The best advice I’ve ever been given about love might seem a little unconventional.
It came from my mom’s best friend. She sat me down one day and said, “Becca, you need to remember: ‘Prince Charming doesn’t exist.’”
She also told me to never fall in love with a cheater. Again true, but that one was a little more obvious.
Now, I don’t mean, “Prince Charming doesn’t exist” in a, “Don’t try at love—there’s no point,” kind of way. Nor do I mean that in a, “You should settle for less than you want or deserve,” kind of way either. What I mean, and her point to me was, you are never going to meet that perfect person who we’re led to believe exists in fairy tales, magazines, and romantic comedies. And if that is your expectation, as it was for me for quite some time, you may be setting yourself up for disaster, disappointment, and possibly closing yourself off to your perfect match.
In the real world, even “Prince Charming” is human.
And, gender is irrelevant. Nobody is perfect—not even the love of your life or the future love of your life.
Throughout my early 20s, I was fiercely independent. Well, I suppose I still am—maybe that hasn’t changed. But, in my 20s, I was so quick to disregard and let go of anyone who didn’t meet the grandiose expectations of what I needed, wanted, and felt I deserved in a partner.
I had a list and if they didn’t check all the boxes on it, I decided it was never going to work. And even if they checked all those boxes, the second that person showed me a flaw, I was done. Now, I’m not talking about major red flags here, those are always good to recognize and are fine to be a deal breaker. I’m talking about my own expectations of perfection that weren’t necessarily attainable or realistic. I’m talking about expecting Hugh Grant’s character in “Notting Hill,” or Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook” to come in, be their perfect handsome self, say all the right things, sweep me off my feet, and whisk me away.
During that time in my 20s, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was traveling a lot, I always put myself first, and I truly wasn’t ready or wanting a relationship. I wanted to be completely free and not tied down. But there came a point in my life when I was ready. I wanted to settle down a bit more, not settle, but settle down, and let love and a relationship in.
It was about that time when my mom and her best friend sat me down, looked me straight in the eye, and said: “Becca, Prince Charming doesn’t exist.”
This came after I’d given them another one of my—“He’s nice and kind, has a good job, is funny, but he is three inches too short,” or, “His arms aren’t defined enough,” or, “He doesn’t speak four languages,”—reasons for dismissing each potential suitor. (I have never spoken four languages, so I’m not sure why I felt that my partner needed to.)
“I know,” I had replied and rolled my eyes at them.
But then I sat and thought about it for a minute. Was I really setting my expectations too high? Was I dismissing great men over frivolous things that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things? Or was I a strong independent woman who knew what she wanted and wasn’t willing to settle for anything less?
I thought about the expectations I had and what I was taught that I needed and wanted. I thought about the “perfect couples” I followed on Instagram without taking into account the lighting and set up and makeup team they had behind them to put together the perfect shot of their romantic cliffside picnic. Maybe I was more concerned with having my perfect Instagram cliffside picnic post than I was about finding someone and something real.
The fact of the matter is, “Prince Charming” might look perfect and be perfect on paper, but might turn into a real jerk when you’re back at the castle. Or he might just be too good to be true.
I heeded their advice, which I took as, open yourself up for something real and get out of your own way. Don’t shut someone down, just because they don’t check each and every box, because they may check other boxes that are far better and more important.
I stopped searching for the magazine-ad guy. The truth is, I had dated a model or two in the past, and it never worked out for me because I felt I could never be myself around them.
What I then found was a trusting, loving, supportive partner, and a relationship that I never thought possible. No, he’s not perfect, and neither am I. But, we have so much fun together and a wonderful life. We love, we laugh, we trust, we support each other’s dreams and we encourage each other.
I may not have given him a chance, not because there is anything wrong with him, he’s handsome, charismatic, funny, and wonderful, but he wouldn’t have checked all my previous boxes. Instead he checks boxes I truly never thought to put on the list. Like the way he will not only change the oil in my car to make sure I’m safe, but make sure my friend’s car is in tip-top shape before she gets back on the road after coming over for a visit. And he demonstrates countless examples of what a good person will do for the one they love.
I think of the time that my mom and her best friend sat me down to crush my dream of finding “Prince Charming.” They weren’t saying true love doesn’t exist.
My mom has been married to my father for 43 years and they are an excellent example of what true love looks like. But their love is real, in that it is not always perfect, and I would never say that my dad is “Prince Charming.” They built their castle together and they worked on themselves and their love, together. If my mom sought “Prince Charming,” she would’ve never stood up to his expectations either and vice versa.
What they were saying to me that day was, let go of your damn grandiose unrealistic expectations of who you think you should be with, because that person will never exist. We are dealing with humans here, not fictional characters or fairy tales. And, the more you sit and wait for your prince, the longer you are passing up on the opportunity to actually meet true love.
Just be open, don’t lower your standards or settle, but be open to creating your own fairy tale. Or better yet, f*ck the fairy tale, because it’s not real. Nor are the expectations we hold on to from our childhood and the movies that set us up for failure.
The more we recognize the real from the fake that is projected on to us daily, the sooner we are able to open ourselves up to something real and authentic—which in the end, is what we all actually deserve.