Over the holidays, I watched a lot of wedding shows. A lot of them. There was Say Yes to the Dress and My Fair Wedding with David Tutera and Bridezillas, and I loved every minute of it. But when you watch enough of those shows, certain themes start to emerge, and one in particular sat oddly with me: the repeated “I want to be treated like a princess/He’s the best husband in the world because he treats me like a princess” and so on. I know that most women have been fed tropes about being “princesses” since childhood (thanks a lot, Disney!), but the idea of a man treating me like a princess actually makes me want to marry him less.
Being up on a pedestal is fun, but not for long. I once dated a man who treated me like a princess – he bought me things, he told me I was pretty, and he never disagreed with anything I said. It was flattering, but at some point our relationship started to feel empty. A real adult relationship isn’t always roses and sunshine. Sometimes couples disagree about things, but if they’re honest with each other and respect each others’ feelings they can talk through issues in a reasonable way. I’m not saying that a true relationship involves people yelling at each other – I’m saying that if I wanted a “yes man” I’d hire one, not date one. I don’t want someone to worship me or follow me around all the time kissing my feet. There’s a lot more to me as a person, and I want to be with someone who respects all the other aspects of me: my brain, my heart, my smart-ass mouth. A great relationship can start out being physical or with one person having more affection for the other, but that’s not the way it’ll last. A lot of the women on these bridal reality shows who praise a man for treating her like princesses are actually praising these men for being pushovers – one Say Yes to the Dress episode featured a woman whose “treats her like a princess” fiance relented when she spent $10,000 over their agreed-upon budget on a wedding dress, even though the pair had kids together and clearly could have found better ways to use the money. Perhaps there are some princesses who get their rocks off on treating other people like dirt and forcing themselves into debt on account of a tulle-and-ruffle monstrosity, but I just can’t picture Kate Middleton or Crown Princess Victoria translating “treats me like a princess” as “allowing me to browbeat them.” I’m not a delicate flower who needs to be treated with utmost care. I’m a person with good and bad qualities, and I want to be with someone who loves all of me.
What a lot of the women on these bridal reality shows forget is that a wedding is great, but a marriage should be what’s really important. Being “a princess for a day” and wearing a big poufy dress is fun, but it’s an empty ceremony unless you’re truly joining your life with someone you care about and who cares about you. My best relationships have been one where the person I was with pushed me to be better, to work harder, and to try new things. Rather than treating me like a princess – accepting me as I already am and thinking I’m perfect simply for existing – I want someone who inspires me to be even better.