We Keep Trying to live out these Fairy Tale Romances—& it’s Ruining our Relationships.

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After exploring the myth of a knight in shining armor, two authors agree: it’s time we all get naked.

~
His story:

Since I was young, I dreamed of being a knight in shining armor.

My childhood left me with an abundance of insecurities and a lack of self-esteem. Growing up in an alcoholic household, imperfections were hidden and “I’m not good enough” was the prevailing feeling. It was a lonely childhood, and I thought the only way to have the life I wanted was to someday reinvent myself as some kind of hero.

That hero would don a suit of armor. I’d be protected and strong, feeling safe as my heart lay buried beneath iron and steel. The romance and masculinity of it appealed to me so much that I learned to ride a horse.

By the time I left home for college, I had figured out that I could simply hide my insecurities and shame beneath a constructed suit of defenses, and no one but me would know. I built my suit of armor one plate at a time, adding layer upon layer as I aged. I learned to value my self-worth by my ability to rescue women.

It was f*cking heroic.

I became what I thought women wanted. Rescuer and protector, larger than life. Armed with a lucrative career, I wore my success on my sleeve. Wrapped in charm, I would choose my partner while keeping the focus far away from my tattered heart.

I courted her with gestures and dinners. Seduced her with bravado and gifts. In a whirlwind of romance, the world would fall away as I swept her off her feet like Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” I won her heart and married her. More than once, as it turned out.

As my relationships developed, my suit became a burden as I would slowly suffocate inside of it, unable to maintain the façade. It had been perfect for falling in love, less so for staying in it.

After the initial rescue fades into the distance, we are left with day-to-day life. We can only rely on our highlight reel for so long. What happens after that is a bit more problematic. Knights don’t do housework.

As intimacy fights for space to grow, we are asked to be vulnerable enough to show up emotionally. But we can’t.

We don’t know how to take off the f*cking suit.

That same vulnerability that was so attractive in our partner is also the last thing we want her to see in us. Afraid of imperfections, we fear being exposed as frauds. Without taking emotional risks, we are merely prisoners inside our suit, terrified of being stabbed through the heart. If we are unwilling to step out from the suit, we shall remain impenetrable, invulnerable, and lonely.

Ironically, the very suit that “gets the girl” is the same one that assures we won’t keep her.

While we think it’s a sign of strength to lug the armor around, the most courageous thing we can do is take it off and allow ourselves to show up and be seen as we are. It is an act of bravery far greater than wearing a suit of armor.

It’s time to shift the paradigm.

~
Her story:

Tall, dark, handsome, and masculine. This is the stuff fantasies are made of.

I swoon as Christian Grey gallops in on his regal, white horse to save my ass. I sigh with relief; my knight in shining armor is here! I wake up with a jolt.

There are women who choose men well. I am not one of them. The quest to find my knight started in childhood when I first bought into the belief that a woman needed a man to save, rescue, and protect her.

Maybe the idea was cemented when my stepfather menacingly stated to my mother, “If you leave me, you and the kids will end up on the streets of Detroit.” Or maybe it was after watching “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Richard Gere’s character swoops in to rescue Debra Winger from a menial factory job, so she can escape a life of small-town drudgery. Or, could it be all those fairy tales I earnestly devoured?

It’s the digital age, and women clearly know they can support themselves and find fulfillment without a stereotypical, impassive, movie-star man, yet we see dating apps like Millionaire Match and Sugar Daddy For Me, to name a few. Intrinsically, many women are still looking to be rescued.

As a single woman, I experience waves of anxiety as I ponder the possibility of life alone. Could it stem from my mom’s rhetorical question, asked in a sympathetic voice, “You don’t want to be alone the rest of your life, do you?” Perhaps my anxiety ramps up when well-meaning men state, “You know you’re not getting any younger.” I wonder what my daughter’s intentions are when she suggests that I sign up for Seeking Arrangements. Does she also doubt my ability to fend for myself? I start to mistrust my own capabilities.

