The Real Happily Ever After

A girl from Sweden. An American boy. Boy meets girl. Boy remembers, girl does not. A few years later. Boy and girl become friends. They have an argument. They don’t want anything more than friendship. Boy and girl remain friends. Become great friends. Boy changes his mind. Girl is won over. Boy proposes. Girl says yes! Beautiful wedding. Honeymoon. Baby #1 arrives. Baby #2 arrives. And as a final dessert, baby #3. Love continues to grow. Girl, boy, and three daughters live happily ever after. The End!

This is our story but there is so much more in between the lines.


Sleepless nights.
Gross diapers.
Temper tantrums.
Unmeet Needs.
More Sleepless Nights.
Cultural differences.
Midnight Prayers.
Messy House.

When two cultures, two individuals, two lives become one it is never as smooth as you dream it would be. Brian and I came from very different cultures and the make-up of our family histories were on opposite ends of the spectrum. In our pre-marital counseling we were told we were very compatible. We had many similar goals, dreams, and views on how we wanted our marriage to be. The one thing that our counselors told us we had to keep an eye on was our expectations. They said our expectations were too high. We both had high hopes and dreams of what our marriage was going to look like. We weren’t naïve, we were just determined to make the most out of this one life we had been given and we wanted it to be different from what we had experienced growing up.
Our expectations have a major impact on how we perceive life.

The Real Happily Ever After

Expectation #1 – We will make each other happy
Expectation #2 – We will meet each others needs
Expectation #3 – We will parent in agreement
Expectation #4 – We will have the same dreams and goals
Expectation #5 – We will prioritize the same things


There is nothing wrong with these expectations. They are actually really good. However, they are not realistic. They put pressure on your spouse to do and be something they may never be able to become or do. Unmet expectations are very dangerous in a relationship. They create frustration, anger, doubt, fear, and also distance. So what do you do then? Not have any expectations , really low expectations or settle with for less than what you deserve? Absolutely not.

As a couple Brian and I have had to agree on things that are non-negotiables such as how we communicate with each other, what we spend our money on, to never allow the word divorce to be part of our vocabulary, and to stand together when parenting our children. That does not mean we always agree but we respect each other and most of all trust the other person’s heart. We are secure in our love. We take the time to discuss, see each other’s perspectives, and then commit to the fact that we are better together. We make compromises for the health of our relationship. It’s not either my way or Brian’s way, but we often find ourselves agreeing somewhere in the middle. The compromise isn’t done out of frustration but out of love and respect for each other. The compromise doesn’t hurt the other person but helps us have a stronger relationship which it our ultimate goal. Met expectations are within reach when we are willing to put our spouse first because of our desire to see them succeed. Brian and I have been married for almost 20 years and we continue to work on our communication and managing our expectations. We communicate our expectations and we also give grace, freedom, and courage to each other so that we can pursue the things that are important to us.

The happily ever after story becomes just that when we are willing to honor, respect, and give each other room to grow and become the best version of ourselves.



Caroline Dunn is a wife, mom, pastor, entrepreneur, and founder of Seek Listen Walk. Caroline is passionate about living her life to the fullest by following Jesus Christ. She loves challenging men and women to grow spiritually and professionally through teaching, coaching, and discipleship. Caroline is married to Brian and they have three amazing girls, Olivia, Kajsa, and Madeleine. She loves to run, read, and sing really loud in the car. Caroline and her family live in Stockholm Sweden.

Caroline has published two devotionals which feature women from all over the world. You can order the devotionals at:

To follow Caroline on IG: @stockholmvision