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!