These same doubts gnawed at me as a naive young woman.

This lack of confidence and a messed up belief system led me to my knight at the tender age of 21. He was decidedly dark and handsome, and very masculine. He grew up in New York City in an area where the mafia controlled every street corner. He rode with a bat in the back seat of his car—for protection. He spoke tough, acted tough, looked tough, and I loved it! He was confident, charismatic, and he made me feel safe.

I desperately wanted to be rescued and swept away. I came from a family that was broken and dysfunctional, and I wanted my knight.

Let’s just say, “He didn’t do housework.”

Many women are drawn to stoic, emotionally unavailable men who, once we love them, won’t take the damn armor off. We never receive the affection, love, and emotional support we didn’t know we desired. And, it’s not the man’s fault. They gave us what we wanted–safety and security.

Then, we change the rules on them and want more–more emotion, more vulnerability, and more connection.

How can two people possibly maintain a connection with an iron plate wedged between them?

The more they withdraw behind the armor, the more discontent we become. We can only try to earn a man’s love for so long before we either surrender to a life of disconnection and agonizing loneliness or leave altogether.

It’s time for a paradigm shift.

Men need to shed the suit because it no longer serves them. Because men are enough without it. For too long, vulnerability in males has been seen as a weakness, not a strength. But masculinity and strength come from the willingness to be both brave and afraid.

It’s time for men to show up and be vulnerable and open. And that would be truly heroic.

Women need to release the belief that they need a knight. Because women are enough without one. For too long, women have overlooked men who courageously remove the armor, openly express their emotions, and speak with honesty and authenticity.

It’s time for women to show up, stand on their own two feet, and rescue themselves. And that would also be truly heroic.

“It’s not fear that gets in the way of showing up—it’s armor. It’s the behaviors we use to self-protect. We can be brave and afraid at the same time. But the armor suffocates courage and cages our hearts. The goal is to create spaces where armor is neither necessary nor rewarded.” ~ Brené Brown

author: David Baumrind & Jill Carbone

Image: Game of Thrones (2011- )

Image: Ecofolks on Instagram

Editor: Kelsey Michal

The one Buddhist Red Flag to watch out for & how you'll know if he or she is The One.

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ingoldrie Mar 1, 2019 6:25pm

I’ve had to read this article several times bc I found myself resonating with both view points. I’ve always been told I needed a man. When I pressed elders on why , economics and yard work were the top answers. I also found myself trying to “save” men who held their emotions tight. I attempted this by being their counselor/cheerleader. Once I became exhausted from this, the relationship ended. Thanks for sharing. It def opened up a can of worms!

    Jill Carbone Mar 1, 2019 6:37pm

    I’ve opened the same can! Thank you so much for your thoughts.

pbaumrind Feb 26, 2019 2:35pm

What a thought provoking article! Who is responsible for keeping the armory tarnished and shiny? Probably NOT the one who doesn’t do housework!

    David Baumrind Feb 26, 2019 2:51pm

    Thank you! No need to keep the armor shiny anymore lol.

      Jill Carbone Feb 27, 2019 2:11pm

      Thank you! I finally gave up trying to polish the armor. 🙂

Claire Tanner Feb 25, 2019 1:27am

I love this article. I have had many discussions about it being drummed into women they need a knight in shining armour and our preconceived ideas that a relationship should be how Fairytales are written. From a young age we are shown by stories , music , t.v that a woman needs a man . When it doesnt pan out , we then beat ourselves up time n time again. We arent princesses who need rescuing. Men arent indeed knights in shining armour. Not how we often percieve them to be anyway. Ive always been a rescuer , like the knight but female – then turned into a helpless princess.. needless to say no equal Queen n King here ! One thing I’ve learned is that you have to make your own Fairytale to suit your life and if that means being an independent woman by yourself , like wise for a man , with no one rescuing each other then thats great too ! A relationship should be equal and i think we need to stop defining roles and waiting for a Knight !

