We all dream of a fairytale romance—meet your soul mate, overcome all the obstacles in the way, and live happily ever after as the perfect couple.

The fairy tales we grew up with and our favorite romances, in books and on screen, push the message. “Find your prince! (or princess). Don’t settle for less in your relationship. Be the perfect couple.”

Now, we’re not stupid. In our logical minds, we know fairy tales and myths aren’t real.

We smile when Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods says, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” We joke about failing a “shit test” or having to put up with our girlfriend’s “drama.”

But in our secret hearts, we still want to be part of that perfect couple. We wish for a relationship that fulfills our fairytale expectations.

Too often, though, those expectations—spoken or unspoken—set us up for disappointment.

Relationship Reality

“Nobody’s perfect,” goes the old saying and, of course, we agree. So why do we expect two imperfect people to create the perfect relationship, to be the perfect couple? (And that’s only the beginning of our unrealistic expectations.)

We may try to change our partner, make them into somebody who fits our fairytale idea of the perfect mate. We may even expect our partner to read our mind, to know what we want without being told. And, in the end, we may decide our partner doesn’t love us if they don’t meet our every need.

Having a Healthy Relationship

Healthy relationships depend on the willingness of both partners to focus not just on love, but also on friendship and intimacy. They will keep trust alive by being faithful and by sharing compassion and mutual respect. They will do their best to be there for each other. And they will work at trying to understand each other.

A healthy relationship recognizes that both parties win when each gives up something for the sake of the other. Keeping the relationship positive and holding on to a sense of humor helps couples learn to compromise.

Love, Friendship, and Intimacy

Love is not just a noun. It’s an action verb.

Showing your love involves actions like physical touch, positive communication, giving time to each other, doing things for each other, giving each other gifts, and other ways of showing how much you value each other. Acting like the perfect couple can help you get closer to being the perfect couple.

Friends can disagree without losing the relationship. It all depends on how you express your disagreement. Couples who are friends give each other the benefit of the doubt. They talk openly with each other about tough topics. They check in with each other frequently. And they keep criticism to a minimum, being kind to one another and, therefore, keeping inevitable disagreements from damaging the relationship.

Intimacy is more than sex. Emotional togetherness, built over time, helps each partner know they belong and are loved. Knowing your partner accepts and appreciates you is as important as good sex.

Trust, Fidelity, Compassion, and Respect

Trust takes years to build but can be broken in a second. More than sexual fidelity, it’s based on sharing thoughts, vulnerabilities, fears, and wounds from childhood and other areas of life. Partners who trust each other can share without fear of having these things used against them.

Compassion is the ability to connect with the way your partner sees and feels. It’s what makes it possible to care. Mutual respect helps boost your and your partner’s self-esteem. Without it, getting through the tough times will be harder.

Presence, Understanding, Positivity, and Humor

Just being in the same room isn’t enough. If you’re present, you’re there for each other emotionally. You are paying attention, trying to see things from your partner’s point of view.

Couples in a healthy relationship listen to each other. They make room for spending uninterrupted time together so that they can be on the same page. They learn to talk without criticism. Positivity—praise, appreciation, compliments—strengthen the relationship.

Good communication also allows for couples to laugh at themselves. Humor—the ability to enjoy each other and life’s little absurdities—puts things into perspective.


A relationship is not a zero-sum game. Whatever the issue, if it’s important enough to fight about, it’s important enough to compromise over. In fairy tales, couples don’t disagree. In real life, couples in a healthy relationship solve problems together

A Real Relationship Is Not a Fairy Tale

Love is not something that happens to you. It’s not the end of the story, it’s something you work at. And falling in love is just the beginning.

The perfect couple only lives in fairy tales, but a healthy relationship is more than possible. Adding friendship, intimacy, trust, compassion, mutual respect, positivity, humor, and compromise can lead to a healthy relationship—better than a fairy tale, anytime!