A conversation this weekend got me thinking about fairytales. Who doesn't love them? Who doesn't try to live them? Who has discovered how unrealistic it is to find prince charming by losing your shoe at a ball? I guess my point is that most of us have grown up with a certain sense of how relationships work or should work. My perception was a naive one and I learned that fast. In high school, I would preach about how hooking up was the worst thing in the world, about how kissing without commitment was wrong, about how I just wanted to find "the one." I was severely delusional. In college I learned how boundaries blur, how the world is not as black and white as my innocent high school self thought, how life is complicated. I used to pass judgement on situations that I had never experienced, and now having lived through more I realize that I was out of line. Life is not a fairytale and love takes work.
I'm not saying that prince charming doesn't exist, that Mr. Darcy isn't out there, but let's just think realistically here. Even if these perfect fictional characters were in the real world how would they act? No one is perfect, and I'm sure even Mr. Darcy has his flaws. Sometimes the person you think to be the most perfect is unavailable, sometimes you get to know him and realize he's not so great after all. It's that first love effect when you see the person you believe to be your future spouse, imagine the kids and the dog, the white picket fence. After a few months go by, you realize you were too hasty in your judgement and you criticize your foolishness. It's happened to me more than once and so I started not having expectations. It works a lot better. Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't hold people up to standards, but I am saying to give people a chance. They may surprise you. Sometimes your complete opposite is your match, but how would you know that if you dismissed them on the third date?
As for "the one," who thought of that? Nine times out of ten you don't meet your soulmate by staring into his/her eyes across a crowded room. The stereotype only gives the rest of us insecurities when we doubt that the one we are with is "the one." Don't do that to yourself. "The one" is who you deem him/her to be. Don't hold out hope for someone to sweep you off your feet because that is not how life works. I'm not trying to be pessimistic, I'm just being the realist. Relationships are work, they are compromise. You don't just fall into sync with a perfect stranger. You will have your differences, but part of being in a relationship is working them out and being stronger because of it. I believe that Lori Deschene, the founder of tinybuddha.com, says it best: "Real relationships are messy, and it can feel instinctive to resist that- but what a mistake that would be. It's only when we stop learning together that we start to grow apart."
No relationship is perfect, and no relationship can be a fairytale. We can have those moments with our partner where we feel like we're living in a dream, where we label the moment as perfect, but to classify an entire relationship or person as flawless is unrealistic and dangerous. In making that mistake, we lose. Don't be afraid of conflict or compromise, don't give up on someone because they said one wrong word. Keep your judgements in check, remain open to possibility and difference. Maybe you will find your prince charming is less than perfect, but you still love him just the way he is.