    Jill Carbone Feb 25, 2019 6:04am

    I agree with you. I think for a relationship to work, both partners need to be confident and comfortable with themselves and stop defining roles. Thank you for taking to time to read and comment!

    David Baumrind Feb 25, 2019 6:44am

    Claire, thank you for your thoughtful comments! We are all responsible for our own happiness, and our own rescuing!

treeswan Feb 24, 2019 9:03pm

So if the guy won’t give up the armor, can’t give it up because he is absolutely unaware he’s even got it on….what’s a girl to do? Y’all are right, the fairy tale is not real. Too bad, because it sure would be great to have a magic wand to fix the wreckage left from all the choices made chasing after them. Thanks for a great read!

    David Baumrind Feb 24, 2019 9:22pm

    @Treeswan, admittedly, it’s tricky. But have faith, many of us do learn to take off the armor!

    Jill Carbone Feb 25, 2019 5:56am

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Have faith. There are some really good men out there. I’ve wasted time myself chasing the knights.

Emily Brimmer Feb 24, 2019 4:24pm

I’ve often thought that once people realize tgey can share the “masculine” and “feminine” side of themselves to each other, there might be more peace in the world. This article is very thoughtful towards that belief. Thank you.

    Jill Carbone Feb 24, 2019 7:10pm

    I agree with you. I think it’s showing the human side, and I’d sure like a more peaceful world. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

    David Baumrind Feb 24, 2019 9:24pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments Emily! I agree, more peace in the world indeed!

mmi59 Feb 24, 2019 1:28pm

Thank you for compassionately expressing an all too common deep-set, mis-belief that’s acted out as a survival behavior.

    David Baumrind Feb 24, 2019 4:01pm

    @mmi59, you are very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read it!

    Jill Carbone Feb 24, 2019 7:08pm

    Thank you for your comment! We enjoyed writing it.

jflynn1 Feb 24, 2019 10:41am

What do women think they need to be rescued from…anyway? I don’t need rescuing. I need caring, laughter, love, sharing, quiet time, and friendship. I’ve never needed to be rescued….I’m not locked in a dungeon…or on a sinking ship…

    Jill Carbone Feb 24, 2019 12:09pm

    I don’t think all women feel that way, and I admire your strength. I wish we all had that strength. As a teacher, I see teen and pre-teen girls thinking they need validation from the boys. It starts with the desire to receive likes on their social media pictures, and the need for outside validation continues from there. So, in short, I believe the need to be rescued stems from a lack of inner confidence and strength that begins at an early age. Thank you so much for your comment. We certainly don’t want to put all women into one box.

iabdelhamid73 Feb 24, 2019 9:09am

It’s very interesting article and the way it was tailored from both point of views (his & her). I totally agree as a man, that we should be just ourselves, armour-free individuals, having our inner side exposed clearly to our partner. As for women, to stop believing that they aren’t capable of going through the battle of life without a man or a knight, because they can simply do it! Maybe even better than doing it with a knight. Yet, from my own prospective, based on life experiences, I have lived for so many years with my armour and a lot of women were attracted to that armour and what was underneath it, but for some reason it was not that comfy for me and had such relationships ended by me leaving…it took me almost 3 years to be armour-free, then, on the other hand, as i am typing this comment, i just got my heart stabbed violently after loving her without my armour, having myself exposed to her, no layrs, no sheilds, nothing at all, which made her the closest if not inside of my heart, and suddenly, a roughly strong destructive stabbing came not from the back but from inside outside my heart that literally made me lose balance and I’ve never lost balance in such way. Like any normal human being, i am fighting to make it work, ready to declare WWIII if that’s what it takes and my limit is my last breath…but it truly hurts as if I’ve never knew what does it mean to be hurt and that feeling of wishing literally that time stops at that moment when she said i love you…
Cutting a very long story short, if a man took off his armour, it is making him so exposed to a deadly stab that he might never ever thought he would get!
If a woman insisted that she can make it alone through life, without being sure of her capabilities and strength, she might be smahsed to pieces unless there is a man protecting her with his shield and armour.
Conclusion: neither men nor women alike and each of them come with a different case.

