As you know, if you’ve read previous posts on my blog, I’m a hopeless romantic. I used to love the idea of Prince Charming and all the sentimental things attached.
As I’ve grown along with my blog, and now being in a relationship, I never knew just how these ideas were influencing me and affecting my relationship - or should I say my expectations of a relationship.
The Prince Charming Effect.
According to Steinzeig, the Prince Charming Effect is a “stereotypical perfect male composed of qualities taken from books, movies, and fairy tales.” The Prince Charming Effect are the representations of men in romantic media which lead to similar unrealistic and idealistic beliefs in women that lead to lessened relationship satisfaction.
Doing research around these principles enraged me against the society I was brought up in that gave me these ideals. How dare you taint my beliefs? However, although it is important to know where these ideals come from, I never made an effort to hold myself accountable.
When my boyfriend and I met, I consciously made an effort to not impose my Prince Charming ideals onto him. However, during the course of our relationship, I’ve slipped numerous times at the expense of him.
I focused way too much on my own perspective and how these ideals affected me that I misssed - entirely - how they affected him.
How do they affect him? How do these ideals affect men?
So I went and asked.
I called a few friends - including my boyfriend - over Zoom, to ask them about the Prince Charming Effect and the expectations imposed on men. This is what I learnt.
“We Grab What We See”
Firstly, from my boyfriend, I learnt how unattainable these expectations were set out to be. As a child, I was not close with boys my age and so all my expectations of platonic and romantic relationships were set by movies. In my eyes, my expectations were norms, not expectations. However, for him, he knew nothing of it. He was being placed in the costume of a character and this outfit was more than snug.
These expectations left no room for his own error, no room for even the smallest of his own shortcomings - shortcomings which we all have - let alone the bigger ones. For him, there was confusion, pressure and rejection. For me there was disappointment and retreat.
But I had not expressed my thoughts or expectations. I expected him to already know them.
In the movies, the Princesses sing about wanting a Prince and then getting that man. The movie ends before the relationship begins.You never really see the struggles of communicating and making the relationship work. There is no urgency or expression of communication.
From my boyfriend, Josh, and our relationship, I learnt the urgency and struggle of communication. He doesn’t expect me to get rid of all my expectations but asks me to express them to him. Acknowledge your own perspective but make it clear it’s my own. “I thought men do this…” “I thought women would do this...”
This is not something new but definitely something which needs to be continuously reinforced.
People aren’t mind readers.
Trash or Charming?
My friend, Jared, brought up an interesting point in our conversation. He said, he had never heard of The Prince Charming Effect because he had always heard the opposite - “Men are Trash.” But, in hearing it’s description, he suggested maybe the notion of ‘trash’ was placed as the antithesis of ‘Charming.’ Perhaps, there is so much expectation placed on men to be Charming, that, when they are not, they become ‘trash.’
This was interesting to me, Jared suggested there simply was no middle ground for men. This echoed Josh’s not being able to mind read and feeling dejected when expectations were not expressed. Men were placed on an extremely polarising scale. Either they’re Charming or throw that sucker to the curb with the rest of the trash.
Although I don’t completely agree with Jared, I do see his point. In my own experience, once the guy I liked stopped being Prince Charming, he became grabbage, which many people experience. However, the problem occurs when you judge against criteria established by fictional characters and not actual character.Research suggests the higher the expectations the steeper the declines in the relationship satisfaction over time (McNulty & Karney, 2004; Lavner, Karney, & Bradbury, 2013).
So, trash or charming?
The Underling Notes of Toxic Masculinity
Tatenda pointed out a lot of these men women are taught to aspire to want are problematic. He pointed out the men portrayed highlight toxic masculinity. I’m so glad, this point was brought up.
An example of this would be Edward Cullen from Twilight. His indifference is glamorised as brooding. Also, he gaslights Bella continuously, his love is conditional and when he leaves Bella falls into a depression.
Is love supposed to be like this?
The Expectations of Men
Lastly, highlighting Tatenda’s point of toxic masculinity, Aaron talked about gender roles and how toxic roles are encouraged. Men are expected to lead, to provide blah, blah, blah...The positivity in terms like “Male Breadwinner” hides the pressure it projects. In growing up with women as the head of the household, it became confusing for Tatenda and Aaron. As the guys pointed out, these gender roles diminish women.
However, I noticed there was a huge empathise on pressure. For men, there is a rhetoric and sense of competition, imperatives, demand of power. From young, boys are taught to make themselves bigger and it seems performative. They are encouraged away from emotions, which causes more hurt to the individuals and the people they surround themselves with.
“By far the worst thing we do to males — by making them feel they have to be hard — is that we leave them with very fragile egos.” — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Men don’t want to be perfect, they don’t want to chase, they don’t want to be Prince Charming. Men (or at least these men) want to feel, want to be real and want equality. (Want to hear the full interview? Stay tuned.)