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!



Emotional Cheating: Is It Really So Bad?

You probably wouldn’t dream of having a physical affair. But what about emotional cheating? Isn’t it a bit of a grey area?


Sure, maybe your head’s turned now and again when you see a hot guy or gal get on the elevator, but realistically, most of us remain loyal to our spouse. After all, we know the grass isn’t greener on the other side, no matter how appealing the grass looks.

Avoiding a physical affair is actually pretty easy. Stop thinking with your libido and just don’t do it. It’s black and white: Don’t have sex with someone else.

What is Emotional Cheating?

Emotional cheating is a slippery slope. We might go out with our buddies, coworkers, or girlfriends and end up venting and bitching about our significant other. Then later, when we’re home with our spouse, we’re cold, distant, and disengaged. We argue. We give them the cold shoulder or the hidden middle finger.

You start to feel like you’re a different person when you’re at home than when you’re at work—and you start to prefer work.

It happens frequently. We’re confident at the office. We’re successful and we know what we’re doing. We went to college and grad school to learn to do our jobs and we’re good at them. When it comes to social and emotional growth, though, most of us missed the college-level education and some are still working on our GED.

It turns out, relationships and social-emotional connections can be even more difficult to grow than our intellect. We’ve worked on honing and fine-tuning our work skills and our knowledge base, but we may have ignored our emotional intelligence. We study hard and get a top-notch education, yet we still walk away emotional idiots because we don’t know how to grow emotionally.

Emotional intelligence is just as important and vital to our leadership skills and growth as our intellect. So many leadership training courses are offered in areas of emotional growth and understanding because it’s so key to our ability to be effective leaders and managers. It’s something we have to want to learn and embrace before we can “get it.”

So, while we’re good at our job skills, we’re not as evolved when it comes to expressing our emotions and needs in our romantic relationships, or meeting the needs of our partner. Unfortunately, this leads us to a path where we feel inadequate and bad.

Rather than addressing the problem, we avoid and distance ourselves. We close ourselves off to our spouse and look to others to stroke our emotional side.

Here’s where the emotional cheating comes in…

Maybe you’ve found a friend at work you can confide in. While you’d never “go there” with them (and by there, I mean to the bedroom), you might find they become the person you’re most connecting with on an emotional level. You find yourself looking forward to spending time with them. Maybe you’re attracted to them or maybe you won’t admit it, but you’re at least attracted to their personality.

You’re entering a danger zone. If you value your marriage and want things to work out with your spouse, just don’t do it. Put the kibosh on any dalliances, roll up your sleeves, and do the work required to figure out why you’re getting your emotions stroked by someone else.

You can have friends, but friends are different. An emotional affair happens when your friend connects with you emotionally and intimately in a way you aren’t getting from your significant other. Chances are, it’s a connection and a way of interacting that would make your spouse uncomfortable if he or she were standing there in the room.

How To Stop Emotionally Cheating

Truth is, there’s no such thing as a fairytale romance. So no matter how sexually attracted or emotionally connected we are to another person, our social and emotional intelligence helps us realize these feelings come and go. Fleeting physical attraction isn’t worth throwing away a marriage or long-term commitment, right? Well, the same goes for over-the-top emotional connections.

People rarely jump from a physical affair into a healthy relationship. Why? Because it isn’t about the sex. While we all need human touch, an affair is usually about something else. So once we get over the physical excitement, we discover our deepest yearnings and needs still aren’t being met, because we haven’t done the work and we don’t know how to express what we really, truly want.

Sound familiar? Most of the time, emotional cheating works the exact same way.

The good news is you can figure out how to reengage in your marriage before it’s too late and something physical happens with another person. Keep in mind, it’s not often just about sex or need to rekindle the fires with your spouse. (Although, let’s face it: it doesn’t hurt!)

It’s about getting down to the heart of what’s missing in your marriage or relationship and discovering what you need to work on.

Before you begin any conversation, always assume goodwill. One of our “rules of engagement” is to assume goodwill on the part of the other party—and it’s true. You can safely assume your spouse isn’t out to make you miserable. They don’t hate you and they aren’t hoping your marriage falls apart. Chances are, your spouse or partner is probably wondering how to reconnect with you as well. They’re probably asking themselves why you’ve been so damned distant.

The first step is to have a conversation and get out what you’re feeling. This conversation might not be easy—it might even be downright miserable. You might hear things you’re doing that hurt your spouse and he or she might tell you you’re being a jerk. It might end up being a fight rather than just a conversation—and that’s okay.

Instead of fighting against each other, starting these tough conversations means you’re opening up and fighting FOR your relationship. Even if it’s a fight about how to reconnect and things get nasty and ugly, at least you’re moving in the direction of figuring out how to make things work. You’re expressing your needs and they’re expressing theirs.

We call this battling towards bliss, and once you start down that path, you’re moving in the right direction.

