Many of us grow up believing that marriage is supposed to be this romantic, Utopian, and out-of this-world experience. I’m going to put myself out there: mine wasn’t. Did my husband and I love each other? Yes. Did we undergo pre-marital counseling? Faithfully, and with a trusted minister. Was I miserable those first few months? Without a doubt.

Maybe I should start over. I grew up thinking that my marriage would be perfect — and to accomplish that feat I had to be the ideal wife. I don’t know where my mind unconsciously recorded the aforementioned narrative. In hindsight, it seems like a synthesis of what I hoped would bring security into my life. Additionally, I didn’t see many successful marriages as a child, but the models I was privy to seemed to follow the same format: A doting wife endlessly tending to the needs of her husband, household and children. That script stayed with me.

Dating my husband was nothing short of a treat. He seemed to instantly know he wanted to marry me, so his job was to convince me that he was worthy. What woman doesn’t dream of being wooed?  My man was a master at the art of dating and came up with countless outings, from fine dining to mini getaways, to complement our interests. Plus, he didn’t just ogle me — he listened to what I had to say. After a few months of courting, I knew he was the one. We were in sync… and in love.

Now some people say a ring doesn’t mean a thing, but it did in my mind. I’ve always been a doting person. I love cooking and hosting guests… but I kind of went into overdrive. I felt like it was my job to make my house a happy home — and my duties were endless. I worked 12-hour days. I’d come home to do all the cooking and cleaning (meals on request). I strived to always look alluring. I never said no to sex — even if I was too pooped to roll over. I also let my husband take the reins of my financial life. He set the budget and I followed.

In sum, I created a monster (you know, the “Twilight” blood-sucking kind). And it only got worse after we began having children. I was responsible for doing everything, and I couldn’t be incensed because the title of superwife/mom was self-appointed. Well, maybe I should say I shouldn’t have been agitated. But I was. In fact, I was going insane. I had a thriving career, a home, a hubby and kids. Running behind two toddlers after spending hours in the office, while a man comes home from his day to sit on the couch and give directives gets old really fast. For me it took about two years. Now don’t get me wrong, my husband is no deadbeat dad, nor inactive father. He was a spoiled spouse. The problem wasn’t him, it was all me.

I realized that I was scared to lose him and our life together, so I did everything… because I thought only that type of woman — you know her; the selfless, uber-dutiful wife — was the only kind of lady who got to keep her “happily ever after.” But I wasn’t happy… or cheerful, blissful or gay. I was tired. I felt unappreciated. I was bitter. I wanted to leave, but the real culprit in the situation was inescapable. It was me. So I decided to change.

Transforming your thoughts and actions is a process. First, I started seeing a therapist, who helped me unearth my underlying issues. For months, I went home and was the same old me. Insight is nothing without action. Then one day it happened. I had the courage to say no. I demanded more. I required something different from him. I refused to compromise what I needed for what he wanted… or was used to receiving.

Initially, he rebuffed my restructuring of our duties, but I stood firm — and ready to walk. He could no longer be a dictator of our household. We could reign together or we’d rule apart. It was rocky for a while, but one thing saved us: we valued our marriage and each other. Over time we got into a groove that worked for both of us and I burned my superwoman cape… then buried it.

Today I’m maintaining my identity in the confines of marriage. I love my husband — and our children. But I’ve learned that I have to take care of myself in order to give. I can’t run this marathon on empty, so now I make sure to take me time. Luckily, I find the more I get away the more I want to come on back home. That’s pretty much a happily ever after in my book.