    Jill Carbone Feb 24, 2019 9:57am

    Thank you for your comment. You are right; no two stories are the same. Your story was heartfelt, and I’m sure many people will resonate with it. Yes, removing one’s armor is a double-edged sword as it leaves us exposed and vulnerable to heartbreak. However, if we don’t expose our hearts, how do we know what love is? What true connection is? What loving all of a person is? And, yes, in the end, they may reject us, but perhaps they weren’t ready for us. I’ve wanted the knight, and I’ve rejected those who opened themselves up to me as I perceived them as weak. I thought I wanted the mystery that accompanies emotional unavailability. Only in the last few years have I realized that I deserve to be loved and shown that I’m loved. Along with that epiphany came the understanding that I can stand on my own two feet and patiently wait for the real knight–a man who is strong but knows when to take the armor off. This is a healthier perspective that results in a much healthier relationship. In the past, I didn’t know what healthy looked like. I finally get it. A man’s strength comes from his ability to be vulnerable because that is where courage lies. I think you were very courageous for opening up, and I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I’m optimistic, however, that you will find that person who is ready for you. If you haven’t read Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability, it is worth taking a look at. Thank you again.

      iabdelhamid73 Feb 24, 2019 11:08am

      You said it all…Thanks a lot

      brandon_03022006 Feb 24, 2019 11:31am

      Jill, you’re amazing and I love your article!

        Jill Carbone Feb 24, 2019 12:00pm

        Thank you so much, Brandon!

cdiane2000 Feb 24, 2019 9:04am

Vulnerability as bravery is an incredibly important idea. We stop looking to save or be saved and begin to save ourselves, and, in doing so, become capable of healthy, happy relationships. Excellent read!

    Jill Carbone Feb 24, 2019 10:42am

    Thank you! I know I’m much happier! 🙂

    David Baumrind Feb 24, 2019 9:27pm

    @cdiane2000, thank you for your comment, and it applies to men as well. There is much strength and joy in vulnerability.

Gaskindm02 Feb 24, 2019 8:11am

I love the whole idea of accepting that we are “enough”. We spend so much time trying to mold ourselves into roles and constantly reinventing ourselves that we’re missing the idea that we are already everything we need. Great article!

    David Baumrind Feb 24, 2019 9:02am

    @Gaskindm02, we couldn’t agree more!

    Jill Carbone Feb 24, 2019 9:27am

    I agree. There’s nothing more freeing than letting go and just being. Thank you for commenting!

Haley Sage Feb 23, 2019 10:22am

Bravo, you two! Articles like this speak honestly and help usher in a new, needed paradigm. It’s exciting to be on the frontier of new values that build the core of relationships. Thank you for giving a gender-balanced perspective!

    David Baumrind Feb 23, 2019 12:41pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments Haley!

    Jill Carbone Feb 23, 2019 3:18pm

    You bet! Thank you for being part of the shift.

lesleydrewitz Feb 22, 2019 8:47pm

Jill is a phenomenal writer. She never ever disappoints.

    Jill Carbone Feb 23, 2019 6:44am

    Thank you for the complement. It made my day! I’m glad you enjoy my work.

wendypiasentin Feb 22, 2019 6:28pm

Well written article!!!

Jacqueline Ruppert Feb 22, 2019 7:19am

I totally related to reading this! I dated someone when I was younger whose favorite movie was “An Officer & a Gentleman.” I thought it was a sign that he was sensitive and caring. The relationship didn’t work out. He only liked the romanticized version of me that he had made up in his head. And, I guess I fell into the trap of being attracted to my romanticized version of him. I enjoyed the way the article was written from a his & her perspective, btw. Definitely caught my attention.

    David Baumrind Feb 22, 2019 9:32am

    Thank you for reading, and for your thoughtful words Jacquie!

