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!



Love Is Messy:
Learn the Secret to
Awesome Relationships

Life is messy. Love is messier. Why? Because life and love are full of conflict. Conflict is the very basis for life as we know it; we are born of struggle and growth.

Whether you tend to embrace it or shy away from it, successful, happy relationships require conflict. When we don’t develop our engagement and conflict skills, we end up as bullies or wimps: either we avoid everything or we plow over everyone in our path. That’s no way to live.

Time and time again, I hear people say they want intimacy, but they don’t want the mess. To have real intimacy, there must be conflict and vulnerability. Intimacy involves putting yourself out there, engaging, and letting yourself be seen in the truth of who you are.

“If you want true love, you will need to feel everything: the fear, hurt, anger, and sadness, as well as joy and bliss.”

–from The Heart of the Fight

Getting Real and Fighting Fair

Here are a couple of the common relationship myths we bust in The Heart of the Fight:

  • Conflict resolution doesn’t lead to great relationships.
  • The purpose of a relationship ISN’T to make you happy; it’s to make you your best.

That’s why conflict is so important. It’s the root of lasting satisfaction. Conflict isn’t just about being right or wrong. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing, either. It’s about letting out the truth and making your truth known.

When we avoid fights and stop engaging with each other, we become passive aggressive. When this happens, we try to act like we’re being nicey-nice toward our partner, when we’re actually holding back and bottling up our feelings. Those feelings have to come out somewhere, so we end up doing all kinds of little things just to “show them” how we feel—without actually showing them anything. We call it the “hidden middle finger”—we get silent, we do things to purposely piss off our partner. We pout around expecting they’ll get the hint.

These actions don’t help the relationship grow. Instead, when we’re being honest and agreeing with the truth—always (one of our rules of engagement), there’s no room for passive aggressive actions.

Here’s another great rule of engagement: we must fight FOR the relationship, not against it. That means sometimes you have to outright declare what it is you’re truly fighting for. Maybe you’re fighting for acknowledgement. Maybe you’re fighting to meet a yearning, like to be seen and heard, or to be valued. Whatever you’re fighting for, you have to embrace the messiness. Fight hard for the things you want, and get your partner to fight alongside you. If you’re both fighting for, rather than against the relationship, you’ll be able to resolve conflict in much more satisfying and growth-focused ways.

Really Going At It? Anger is OK!

Ever since we were little kids, we’ve been told to get along, not to fight, and to agree with things as much as possible. We’re told to listen to each other and not to interrupt. Unfortunately, this can lead to conflict-avoidant behavior, which becomes the complete opposite of intimacy.

When you need to be heard, it’s okay to yell. It’s okay to be angry and let it all out. Your partner has the right to express their feelings as well—as long as you each take 100% responsibility for your own emotions and feelings and you’re not placing more than 50% of the blame on one side (two more rules of engagement from our book). Too often, we find ourselves bitching and moaning about our partner, “venting” about the things they aren’t doing. The essence of complaining is to punish someone for something we want that’s not happening.

Complaining doesn’t get us anywhere.

Instead, we should be expressing our yearnings to our partner. We should be telling them what we want and how we feel. We should both be engaged and fired up, because our relationship is so important to us that we’re willing to take the gloves off and go all out to improve and grow within our relationship.

The Real Secret to Awesome Relationships

Healthy relationships are dynamic, alive, and engaged. Everyone in the relationship is expressing themselves and saying what they want. They’re putting their yearnings out there and taking responsibility for their satisfaction. They aren’t blaming someone else for the way they feel and no one is playing the victim.

In healthy relationships, we’re always caring about our partner’s needs as well as our own. We assume goodwill in the relationship. We want to help our partner meet their yearnings. We’re both fighting toward the health and evolution of the relationship. We are honest and we’re being seen for who we really are.

Love is a complex and messy dance. It’s revealing ourselves, shifting, and learning how to get closer and gain a deeper understanding of our partner. It’s exciting as we develop increasing trust. We can be vulnerable and honest about who we are, and we grow to let our guard down and be truly intimate with each other. We evolve with our partner and move towards a deeper and greater understanding—and that is a beautiful thing.

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

To learn more about how you can deepen your growth and move toward a greater understanding of yourself and your relationships with others, join us for our More Life Training. Our focus this year is unlocking your personal power. Learn how to engage, ignite, and energize your life and connect with those around you.

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.

Liked this post and want more? Sign up for updates – free!

Image courtesy of Flickr user pinkmarina licensed under CC by 2.0.

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.