Happily Never After: Why We Should Get Over Fairytale Romance

Looking for a storybook love? Here’s why we should get over fairytale romance and work toward a relationship where we can be our real selves.


We all want a fairytale romance, but Prince or Princess Charming isn't real. Here's how to make romance work, the real way

How many of us have idyllic pictures of romance in our heads: frolicking together in the snow, playing on a sandy beach, living happily ever after? Society, movies, books, and even our social media accounts have set us up with expectations of fairytale romance that are false and potentially damaging.

When we set the bar for perfect relationships at “living happily ever after”—meaning never engaging in any conflict or working toward deeper understanding—who can expect anything but failure? Almost all of us have this Cinderella perspective on our relationships. We think it’s up to our partner to make us happy. Or we believe that our significant other should be our soulmate. If we only find “the one,” we’ll resolve all our problems and live perfect lives.

The truth is, we are the only ones who can make ourselves happy. It is not our partner’s job (nor is it even within their power). Beyond that, no one has a perfect relationship. Part of unlocking your relationship’s full potential and finding happiness alongside your partner is letting go of the myth of the “fairytale romance” (and maybe even embracing our inner ogre).

Embrace the Adventure of Romance

Romanticized and idealized versions of fairytale romance we’ve seen depicted in the media leave us feeling like our relationships are inadequate. We end up in a constant state of disappointment because we’ve walked in with ridiculous expectations since we watched Snow White and Cinderella in our childhoods. This “Disney love” leads to devastation and confusion when our real-life relationships don’t quite match our fantasy ideals.

We have to dump these false ideas, get over fairytale romances and instead embrace the reality of what we have. We also have to realize that no one has a perfect relationship. Those couples who seem to have an ideal connection have likely learned to engage and fight together FOR the relationship.

But of course, it’s hard to let go of the idea of a fairytale romance. It’s not that we can’t have affection, warmth, or love, but it’s that the concept of a fairytale romance is based on a false premise—an idealized version of reality. We can still have plenty of intimate moments and times when we laugh, smile, and get warm fuzzies about our partner. Romance is still great—but it’s the REAL romance we’re looking for, not the fairytale version.

If we explore the real idea of romance by looking up the definition, we get, “Romance is 1. A brief, intense love affair; or 2. A sexual love when another person or the relationship is idealized.” Yikes!! That doesn’t sound like true and lasting love or a life-long connection! The third definition, which speaks to the truth of romance, is 3. Romance is an exciting adventure with the potential for heroic achievement.

Now, doesn’t that sound a little more accurate and much more exciting? Who wouldn’t want to be a brave hero or heroine who conquered their weaknesses, recognized their strengths, and embraced the adventure of relationships?! But with adventure comes risk, and yes, even a little danger and vulnerability.

To have the kind of connection that lasts, we have to be brave—to share our truths and allow ourselves to show who we are. Intimacy comes from authenticity, so we need to “get real.” We have to be unafraid to enable our inner ogre to come out and say all of those things we feel afraid to share, warts and all. Being our true selves is the real challenge in relationships. It’s all about honesty, making our yearnings known, and expressing our feelings openly and without reservation.

Life, just like romance, is an adventure. It’s fraught with conflict and ups and downs, but if we let go of the myth of the fairytale, we get to the real heart of the story. As we explore in our book, The Heart of the Fight, when we get real and honest with our partner, we start to fight together and work FOR the relationship. Challenges bring us closer together.

Love isn’t easy—and it shouldn’t be. Love is beautiful because it nurtures us and forges us into who we can become. We have to work for it, but engaging in a partnership with another person makes the adventure so much better.

Great Relationships Require Great Fights

We’ve all had fights with a significant other. What happens? We get sad, thinking that the relationship is undoubtedly doomed if we’re fighting.

We all know fights and conflict can be a little scary sometimes. We engage and express our feelings, and then we measure our partner’s reaction. If it’s positive, we might keep moving forward, but if it’s not, we might find ourselves withdrawing to avoid more fighting. As humans, we move toward pleasure and away from pain. It doesn’t always “feel good” to fight, of course, so we might find ourselves avoiding confrontation (even if we feel upset).

When we hold our feelings in, we actually drive our relationship further apart. By holding back and avoiding conflict, we might think we’re doing our partner a favor. We’re suppressing our feelings for the betterment of the relationship. But if our relationship is important, then it’s worth fighting for what we really want!

Growth-oriented relationships are going to have conflict. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, that conflict strengthens us and enables us to develop into our potential more fully. With work, our relationships can help us during that struggle, providing both a womb to grow and a crucible to forge our emerging selves.

So rather than shutting down at the first sign of trouble and heading for the hills (or clamming up and giving the hidden middle finger with passive-aggressive actions), we can express our feelings openly, even if they piss off our partner. Growth-focused relationships require us to keep fighting it out. We have to understand each other and say what we feel, even if it’s tough.

If we find ourselves falling into a pattern where we avoid conflict or where our partner avoids it because it’s just more comfortable, it’s time to step back and assess.

If he’s dissatisfied and she’s dissatisfied, then there’s definitely conflict to be had. Some issues need to be brought out into the open. It’s the time to lay it all out on the table. Test the relationship and really push the limits to see if it can go the distance. When we have reservations in relationships, we should explore them, understand them, and bring them out into the light.

Real Intimacy Comes from Conflict, Not Riding Off into the Sunset

In fairytales, no one ever discusses their concerns or problems. When did Sleeping Beauty bring up her feelings?

Fairytales and romantic movies tell us a story about the very beginning of a “magical” relationship; couples “meet-cute.” They may have a problem (usually an outside force) that they have to overcome, and then, you see the happy couple sail off into the sunset before the real relationship even gets started.

