Everyone loves a good fairytale. You know, one like where Rapunzel lets down her hair so her lover can climb up it, or where Brexit is a good idea that’s TOTALLY going to work, or where you will find love happily ever after because there is that one person in the world who is perfect for you and they just happen to be roughly the same age as you and live within an easily accessible distance from you and are currently single and also think you’re the one person for them.
It’s that last one that is explored in countless tv shows, songs, movies and more. They all tell us to keep looking. Never settle. Keep searching and, sooner or later, you will find someone perfect, someone who ticks every single box and who you will then spend the rest of your days with in blissful contentment, finding new things to love about them every second of every day.
And that’s bullshit.
Not in its entirity, mind you. For almost all of us there are people out there that would be perfect for us. People who make our days better knowing that they are in our lives, who send smiles instantly to our lips as soon as a message is received from them. They are out there, and there are more of them than there are evil politicians (in numerical if not percentage terms). They are not perfect, but they are perfect for us, which is a very different thing indeed.
It’s the constant striving for perfection that is the bane of most dating singletons and which needs to be called out. The drive to never settle for anything less than 100%, for perfection, for the perfect jigsaw piece to fit with your life, hopes and dreams.
Going back to fairytales, consider Goldilocks as a tenuous example of this point. As you will no doubt know, she breaks into an innocent family’s home, smashes furniture to pieces, ransacks carefully prepared meals and starts squatting (the story is usually told more sympathetically than that, of course). This last stage involves her sleeping in three different beds; the first is too firm, the second is too soft and it’s not until she tries the third that she finds it’s just right.
In dating terms this is what most of us are doing, whether we accept it or not. We slip into a bed and, from the very beginning, we start looking for a reason not to like it. Swap being firm for “too tall”, “too short”, “lives too far away”, “messages too little”, “messages too often”, “had a bad breakup”, “likes gherkins” or “supports Arsenal”. We look at them and, after the first few turns in the bed (as it were) we look for reasons for it not to work. Then we start looking around and notice that there are other beds in view. We have no way of telling how firm or soft they may be, and there’s only one way to find out whether or not it might be more perfect for us, so time to jump out of one bed and into another for a test sleep.
In doing so we forget about the reasons why that original bed might actually have been more than good enough after all. No-one ever mentions that it was long enough to stretch out in, wide enough to sleep diagonally on, put in the right position that sunlight fell on it in the morning and that it gave the support that the back actually needs to prevent future curvature; no, it was simply deemed not absolutely perfect in every way after the first attempt at settling into it.
Dating has become too easy and relationships too difficult. Gone are the days where time is spent understanding the nuances of the other person and establishing which can be accepted, which can be changed and which will always be contentious but the rest of the package makes it worth glossing over. We look and we look and we look some more for this mythical fairytale to just happen, and before we know what’s happened we look in the mirror and realise we are no longer the handsome prince or the fair maiden; we are the haggard witch or the wrinkled and lonely wizard who meddles in others affairs from afar.
Of course perfection is perfect. That’s its definition. Finding someone perfect and creating the perfect, easy relationship is what fairytales are made of. But we don’t live in a fairytale. We live in a real, dirty, messy, complicated 21st century world where we don’t get ot control the endings to our own stories. We can choose our own adventures and scribble in the margins, but there is no overarching author who has already decided that we will live happily ever after.
We need to stop jumping from one bear’s bed to another, always searching for that one which is 100% perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. We all have our flaws, our insecurities, our history and our quirks. We all like our porridge at slightly different temperatures and our mattresses at slightly different firmness. If you stop looking for that perfect match then you’ll find someone who you can find a middle ground with where you both win with a little compromise. Neither of you will be losing, that’s for sure. It’s not settling down, it’s helping each other up to where you wouldn’t be apart.
It might not be the fairytale ending you dreamed of as a wide-eyed and innocent child, but you probably also dreamed about being an astronaut or a racing car driver or a doctor and instead find yourself very happily doing an office based job which pays all your bills and leaves you mostly content with whilst stretching you to be a better person.
If you can change some dreams and still be happy, why not others? After all, isn’t happiness the best fairytale ending ever?