DENVER, Co., November 12, 2014 — Growing up, girls are force fed fairy tales, literally shoved down our throats any possible chance. Every TV show, every movie, every book involves some princess being swept off her feet by Prince Charming. We grow up as hopeless romantics just waiting by our window for our knight in shining armor. We spend countless hours crying and stuffing our face with Ben and Jerry ice cream, while watching romantic comedies.
In each movie, both the male and female characters are possessed by an all-encompassing love. Their love only grows deeper as they battle the strict, overbearing parents, eventually culminating with the predictable happily-ever-after, blah, blah blah. But in reality, most of us will never experience this. Life is not a fairy tale and you are not a princess. Love is a constant work in progress with many ups and downs.
With the holiday season just around the corner, fellow columnist and political scientist Danny de Gracia and I talk about some of the top five flawed expectations that can crush girls and guys alike and share life-saving advice for relationships.
- Putting love on a fixed timeline.
Too many women set a strict timeline for themselves. They have a pre-determined age on when they need to be married, when they need to have kids and so on. It is true that if you want kids you are held to a biological timeline however, you can’t rush love.
At 23, I’m in a strange phase of life. Every day I see more and more of my friends get engaged or get married. Occasionally I wonder if I should be taking my relationships more seriously but in the end I am nowhere near ready to settle down. I have many goals and dreams I want to accomplish on my own before I consider marriage. You are unique and there is no need to hurry a relationship.
- Demanding Prince Charming show up and sweep you off your feet.
Nobody likes to hear it, but it’s the truth. Yes, you should find a man who loves you and respects you, but your soul mate may not have every quality you’ve ever imagined. We all have flaws and in love, you will learn to adore the flaws of your partner.
These stories we grow up reading and watching only show a very small portion of a relationship. Reality brings us so many challenges that you would never see on the big screen. Movies are made to make money, and the best movies are those that make you dream. In real life you can experience a variety of trials from legal issues to health challenges. You cannot expect to fall in love and everything after that will be perfect.
What truly shows your love is how you handle the hardships as a couple. Love is a magical experience but it won’t exclude you from the reality of life.
- Assuming the age of chivalry is over.
I often hear women complaining that chivalry is dead. To me chivalry means many things and I think many women think it only includes actions. Chivalry is a way of being, from being polite to being kind, not just opening doors and doing “manly things.”
While I have come across many rude men that have absolutely no manners, I have also come across many that do. As a woman this might get me in hot water, however, many women are just as rude as those men they are complaining about. If you want to be treated politely then you must be polite.
If you want a man to treat you with kindness and gentleness then you must be kind and gentle in return. Everybody could be more kind to one another and it is no exception in love.
- Using other people’s success (or failure) as a guide for your love life.
Social media has such a strong influence on our lives these days. I often find friends subconsciously comparing themselves with other couples on social media. Each relationship is different and should be treated different.
While you may not have the same kind of relationship as that (seemingly) “cute couple” on Instagram but you have something unique to you. Beauty is more than skin deep and perceptions are not reality. It’s easy to front a happy life on social media. Just because they upload a variety of loving pictures as a couple does not mean they have a perfect relationship.
Every couple has trials and tribulations. Ironically, some of the most famous Hollywood couples used as insta-backgrounds for quotes on relationships are often the most dysfunctional of all in real life. Those that can work together to overcome their troubles are the people that last long term.
- Falling into the fatal conceit of assuming there will only be one true love.
At this point in my life, I can confidently say that I have learned and grown from each of my relationships, even my almost relationships have taught me something. Each time you fall in love you will learn something new. You cannot always be convinced your first love is the only one you will ever have.
Life has many seasons. As you change your love will change. There shouldn’t be a limit on how many people you fall for. Eventually you will find somebody who is your forever love: a person you can be with forever, grow together and to learn all that life has to offer at your side. I have loved and been hurt but it was still love and I have room in my heart for so much more than “one love.” Anytime you love sincerely, it is a true love … at the moment.
Dr. Danny de Gracia on guys:
Great points, Kaitlin. I think that every man subconsciously wants to be a knight-in-shining armor with a dragon to slay and a damsel-in-distress to rescue. The problem is that a combination of economics, sexual politics and shifts in Western cultural attitudes have made the “classic” happily-ever-after finish for couples more difficult for single Millennials and GenXers holding out for the perfect person.