In reality, when you’re first starting to get to know each other, that’s the time for working out all the nitty-gritty conflict. The beginning of relationships can be absolutely critical moments to put your honest self out there, which means letting your partner see you at your worst, not just your best. If you put on a front or put your best foot forward, when will they fall in love with the real you?

Real intimacy is forged through conflict, not avoidance.

When we make relationship decisions, we often do them out of convenience or because we’re at a time in our life where things feel like they’re in a natural pattern. However, whether a lease is up, your friends are getting married, or you’re afraid of being alone, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to jump in fully. Don’t slide into your relationship. Decide to move forward with intention and purpose.

Get the truth out! We should tell our partners what we want and what we need from them. We should be working on ourselves together. Engage in your relationship and examine the pieces. If you have reservations, address them and get everything out in the open if you have concerns.

Will it always go smoothly or look like a movie? No way! But when we get over fairytale romance, we can start working toward a real, fulfilling, strong connection—one where we both get what we want and need from the union.

Committing to expressing our truth is one of the most significant gifts you can give to your relationship. It keeps it real and viable. It keeps you both moving forward, looking to the future, and growing together. Great relationships require great fights. Real intimacy comes from that ongoing honesty and openness.

Ready to explore more about getting the relationship (and the life) you want? Don’t miss our courses on Wright Now. We have many personal growth, relationship, and career courses and training available to stream. Start getting more out of life by unlocking your full potential!



Literotica: 50 Shades of Grey

Ah…50 Shades of Grey…chick lit, literotica—books we all like to read (okay, maybe not on the train or in public), but we don’t always readily admit it.

Jokingly referred to as “literary porn” or “porn for women,” these page-turners might not be classical literature, but they’re entertaining and fun.

Taking a deeper look at the “why” behind why we’re drawn to these books (as well as chick flicks and sitcoms) brings up some interesting things about who we are, what we want, and what our secret yearnings are when it comes to relationships and dating.

Discussions about Christian Grey bring up some blushing and giggles even among friends, or at the very least, nervous laughter. These aren’t necessarily things we feel comfortable discussing even with our closest buds, because maybe we aren’t comfortable with the things we secretly want. There might be a little shame, some hang ups, or the feelings your desires aren’t “normal,” or maybe even that they go against your feminist ideals. There’s also a fear of rejection when we share a fantasy with a boyfriend or girlfriend. What if the person goes, “Wow, you’re a freak!” and heads for the hills? (Spoiler alert: if you’re engaged in open honest communication, they won’t.)

There’s a lot we can learn about ourselves from our admiration of this version of love, sex and romance. Sex without emotional attachment, potential hurts, disappointments and expectations can be an appealing prospect. In movies we see couples who seemingly never fight or “fight cute” and things always have a happy ending. In life this is rarely the case.

Similar to porn films, the idealized portrayal of sex in these films eschew messy emotional attachments, the yearnings of our heart, vulnerabilities, proclivities and our intellectual sides that can prohibit us from letting go sexually. There’s also a fear of facing boundaries and knowing the limits of our own allowances.

In the novel 50 Shades of Grey, the protagonist Christian Grey exudes confidence, success and alpha-male attitude. While some us may find the character off-putting on paper, we would have to admit many of the qualities he has are attractive. Success and confidence are universally appealing qualities. It’s no wonder many of us secretly swoon when we read about him.

So, how can we apply this to dating life?

Being clear about your yearnings and desires is certainly part of it. It may be difficult to talk about what you want with a first date, but as you become more comfortable with your partner, let them know what things you find appealing. Try things and be clear about what turns you on and what doesn’t do it for you. The worst that can happen is you have some awkward sexual moments, but you’ll ultimately end up with an even more satisfying life in the bedroom.

Talk with your partner about what turns you on and what turns them on, but don’t rely on idealized fictional relationships to be the marker of what your relationship should be. In literature we see superficial “romance” of flowers, chocolates and perfect couples. As we know, while romance is an important part of relationships, there are much deeper ways of connecting.

In fiction, we also see the concept of “The ONE” or a woman who can “tame” the wild alpha male. In reality, as we all know, there isn’t a perfect match out there or one person who can “fix” us or repair our broken heart. If someone’s holding back on intimacy or failing to engage, they need to do some internal work on their own (not meet the perfect dream girl). Holding the bar at this standard isn’t realistic. There’s nothing wrong with a fantasy as long as you realize it’s just that.

As we found out from our discussion on this topic, a lot of guys have a hard time figuring out how to navigate the world of fantasy vs. reality as well. While the “literotica” market may appeal to the ladies more than the men, the fantasy aspect’s the same as it can be in porn. It’s about making a correlation and a compromise between the things you see and read about, and the things that fit into your life and apply to your relationships—not using them as a substitute for real intimacy but as part of a healthy fantasy and sex life.

If you have open lines of communication and you’re being authentic, honest and engaging with your dates, you’re going to be discussing these yearnings and bringing them out in your relationship.

True relationships are about connecting and communicating. Fiction can be fun and a way to escape into a fantasy world, but keep yourself grounded in reality to maximize your happiness. Make sure you don’t fall into the realm of soft-addiction and too much escape into your fantasy life. Romantic books and movies should remain fun and entertaining and there’s no harm in a little of that!

You’ll be able to read all about these ideas and more in Dr. Bob and Judith’s Wright’s new book out now: The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer. (Available on Amazon now!)

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About the Author

Monica is the Admissions Coordinator and Marketing Specialist at the Wright Graduate University. As the admissions coordinator and head of marketing for WGU, Monica oversees recruiting, student admissions, customer services and marketing efforts.

Blog post image courtesy Flickr user jeepersmedia.

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.