Even the most cynical and ‘grown-up’ among us love a fairytale. Whether it’s Disney’s Tangled, Enchanted or Cinderella and her glass slipper, who hasn’t at some time dreamt of being whisked away on a white horse to a life of never-ending romance with an impossibly handsome prince or princess?
Dr Gian Gonzaga, leading relationship scientist and author of Dating The Second Time Around; Finding Love That Lasts, believes a little imagination is healthy but finding the right partner also needs a dose of reality. He says: “Anyone who believes that finding or keeping a great relationship is a matter of luck or chance may be disappointed. Relationships can absolutely be filled with fairytale romance, but amazingly, a lot of people expect their Prince Charming to magically appear on their doorstep and rescue them. The reality is that taking a positive and active approach to finding love is the best way to find your own happy ending.”
Dr Gonzaga says people can fall into the trap of waiting for a new relationship to find them or believe that finding a compatible partner is outside of their control or ability. In his book, Dr Gonzaga touches on four tips that those of us who are looking for a fairytale romance should bear in mind.
Find your own version of the Handsome Prince
You may have a vision of the handsome prince or princess you want to meet, what they do for a living, where they live, and how old they are—but it’s time to put away the tired old checklist you’ve created over the years and approach finding a life-long partner with fresh eyes. Of course you have to feel chemistry with your partner, but perfection comes in all guises. It’s worth keeping in mind what’s going to make you happy not just now but in twenty years’ time. (Tip – it’s probably not a washboard stomach).
Control your own destiny
To find a relationship and make it work, you need to take control over the process by searching for the right type of partner, and acting to ensure the quality of this relationship. Lots of people expect Prince Charming to appear from nowhere, and they think that whether it works out or not will be down to fate or the cosmos or astrological compatibility rather than anything they might do or not do. Those who believe they can control whether a relationship works or not will ultimately be happier. Psychologists call this “locus of control.” Some people have an external locus of control, which means they don’t think they have the power to change things.
Others have an internal locus of control, which means that they believe they can change their situation with some effort. Those who have an internal locus of control more often try to make things better rather than passively accepting their fate, and that alone makes a big difference.
Don’t hurry love
We’ve all grown up on Hollywood’s romantic movies with speedy courtships and happy endings and it’s easy to think that real-life romance should happen quickly and easily.
As the old saying goes, only fools rush in. Too much too soon can scare a very suitable partner or cause problems in the longer term. Allow time for authentic feelings to develop before you say ‘I love you’, and consider that everyone has his or her own emotional clock.
Inject some romance into daily life
When you’re in a relationship with your own Prince Charming it’s important to keep the fires burning, even years down the line when romance can sometimes take a backseat. But how do you keep that exciting ‘butterflies’ feeling? The simple answer is by making time for your partner and making them feel special.
The Obama’s famously have their ‘date night’ but how about setting up a monthly ‘romantic surprise’ – put aside say £50 to take each other out for a romantic dinner or to a concert. And don’t forget to praise your partner’s achievements and compliment them as often as you can, in a genuine way. The couples that look out for each other stay happy together. You can have your ‘happy ever after’ but like Cinderella you’ll have to put some work in.
To read more about how to find realistic and lasting love read Dr Gian Gonzaga’s new book – Dating The Second Time Around: Finding love that lasts. (Octopus, £6.99), available from all good bookshops.