Growing up we all watched the classic Disney films, the gist of each one being that the princess overcomes life’s challenges and true love perseveres. This constant exposure engrained a certain expectation in me, mainly that love should be much like a Disney classic or it’s not love at all! Unfortunately by the time I got around to watching Frozen, an actually realistic romance, I was already in my 20s and set in my ways.
So here’s what old-school Disney got wrong:
1. We have one true love
In all the classics, the girl is meant to be with her prince charming and no one else. Here’s the kicker though: in real life most of us never have that instant connection of “he’s the one” that Cinderella and charming experience upon first encounter. Even Belle and the Beast come to know that feeling without doubt. However we find that we can fall in love with more than one person throughout our lives, and a lot of it just depends on timing. The fact that we can be in love with person after person, and that divorces are so common shows that most people don’t find their one true love, and more realistically that there simply isn’t such a thing as a single true love.
Having the expectation that the one exists could potentially be contributing to this jumping from one person to the next, because we keep searching for them while in reality the absolute perfect prince charming is merely fiction.
2. There is no competition, jealousy or infidelity in love
In none of the Disney movies do we have a legitimate “other woman” trying to tear the prince away from the girl or vice versa. Jafar may have been as close to competition as it got, but nothing like to what real life is like. In our world jealousy is all too prominent which only feeds the paranoia that the other will cheat or abandon the relationship.
With Disney once the couple knew they were meant to be it was as if all the other eligible people in the world ceased to be eligible, so the prospect of infidelity did not even exist. Obviously Disney did not prepare us for how to deal with the cruel realities of the real world.
3. The “Happily ever after” is the finale of a union
Once the marriage or final dance takes place in Disney, it is implied that the couple goes on to live a happy and prosperous life together. In the real world, the existence of divorce automatically dislodges this expectation. We can be quite sure that if Sleeping Beauty had a sequel, Aurora and Phillip would not have divorced. But growing up with the thought that the good people get their happily ever after’s just sets us up for disappointment. Relationships are almost never perfect. Most couples will fight at some point, so when that happens, it almost makes you think that this union is not what was meant to be.
Whenever anything goes wrong, or when many little negative things add up it makes us think that maybe this is not the right person for us, because there is no way you can have a happily ever after with someone that never brings you flowers and who can’t make a grand entrance on a horse.
The moral of this is that the classic Disney films painted a picture of the virtuous finding true love and getting their happily ever after. But the stories were overly rosy and optimistic to accurately portray reality. The issue with some of us is that we take these stories to heart and at some subliminal level wish for our lives to be as such. In actuality love is not as perfect as all that. There will be discourse, tears and jealousy. And we do potentially have the capacity to love more than one person in our lives. And love at first sight and the doubtless feeling of “this is the one” is rare if not impossible. So while we should continue adoring the classics, we shouldn’t try to model our courting rituals after Cinderella because today no one really should be sold on true love with a person after just one brief meeting after all.