Once upon a time, there was a little girl with big eyes and an even bigger imagination who loved to read. Poetry, classic fiction and fairytales were her jam as she pulled on her ponytail and devoured precious prose.
As the little girl grew up, she often dreamed of being a princess and of magic carpets, dark forests and fairy godmothers. She knew that only perfect girls became princesses. A princess was, above all, beautiful and good. Everybody loved a princess, from bunnies to dwarfs. A princess got to marry a prince, gasp! She wondered why the trope of the famous fairytales involved the princess kissing the frog to turn it into the prince of her dreams.
It suggested that in order to get the “man of her dreams”, a woman must change a man with her virtue, her goodness and her womanly touch.
Were all little girls supposed to be good?
The ‘happily ever after’ is a lot of fucking pressure.
Think Beauty and the Beast. It is through her goodness and patience that Belle melts the rough exterior of the Beast to unleash a dashing prince. Women are taught to sacrifice and endure the obvious shortcomings of their mates for long-term reward in return.
For example, I dated this lazy computer geek who loved computer games. He would literally spend a whole day playing World of Warcraft or some bullshit and disappear from reality with a bag of Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with computer games – they are entertaining and, other than being sedentary, are not harmful. However, playing make believe for days on end and ignoring me and our dinner plans etc. was rude and irresponsible. I felt like I consistently came second to what was happening in virtual reality. To make matters worse, he had a whole bunch of “online friends” and they would “hang out” and try to out game each other, or whatever.
In the end, computer games did something for him I could not. And after a lot of arguments about this, we parted ways because I knew he wouldn’t change.
I think psychologically we expect things to work out, we expect that our love will be enough to change the most stubborn of character defects in these men. That in some way, these men needed us to save them!
These fairytales are ingrained in us through Societal Programming. I mean just think how many ‘bridezillas’ style themselves as princesses on their wedding day? Frankly, besides making me a little nauseous, it also firmly reinforces the fairytale ideal into our expectations of romance.
These expectations of romance are not aligned with the modern, instant gratification construct of our reality.
I knew a good looking guy with a wife, a kid and a job. He appeared to be an upstanding member of society. His wife was paranoid that he was cheating. Well, he would unceremoniously pay for prostitutes on his business trips. He did not consider that cheating, since there was no emotional involvement. She kept checking his phone for evidence every chance she got. And thus, their sorta fairytale ensued.
I can count on my hand the numbers of girlfriends I have comforted over finding some evidence of their men engaging in some form of tech cheating. Whether it was emotionally loaded texts to an ex-girlfriend, internet hookups on dating sites, or more creative ways of getting off – these men were scratching their itch in the confines of the monogamous relationship. Of course, cheating men always get caught (partially because they want to) and I am here to pose the question: Fundamentally, if our expectations of fairytale romance (i.e. monogamy) were not so old-fashioned and loaded with stereotypes, would we have more successful modern relationships?
It is not my position to reframe what a modern relationship looks like, but it doesn’t look like hacking into your man’s website accounts or grabbing his phone and monitoring his text messages. It doesn’t look like standing in front of the computer screen so he stops gaming. It doesn’t look like hiding his pills or alcohol in the house so he can’t do it “one more time”. These women that are in love with serial cheaters, gamblers, addicts etc. are wasting their time. It’s not your womanly touch, but codependence!
You cannot change a man.
A frog is a frog. Setting up the dynamic of a relationship where you think that because you love him enough he will change for you is unhealthy and insulting. People, for the most part, do not change unless massively tragic and painful circumstances cause them to change themselves.
Acknowledging unrealistic expectation is the first step to getting in touch with reality. If you see red flags when you start to date a man do not think that you can smooth them over, but run. Perhaps Prince Charming is a cultural illusion, but you are not doing yourself any favors by subscribing to it.
You can even be a goddamn princess in your imagination. A fairytale ending comes with a caveat in our society and it is ignorant to think otherwise. But the key is that you are the princess in your own right, without placing delusional expectations on a frog.