According to the U.S. Census, in 1950 the median age at first marriage for women was about 18, today in 2014 it’s closer to around 26. Speaking from a purely biological perspective the chance of winning a “happily-ever-after” favors males more than females since men are able to have children almost their entire life, whereas for women the opportunity range is much narrower. But this is still no excuse not to get it right. Here’s my top five list of flawed expectations for guys:
- Expecting to marry your high school sweetheart.When I was five years old, I watched movies like Back to The Future and thought I’d meet a Lea Thompson or Claudia Wells-type girl in high school, go to senior prom and live happily ever after. I don’t know how many young teenage guys today are still expecting to find Ms. Right in high school, but the chances of that actually happening are probably greater than the chances of paying off the national debt.
- Putting all your hopes on one girl.
What many people forget these days is that the purpose of dating and courtship in general is a screening process of identifying whether or not someone is compatible with you or not. When I was younger, I played the “white knight” in my relationships and approached dating from the perspective of “love will conquer all in the end if you just hang in there.”
If a girl did things to hurt my feelings, stood me up on a date or did something that was unfair I never brought it to her attention and just smiled and sucked it up. Whenever I’d make mistakes or do things to incur a rebuke from a girl, I wouldn’t disagree and I’d accept 100% responsibility and apologize even if I was accused of something that wasn’t my fault.
The end result was that my relationships left me as a teenager completely exhausted, I would cry for hours and hours and I just felt so miserable because I felt that there was a double standard where my feelings and needs meant nothing but a girl’s feelings is supposed to take overriding precedence over all things because I thought the only role of a man was to make a girl happy, even at his own expense.
Today, I’m so much happier because I don’t feel obligated to make something work out at all costs. If someone wants to leave or mistreat me, they are certainly free to do so because I reserve the right to stop dating them at any time and I make that very clear. I think guys should be gentlemen and should extend grace in all their relationships but they shouldn’t be doormats for girls to trample them down out of a flawed expectation that the person they are dating is the only girl in the world.
- Buying roses and Tiffany & Co. “blue boxes” will win a girl over.
In John Gray’s book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, the author points out that men and women view the role of gifts in relationships differently. Men assume that because they bought a girl roses for Valentine’s Day and Tiffany ring for her birthday “they should be good” after that. Guys then run into cognitive dissonance where the girl they just gave the Valentine’s gift to ends up becoming the girlfriend to a guy who just asked her out for a hamburger but never gives her any affectionate gifts, is clueless and insensitive and can’t say “I love you” to a member of the opposite sex.
Since some girls respond to gifts while others respond to quality time or even words of affirmation in varying degrees of appreciation, a better approach for guys especially in these tough economic times is just to find areas where they can connect with a girl’s interests without necessarily having to fork over expensive gifts that aren’t appreciated. At the end of the day however, you shouldn’t have to buy someone’s love.
- Thinking that you must spend holidays and special events with a girl.
Holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas can be extremely lonely for people who think that they’re incomplete unless they have a “snuggle buddy” for these times of the year. I grew up in a traditional family and my dad was a senior ranking commander in the Air Force, so when I was young the holidays were showy events where I watched young guys bring girls to formal parties, introduce them as their girlfriend and announce they were getting married soon and everyone would burst into applause.
I wanted to be “that guy” one day, but the problem was I couldn’t find a girl who loved me for who I was and when holidays came around, I was always lonely. The truth is guys shouldn’t feel pressured to have a girlfriend around the holidays. If you have one, great. If not, don’t be miserable. Spending time with family or friends that appreciate you at least gives you positive reinforcement and keeps your mind from idly drifting to depression.
- Making the mistake of thinking you have to be married and have kids to be complete.
This is a tough thing to say, but some people shouldn’t get married or can’t get married. There’s a number of reasons for this, some of which aren’t negative, for example the fact that certain people’s chosen careers or personal interests make long-term relationships rocky or impossible altogether. America’s high divorce rate is in part due to social expectations of “having to be married.”
The Chinese have a story of how at the beginning of time, an old man made all the souls that would inhabit the world out of clay and tied their feet together with red strings as they dried in the sun. After they were ready, the red strings were cut and the souls were released, only to search the world for the one person who they were tied to at the beginning of time. I’d like to believe with all my heart that somewhere out there, another person is meant just for me. But if there isn’t, I can accept that reality as a man and move on.
Putting this together, I think both guys and girls in America are in a cultural, political and economic paradigm that often stacks the game against both of them and the two sexes will have to make compromises and truces if they want things to work out. Ultimately, all relationships are about helping each other and adding value and strength to one another. There’s nothing more romantic, nor perfect, in my opinion, than erasing differences and strengthening what two people who love each other have in common.
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