than within the traditional ideas of monogamy.
'I was speaking to a 54-year-old physicist there who said that when you’re having an argument or feeling frustrated with someone, don’t straight away think "what do I need now/what do I want to make me feel better?" Stop and think: "what does love need now?" which sounds incredibly cheesy, but actually it just means being less selfish.'
Where’s My Happy Ending by Anna Whitehouse and Matt Farquharson is out now.
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