    Jill Carbone Feb 22, 2019 6:58pm

    Yes, the romanticizing part is so much fun until reality hits! Ugh I appreciate your comment. Thanks so much!

Kerri-lyn Bryant Feb 21, 2019 10:57pm

So pleased off I never got my ‘love lift me up where I belong’moment. Richard Gere was so bloody handsome in that movie & Debra Winger so beautifully poor & going nowhere. I’d have settled for a Richard Gere/Julia Roberts moment.. Billionaire Exec climbs outdoor fire escape with bouquet of flowers 4 ex prostitute.. hmmmm.. No wonder my hubby won’t watch anything with RICHARD GERE in it!! Hahaxx loved this piecexx

    Kerri-lyn Bryant Feb 21, 2019 11:00pm

    I meant pissed off!!

    David Baumrind Feb 22, 2019 9:33am

    Kerri-lyn, thank you for your thoughtful comments. Richard Gere sets the bar high indeed lol.

    Jill Carbone Feb 22, 2019 6:55pm

    That’s the common thread – it’s all Richard Gere’s fault! Lol Thanks so much for the comment!

Ellen Ely Feb 21, 2019 8:01pm

So true. Time for that paradigm shift! Men- open your hearts. Women- just be you!

    David Baumrind Feb 21, 2019 10:05pm

    @Ellen, we agree!

    Jill Carbone Feb 22, 2019 6:53pm

    Thank you, Ellen! Let’s start that shift!

Jennifer Edwards Feb 21, 2019 5:32pm

Thank you! This is such a needed message. We have such an obsession with being super human or enhanced in some way in life and romance (plus I’ve noticed I tend to be drawn to the broken birds…eek!) and it is time to just be us, isn’t it? 🙂

    David Baumrind Feb 21, 2019 6:32pm

    Thanks Jennifer! I agree.. time to be just us!

    Jill Carbone Feb 21, 2019 7:10pm

    Right on! It’s time to just be us! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

Alyson Follenius Feb 21, 2019 3:28pm

Seamless. You have woven the threads of truth through both of your experiences in a most relatable way.

    David Baumrind Feb 21, 2019 3:36pm

    Thanks Alyson, I thought so too!

    Jill Carbone Feb 21, 2019 7:12pm

    Thank you for the complement! I’m so glad our words resonated with you!

Virginia Lung Feb 21, 2019 3:23pm

I love the duet writing here! We can share and show strength in the non traditional ways where we are most authentic selves. Brave it and say f*ck it if they don’t accept us as the real deal, armor free.

    David Baumrind Feb 21, 2019 3:35pm

    Thanks Virginia. I couldn’t agree more.

      Jill Carbone Feb 21, 2019 7:14pm

      Armor free all the way! This article was great fun to collaborate on. Thanks for the comment!

Janice Dolk Feb 21, 2019 3:17pm

Amazing, this article held my interest from the title to the last word. I cannot imagine co-writing an article, yet, both of you have made it seamless, enjoyable and heart-warming. Thank you. It is certainly an article to benefit many of us.

    David Baumrind Feb 21, 2019 3:35pm

    Thank you Janice!

    Jill Carbone Feb 21, 2019 7:16pm

    Thank you, Janice! I’m happy you found It of benefit!

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David Baumrind & Jill Carbone

David Baumrind is a budding writer and paramedic on Long Island. As a single father he teaches and learns life’s lessons with his 11-year-old boy. He loves the outdoors and is an avid paddle boarder and biker. He enjoys exploring the nature of his true self, practicing gratitude along the way. You can connect with him on Instagram.

Jill Carbone is a mindful teacher who is passionate about improving the lives of her students. She enjoys playing soccer and hockey for the love of the sports, the competition, and the ice cold beer shared after the game. If 50 teens weren’t enough to keep her alert and firmly attached to the present moment, her own two teens challenge her intellectually with their circular reasoning skills. Jill believes the world would change for the better if we taught our children how to live, eat, love, and feel mindfully. Catch up with Jill on Facebook.