“Dedicating to being your best and living your vision takes courage as well as skill and practice. Dedicating requires that you face your fears as well as embrace your joy, that you become even stronger and more loving as you create even stronger and more powerful, loving partnerships.” –The Heart of the Fight

Where to Draw the Line

As for your emotional connections with your friends and coworkers, take a step back. We all engage with different people on different levels. I have some buddies I can talk to about subjects that bore Judith to tears, and she has the same. No one person can be everything to someone else.

The truth is, though, Judith knows who these people are and how intimate our conversations are. If she was standing in the room, she might be bored, but she wouldn’t be uncomfortable, and that’s where we draw the line when we commit to someone else.

If you’re emotionally connecting with your significant other and using conflict to move your relationship closer, rather than driving a wedge between you, chances are you’re on the right track. Realize you’re going to have to work on your emotional intelligence before you can evolve within your relationship, let alone outside of your relationship. Once the two of you get on the same page and start getting down to the heart of the fight, you’ll end up even closer.

For more on how you can energize your relationships, connect more deeply to your significant other, and bring out your very best self, please join us for our upcoming More Life Training.

About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

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Wright Living is a division of 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.

Always Fighting?
Conflict is Common,
But Fight Fair

Whenever we hear someone say, “Oh, we never fight,” it always raises a few red flags. If you’re really engaging with another person, there’s going to be conflict!

Things are never going to be perfect.

Dating and relationships can reveal so many “a-ha!” moments. After all, dating is a great opportunity to learn new things about yourself and the ways you set boundaries as you engage in (or shy away from) conflict. When you go out with someone, are you panicking at the first sign of conflict? What about when you’ve reached a make-or-break moment in the relationship? Do you commit to holding your ground, or do you backslide after a few weeks and assume more than your share of the blame?

Many of us have a very difficult time with conflict—understandably, of course. We all have limiting beliefs that are comprised of sets of preconceived values, perceptions and ways of dealing with others which shape our relationships. We may catch ourselves avoiding unpleasant emotions (like hurt, sadness, fear, or anger) because they’re uncomfortable for us. However, even when our emotions make us uncomfortable, that doesn’t always need to be a negative thing.

Our emotions, even if they’re unpleasant, can be great tools for growth, as they can help us understand ourselves on a deeper level.

Assuming Fault or Passing Blame?

Often, many of us have a tendency to want to assume everything is our fault—OR to assume any disagreement is ALL the fault of the other person. When a relationship ends or when things aren’t going well, it’s usually not just because of one thing we’ve done or said; it’s really about the bigger picture and the roles each of us play within the relationship. What yearnings were expressed and met, and what yearnings were held back out of fear?

When conflict arises in your relationship, there’s a set of rules to help you and your date or partner fight fair. In our new book, The Heart of the Fight, we discuss these rules of engagement. For example, did you know that everyone is responsible for their own emotions? Here’s another great one from the book: no one takes more than 50% of the blame.

When dating, you have this great opportunity to “play” with all of these rules of engagement and really feel them out. You can meet someone and in the first few sentences you might have an immediate connection…or you might have to work to find the connection. Neither way is wrong and both give you a chance to learn new and exciting things about yourself, about another person, and about conflict.

Fighting More Frequently? Stay True to Yourself

Once you’ve been on a few dates, you might find that conflicts arise more freely. This is something to be celebrated rather than feared! When you’ve reached the point that you’re comfortable enough to be honest with yourself and tell your date how you feel, it’s a great moment in your personal growth.

Some of us find we go into a relationship ready to debate, engage in conflict, and discuss things open and honestly—but we hold back on building the emotional and softer side of our connection. It’s still a question of whether or not you’re fully engaged. Again, neither approach is wrong, but the challenge is in how you can continue to express your truth. Are you being you?

Emotions and connections make us vulnerable, which can be frightening. When we’re putting our real selves out there and being open and honest, we’re in a place where we may be rejected or hurt. And let’s face it, that doesn’t feel good. The real joy is when you can look at the situation and no matter the outcome (whether it was a great connection or a not-so-great connection) you can say you were 100% honest about who you were throughout. That’s the awakening.

When Relationships End

If you just can’t reach a give-and-take point or if you feel stagnant in your personal growth, it might be time to move on. If you feel you’re being honest and engaging with the other person but it’s just not there on a fundamental level, it can be difficult.

Breakups never feel good. They leave us questioning our actions, and wondering if we were too reactive or if we were really honest in what we wanted. We question if we held back our emotions due to fear or anger. We can question everything about ourselves.

The great news is a breakup is a great time to reevaluate and lean on your friendships and support system. It can give you a chance to work through growth and even find an eventual way to get back to sharing a friendship after a cooling-off period (assuming you WANT to continue a connection and found the friendship nourishing).

Breakups aren’t fun, but they give us a chance to sort out what we want and how we can better express our desires and yearnings. They allow us to examine the interaction, and we can rest easy knowing we were fully engaged, we didn’t shy away from conflict, and we approached the relationship with honesty and openness.

Dating and relationships can be fraught with opportunities for both awakenings and disturbances, but both can be moments of beauty and growth.

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About the Author

Dr. Judith Wright

Dr Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

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Wright Living is a division of 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.


