Everyone knows the story of Snow White. She gets kicked out of the castle by her wicked stepmother, goes to live with seven dwarves where her stepmother eventually finds her and poisons her, then she gets rescued by the handsome Prince Charming by the magic of true love's kiss.
Little girls and big girls alike love this imagery. They melt at the thought of finding a man who is willing to put himself in harm's way just to save their princess who they barely know. So it makes sense that when you're dating, you want to find the one for you and when you get married, you expect your husband to be the Prince Charming you've always wanted.
As a marriage counselor, however, I can't help but wince when I watch Snow White- or any of the other princess movies for that matter. I wince because I see the damage this sort of imagery does in marriages every day in my office. Here are just a few ways the Prince Charming fallacy is harming your marriage.
Prince Charming is objectifying
Take a look at Prince Charming, and you'll see that all you know about him is
a) he's a prince
b) he's rich, and
c) he fights off dragons for a girl he doesn't know for the sake of love. If you call it love, how do you love someone you don't know?
You don't know who he is, what he likes, etc. Yet, too often wives expect their husbands to be like Prince Charming: dashing, charming, debonair, willing to go to unreasonable lengths for them, etc. So when your husband likes to play video games instead of doing more "charming" things (like fixing things around the house for you) you feel let down. You think your husband is defective, and you criticize him for not doing more things you think he should be doing.
Solution: Instead of objectifying your husband by comparing him to some external standard, love and appreciate your husband for who he really is. If he likes to play video games instead of being a handyman, that's okay. That's who he is and who you fell in love with. Don't criticize him for not being who you want him to be. He's his own person, and it's your job to love him for who he is.
Prince Charming Does Not Fix Your Problems
In the story, Prince Charming finds Snow White, rescues her, then whisks her off to his castle where she lives happily ever after - and it's all thanks to Prince Charming. The problem with this is that nobody can magically make your life be happily ever after. No matter who you marry, your life is not going to be perfect, and your marriage is going to take work.
Solution: If you find yourself unhappy in your marriage, don't blame your husband. It's not his responsibility to give you happily ever after. You're the one in control of your life, and you're the one who has responsibility for it. Make the changes you need to make to be happier. If there are things you'd like your husband to do to help, ask him. But remember that your happiness is ultimately up to you.
Prince Charming teaches men and women inappropriate roles in a relationship
When you look at Prince Charming through a 21st century lens, you see that Prince Charming loved Snow White simply for her looks. After all, they never met each other before. And because of her looks he went to great lengths to rescue her. This teaches men to only look for women who are pretty. It also teaches women that they only have to be pretty, and they'll find a man who will whisk them away and give them a happily ever after life.
Solution: Instead of men and women relying on women's looks in marriage, both men and women need to look deeper into character, personality and compatibility to build a marriage with a happily ever after ending. Sure, you want to marry somebody who is attractive. But attractiveness is no basis for marriage, and it's certainly not the only criteria to build a happily ever after relationship.
Even though most women know that they can't base their relationship off of what they see in the movies, many women still feel butterflies at the thought of finding Prince Charming or someone like him. They've seen several movies and read books with similar story lines as well. So even though they know it's unrealistic, in their heart of hearts they wish it was still possible and will often expect their husband to fulfill some of these fantasies despite how unrealistic they know they are.
Instead of trying to make your husband be the Prince Charming you expect him to be, find the Prince Charming that's already in your husband. And together you'll find a happily ever after with each other that's even happier than the fairy tales.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and owner of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog RelationshipRx.net for expert information on improving your relationship without the psychobable.