It was about eight years ago on a quiet fall evening. I had been married for a few years and my two young children had uncharacteristically gone to bed at the same time and without drama. If you're a woman with a child, a job or any other kind of time-eating, energy-draining list of responsibilities you know that beautiful feeling of finally sitting down with a glass of pinot and a fashion mag. I opened up to a quiz that said "How to Tell If You Have Found Your Prince Charming." I read through the questions. Does he make you feel like a princess? Does he surprise you with romantic gifts and last minute get-aways? Is he more like Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Matthew McConaughey? As I'm reading, the The Notebook is on the TV. It's the kissing in the rain scene and Ryan Gosling is doing it very well. I look over to see my husband watching some kind of YouTube nonsense on his laptop. He's laughing, cookie crumbs on the desk in front of him and he's wearing a shirt that says "If you think my attitude stinks, you should smell my underwear." True story.
After a brief "Oh my God, this is my life" moment I started to wonder if Hollywood may actually be doing us a disservice. Are we, thanks to steamy love scenes with perfect lighting and airbrush makeup, setting our expectations too high? Are we even living in reality? Relationships may be the one thing that reality TV gets right!
The men of Hollywood send flowers and hold radios outside the window (John Cusack in Say Anything). They wait decades for the woman they love to find her way back. They write poetry and love songs. Hell, I'm happy if he changes the baby without being asked to. Because that is real life. That is real partnership. Are there men out there who actually do go the extra mile? Absolutely. Do I wish that my husband would sometimes go a little off script and surprise me with a weekend away? Of course. But measuring the success of your relationship based on the parameters set by Hollywood is fatal. That's not to say that we shouldn't expect to be treated beautifully, but that our expectations should be fair. Let's put this in perspective.
The leading ladies in the movies that most men like are always perfect. They know how to fight, black-belt style without ever messing up their hair. They wear heels and lingerie to bed and are always in the mood for sex. So to be fair, if you expect him to maintain Bradley Cooper type grooming and behavior, then it's ok for him to expect you to morph into Angelina Jolie no matter how many kids you have or how many times they threw up that day, right? See how quickly this feels less appealing?
Each of us deserves to be in a relationship that makes us feel special and cherished. But really take some time to think about what that means. Would you rather he surprise you with flowers every day or take the time to coach your son's soccer team? (Right now a lot of you are saying, "um...both!") I get it. I would like both too. But I would also like his continued understanding that if the baby is up all night every night for two weeks, he should stay at least 10 feet away from me at all times. I would like him to find it perfectly acceptable for me to sometimes flop into bed in mismatched yoga clothes and a mud mask facial.
Honor your needs but manage your expectations. Not one of us is "Hollywood perfect." And thank goodness for that! The best love, the greatest sex, the happiest moments don't happen on set. Relationships that stand the test of time are plenty flawed and far from Brangelina cool. But they are raw, sometimes rollercoaster, often remarkable and always, thanks to our beautifully flawed humanness, real.