Get over it, Princess. Here's how to find REAL love.
I was willing to abandon my Kool-Aid Hawaiian punch, favorite animal coloring books, and my 64-pack of crayons that lay strewn across the front porch just for a glimpse of him.
I’d race to the end of my driveway to see that one boy riding his black-and-silver dirt bike past my house.
He was handsome, (Wendy translation: thin and wiry with messy hair) and the last day I saw him, he was wearing black-and-white checked Vans, a gray t-shirt, and Levis.
I memorized that outfit.
After all, when he returned riding his white steed (well, his bike) to sweep me off my feet, I’d need to be able to recognize him, right?
He was going to whisk me away from my boring life with my parents where I was forced to do things like chores and homework, and he and I were going to live happily ever after.
I knew it to be true because this was what I’d been promised: by Cinderella, by Sleeping Beauty, by Snow White, you name it.
Even my modern-day hero with her own amazing Malibu Townhouse hosted Ken from time to time.
My heroines gave me hope. Hope that I’d be saved from this provincial life.
Well, hope morphed into complacency and complacency into concern—where was he? As I grew up, this constant waiting around created a sense of scarcity and urgency in me and in many of my single sisters, that’s hard to shake.
1. The "one day my prince will come" childhood fairytale.
The sneaky message: Online dating is for suckers. You don’t need to do that. You’re above all that nonsense because your prince is coming for you.
Don’t expend effort to meet people or pick your eyes up when you’re walking around your city, because he’ll come to you.
You don’t even need to leave your house — just apply magical thinking and voila, your prince will appear!
The reality: Nah, girl. This kind of thinking, magical or otherwise, will get you nowhere.
Don’t wait for your prince. Get on a white steed of your own and go find him.
2. "The One" fantasy.
The sneaky message: There one person who was created and put on this Earth just for you.
But what if you already blew it with your One? That would be tragic, right?
What if you went on a first date with your One and you snorted when you laughed and a bunch of snot and Diet Coke came out your nose?
If there is just one, I hope they live in your town. How are they going to find you if they live in Libya? And, if by some miracle, they do find you, would you follow them there?
The reality: The One, as romantic as it sounds, creates nothing but scarcity and panic. It causes us to stay with a person even if the relationship isn’t working because they might be the One — and without them — well, there’s no one.
I went on 121 first dates, and what I learned from this process was there is no such thing as the One. I saw the possibility of having 121 different futures, all possible in their own way.
I ended up with my One, but that was a choice, not fate or destiny. I recommend ditching the concept of the One and finding your best match instead.
3. The "love at first sight" fairytale.
The sneaky message: “And when our eyes met, it was like time stopped. We moved in slow-mo towards each other, and we both just knew.”
The reality: Do you know what that is? That’s some intense bodily chemistry right there; as in dopamine, oxytocin, testosterone, and a whole host of other chemicals that get us high.
It’s hot. It’s exciting. It’s magnetizing. But it’s not the hinge that keeps a lasting, harmonious partnership together.
“I’ll know it when I see it” is a downside of the love-at-first-sight trope. When we pick a mate on first sight (read: hormonal response) alone, we’re likely to be mismatched in important areas of our lives.
Give a date a chance to grow on you, and by the third date or so I bet you’ll know whether this one will give you butterflies in all the right places or not.
4. The "meant to be" childhood fairytale.
The sneaky message: “I’ve met someone. I think he’s the One. When we were on our date I learned that he loves music, and you know I love music. Our birthdays are both in July. And we both like food! It must be meant to be.”
“Meant to be” is the magic glue that brings the One in contact with Happily Ever After. Or at least it can seem that way.
The reality: We hit the meant-to-be’s during the evidence-collecting phase of a new relationship.
When we’re excited about someone new, we tend to look for and find deeper meaning where there is none, and these MTB moments can distract us from the red flags of a mismatch.
You know, like maybe he wants six children and you don’t want any, but hey, you both like food. Be sure to look beyond the MTB moments with your eyes wide open.
5. The "happily ever after" myth.
The sneaky message: You, your ridiculously expensive gown you’ll never wear again, your love, 200 people, a preacher, and God are all present to witness that enchanting moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life.
Dust off that old childhood storybook—what does it say in the last paragraph on the final page?
“And they lived happily ever after. The end.”
The reality: The end? Not exactly.
We never saw Cinderella fight with her prince charming. We didn’t see them do taxes, shop at Costco with the three kids on a Saturday afternoon, or deal with little Johnny’s bullying problem.
You’ve had your big day. Now slip out of the wedding dress, love each other unconditionally, make sure nothing ever goes wrong, and never change. Ever.
That’s what “the end” in the fairy tales we grow up with implies, but, of course, this isn’t how real life works.
Stay nice and limber to ride life’s roller coasters together. Over the long haul, desires, hopes, dreams, and directions change, and everybody needs to be ready to bend but not break.
6. The "All you need is love" fairytale.
This is the worst offender in how we learned to think about love in fairytale-land. “All you need is love” gives you no room for boundaries, standards, or practical workability.
Love is not all you need if your love is a raging drug addict. Love is not all you need if they’ve stifled your autonomy, creativity, self-expression, or happiness. Love is not all you need if, despite your best efforts, you simply grow apart as human beings. You need to feel safe, heard, and respected in your relationship, and your partner needs the same. You can love each other to pieces and still not be right for each other.
“All You Need Is Love” is a song by the Beatles, not a way of life. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and the rest of the princess gang are all residents of childhood stories that may be fun and whimsical and contain some kernels of truth, but they ultimately don’t serve the badass, sassy adult woman you’ve grown to be.
It’s time to let go of your little girl tales, roll up your sleeves, and get curious about finding the mate who’s right for you. Maybe, just maybe, you can create your own real-life version of happily ever after.