My childhood was a time when everybody wanted to be a Disney Princess. Even as I grew older, a part of me always thought that Prince Charming was just around the corner. He definitely had to be tall, dark and handsome. He had to be a gentleman. He had to have a magical white horse (though a car would be a better alternative). He had to have stable finances (of course this princess had a materialistic side as well). He had to be able to whisper endless romantic lines in my ear. He had to be strong, above everything. Because I was a damsel in distress and I needed to be saved.
Well, okay, no, I don’t really need to be saved, but that’s another topic for another time.
I thought I knew what I wanted and I thought what I wanted was normal. Something real. Something everyone could get.
But after kissing countless frogs and one failed relationship after another, I realized I was missing the bigger picture. The key ingredients. And while I’m not altogether abandoning the search for Prince Charming, my tastes and requirements have changed since I last saw Cinderella win over her Prince.
So in my opinion, here are the top five most important elements (aside from, obviously, love) for a lasting relationship.
Okay, we all know that while physical attributes can’t ever make a relationship last on its own merits, they are always the first things we notice in a potential date. On some level, there has to be a certain attraction between partners. It isn’t actually shallow to want someone to be attractive—after all, we each have different tastes, and what might be attractive for me might not altogether be attractive for everyone else. Somebody else will always be more striking, but I’d like to think that I’d constantly be beautiful enough in his eyes, and him in mine. And honestly, I want someone who takes care of himself and the way he looks. Not that he’d take more time with his hair than I would, or spend three hours in the bathroom with facial products, but that he makes and keeps the effort to look good for me. Please, no public dates in your holey basketball shorts with mustard stains on your shirt and the most beat-up flip-flops you own.
No, this isn’t about “understanding” that he was drunk and he didn’t mean to kiss her. This is about understanding and accepting that you’re different people and that the person you met at the beginning of the courtship might not be the same person you grow old with twenty years down the road. What matters is that you understand each other and grow together even in spite of constant changes.
The weird thing about being in a relationship sometimes is that we fall in love with one person and try to change them into someone else after some time. Prince Charming might just have a few warts left over from his frog days, and you don’t have to perform a total operation to get these removed. One of the reasons why some relationships don’t last is because either or both of the individuals try so hard to be on their best behavior all the time, and when that façade slips for even just one moment, the magic begins to disappear. There are days when we pretend to be something we’re not—that we’re okay when we aren’t or that we’re always so perfectly poised. Your significant other should be the one person you never have to wear your mask around. I’d love to lounge around in my PJ’s watching reruns with no make-up on, my hair a tangled mess and Cheetos stains on my fingers and know that I won’t be loved less for it… Because he’s in his old man eyeglasses, burping out loud and wiping excess cheese on his shorts right beside me.
The kind of faith that tells you that love is still real, in spite of your first three heartbreaks. Learn to believe that after an endless line of Princes that disappear after a while, this one just might be the one that stays around forever. Have faith that love can endure however hopelessly and disgustingly sappy that might seem. Have faith that we can have the patience to make it last if we really tried. Have faith that we can forgive if we can’t always forget. We all believe in something different, but we all have to believe in something, don’t we? Believe in each other and be a source of strength when there seems to be none left.
You’re probably surprised that this element made the list, but it’s actually just as important as the first four. The problem with some relationships is that people think being in love gives you some kind of license to “own” someone. The kiss of death for a lot of partners is that overly possessive vibe—they will learn to hate you for it, no matter how much they profess to love you in spite of it. The more you try to keep someone in a cage, the more likely they’re going to fight with everything they have to get free. Have enough security in the relationship to know that freedom doesn’t always translate to sleeping around. Give them the freedom to see the world even if you can’t always travel with them. Give them the freedom to chase a career even when your “He Man” tendencies are crying about the salary difference. Give them the freedom to have a Boys Night Out and believe that bullshit isn’t going to be on the itinerary for the night. Give them the freedom to have a life outside of you and make the choice to keep you in it—not as an option or the one they throw leftovers to, but the one constant they hold on to every single day.
Prince Charming used to be a boy looking for a wife in helpless little damsels, someone who will stand behind him as he goes through his charmed life. Prince Charming should be a man who has gone through life, with scars to prove it, and chooses the right, if not at all helpless, woman to stand by his side as they go through life together, evil villains and all.