Addicted to Conflict?
Here’s How to Save
Your Relationship

Many of us fear conflict. We take it as a sign our relationship is doomed or damaged, so we avoid it. We hold back from engaging with our partner because we’re afraid of fighting—yet, we end up feeling disconnected when we do.


What happens at the other end of the spectrum, though? What happens when it seems like all you do is fight or when it feels like the only way our needs are being met and we’re being acknowledged is when our partner is angry?

In our forthcoming book, The Heart of the Fight, Judith and I discuss some of these themes surrounding relationship conflicts. We talk about the rules of engagement and fighting fair. We also talk about the ways conflict can actually strengthen your relationship—because when you’re fighting, you are engaged.

In the first years of a relationship (even the first ten), we’re engaged in a control struggle and we’re trying to find our footing and balance of power. We want to be loved in an open and honest way, and to be seen for who we really are in the here and now. Our partner wants the same and we’re pushing each other back and forth in this battle to see if we can test each other. We’re trying to see if our partner will really meet our yearnings.

Through this testing and conflict, trust is built—and respect. I’ve talked about the ways our relationships are both a crucible that forms us and a womb that nourishes us. It’s a place for transformation, where we can learn and grow, and yes, transformation causes heat and conflict.

What to Do When You Want a Partner to Change

One common source of conflict is the desire to change or modify the behavior of a partner. Maybe you’re a vegetarian and they’re a meat lover or maybe they’re a sports fanatic and you want your Sundays quiet, spent reading The New York Times together and going to brunch with friends.

Whatever the behavior, we need to examine our own motivations. Are we jealous of our partners’ hobbies and habits? Do we want to change the behavior because we’re concerned about their health? Is it a moral issue?

Here’s the deal: if our partners change something simply for us, they’ll probably resent us for it. If we ask them to change and they don’t, then we’ll resent them. Thus, a conflict is born.

First of all, you simply can’t change your partner (but you will make each other miserable trying to force it). You can support your partner, enabling him or her to reach a place where they’re prepared for transformation, but even the most annoying habit in the world can’t be changed because you argue it so or withhold until they give in.

Reframe your approach and consider the work you need to do for yourself. What are your yearnings? How do they shape your feelings? We all bring yearnings into a relationship and a hope that our yearnings will be met. If we’re clear and up front about those yearnings, we can assume goodwill on the side of our partner and know they want to make us happy, just as we want for them.

You both may be different people who enjoy different things, but accepting your partner for who they truly are and respecting these differences will go far. If it’s a health issue (your partner overeats, smokes or drinks) then consider what comfort they might not be receiving on your end. The next time they’re going to reach for something to soothe their yearnings, how can you soothe them instead?

How to Break Old Patterns

We all come into relationships with baggage. Most of our early personality traits and desires are formed well before adulthood. If your parents withheld affection or modeled a relationship where fighting was the norm, you might see these patterns emerge in your adult relationships.

It’s not about dwelling on where this conflict is coming from and shifting the blame to our parents, but rather, it’s about understanding it and then figuring out if you’re using conflict as a platform to deepen your engagement. Ask yourself what you’re fighting for and if you’re making progress.

Some conflicts can be long lasting and in-depth. It doesn’t spell doom for the relationship. Fighting fair and honoring the rules of engagement will keep your fights from becoming a standoff where you end up spinning your wheels.

Follow These 7 Rules of Engagement:
  1. Minimize the negative.
  2. Accentuate the positive.
  3. No one gets more than 50% of the blame.
  4. You must take 100% responsibility for your own happiness.
  5. Express and agree with the truth.
  6. Always fight FOR something, not against; and
  7. Assume goodwill.

If you follow these rules, your conflicts will become more productive and growth focused. You’ll find you’re engaged in respectful discussion (even if it’s harshly worded and impassioned) and you’ll walk away stronger.

Meshing Your Personalities

We all have different personalities, different backgrounds and different yearnings than our partner. Judith is an Energizer and I’m a Regulator. We spent years in therapy and we’ve seen several different couples’ counselors—some who even told us we should just cut our losses because they couldn’t see we were actually using conflict to keep us more deeply engaged.

When it comes down to it, there are plenty of things that can irritate us in relationships and breed conflict. We are different people who are trying to work together on a shared vision. Understanding your personality type and your triggers, and being honest and open will help you work out anything that may arise.

The good thing about conflict is it means you are connected. You’re fighting for something. Make sure you’re both fighting FOR the relationship rather than against each other and you will find some common ground.

When a relationship is just starting out you want to test it even harder. You want to know it will stand the test of time and endure. Engage in deeper conflict as you’re figuring out where you’re headed. If you’re both committed to growing and transforming together, then conflict will make your relationship even stronger.

You’ll be able to read all about these ideas and more in Dr. Bob and Judith’s Wright’s new book coming out in February 2016: 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 for preorder now!)

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About the Author


Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

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Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio or here on iTunes.
Check Out Lifestyle Podcasts at BlogTalkRadio with Wright Living on BlogTalkRadio.

Blog post image courtesy: Flickr user infowire.

Wright Living is a division of 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.