From a very early age, women are taught that love is, or should be, a fairy tale. Our mothers read us Snow White, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty as very little girls. We watch Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Pocahontas. As we get older, we read romance novels and watch more grown up, yet just as idealized, romantic movies.These movies and books begin making an impression upon us even before we’ve discovered that boys as exist as anything more than dirty, messy worm catchers. By the time we realize that boys are kind of cute and maybe we want to get their attention, the fairy tale idea of love has firmly taken root in our subconscious. We look at boys and sort them into categories. Some categories are the boys we date; some are the ones we relegate to mere friendship.Once we start having relationships with the boys, we begin using those subconscious fairy tale filters to determine if the boy is right for us. If he doesn’t live up to our fairy tale fantasy, or if he’s a bad boy that simply refuses to turn good for us, we end the relationship. Then we either pine for what we think we lost, or we move on to the next boy and see if he can meet the unrealistic standards we don’t even realize we have.Some women do understand from an early age that the fairy tales and romantic movies and novels are just that: fiction. But for those that don’t, they often spend years, if not an entire lifetime, in one bad relationship after another.
For those women, some do figure out, on their own, that they have these impossible standards and change how they approach men and relationships. Some women, after a particularly unhealthy relationship or break up, or out of sheer desperation and loneliness, seek out the help of a therapist and discover those hidden requirements and change. These women can then often move on to have a good relationship with a good man, with no unrealistic expectations.
What about the women that don’t do this? The women who still have those fairy tale dreams of love and relationships continue to seek out that fairy tale relationship, and generally don’t find it. I’ve read more than my fair share of romance novels myself, and watched many romantic movies, and I’ve come up with three different categories that these women tend to put men in:
- KISA: The Knight in Shining Armor.
- BBTGB: The Bad Boy Turned Good Boy.
- GBWP: The Good Boy Waiting Patiently.
There are probably many other categories, too, and probably quite a few instances where a man could be categorized into two or more. Let’s look at the KISA first.
The Knight in Shining Armor is the fairy tale prince, or knight, from the stories like Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. He’s the guy who comes rushing in to save the princess from her evil stepmother, or the wicked witch, or the troll under the bridge. In more modern times, he rescues her from the loser she’s currently dating, her job, her car trouble, or her life in general. He continues to rescue her, because she can’t or won’t handle her life herself. The problem with the KISA is that most men don’t want to be one, or at least not forever. Most men want a girlfriend or wife who is at least somewhat independent and capable of handling her own life and her own problems. They don’t mind being there for her when she needs him to listen, or to cry on his shoulder, or in a situation where she truly needs his help, but they get weary of having to solve all of her problems all the time.
Men like to feel important and useful. They like to solve problems. An old male friend once told me, men fix stuff; it’s what they do. But they don’t want to have to do it all the time for the woman in their life.
Which is why the KISA very quickly becomes a KITA (Knight in Tarnished Armor) and eventually gets shoved off his horse. Women who want a KISA want a man who will fix all her problems. When he fails to do that, whether because he doesn’t want to anymore, or he simply can’t for whatever reason, she gets frustrated. Rather than be realistic and accept responsibility for her own life and her own problems, she pushes for him to continue fixing her problems.
The other part to this is that she expects him to be perfect. Any hint of imperfection, whether it’s a lost job or a less than ideal car, tarnishes his image which tarnishes her fantasy. He has to be the ideal man in every sense: physically, emotionally, and mentally. He can never have any problems of his own and he can never make a mistake.
Eventually, either he breaks up with her because he’s tired of fixing or trying to fix her problems, or she breaks up with him because of his failure to make her life fairy tale perfection. She then moves on to the next shiny metal suit she sees.
How can a woman who wants a KISA get beyond this and have a healthy, satisfying relationship? The first step is to change her thinking.
- Don’t expect a man to solve all your problems. Learn how to handle your own life and your own problems, and figure out how to determine the situations you can deal with on your own and which ones you really need his help with.
- Don’t expect a man to be everything to you. While a relationship partner should be able to meet many of your needs, you can’t expect him to do so all the time. It’s exhausting, and it won’t take long for him to get tired of it. Have friends who can meet your need for gossip, shopping, or Saturday nights watching chick flicks.
- Remember that he is just a man. He’s human, just like you. He’s not perfect. As one of my exes told me, “I’m a man; I will screw up.” Be forgiving of his mistakes.
- Consider that he might need his own KISA sometimes. If you’re a princess up in her tower, waiting for him to rescue you, who’s there for him when he has a problem he could use some help with? Not you. And if you’re not there for him, then what does he get out of the relationship? Eventually, this question will cross his mind, and when it does, you’ll be left in your tower alone.
Relationships are tough enough without adding the weight of unrealistic expectations to them.
© 2011 by Wendy Miller
Originally published on Yahoo! Voices, August 2011
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