The Prince Charming Effect

There are many who, despite having a stable partner, continue to dream of someone better. This urges them to seek an impossible ideal. It's defined as the Prince Charming effect.
The Prince Charming Effect

Last update: 18 April, 2022

Prince Charming is one of the archetypal figures rooted in your subconscious. It gives shape to the recurrent idea that, somewhere out there, is the perfect person for you. It’s a silent and almost obsessive longing that often makes you look for other people on dating apps, even if you have a stable partner.

However, don’t think for a moment that this desire for relational perfection exclusively relates to women. In fact, in reality, there are many men who want to be ‘Prince Charming’. In other words, a heroic model of ideal masculinity.

This type of behavior and the psychological constructs that determine us often manifest interesting phenomena. Some suggest that these portrayals of the mechanics of desire, attraction, and behavior are mere sociocultural products.

How can this type of syndrome that takes its name from the most famous Walt Disney character be explained? We take a look.

Silhouette of a couple in the sky symbolizing the Prince syndrome
You may well have a list of what you’re looking for in a partner. However, if you’re inflexible and unrealistic, you’ll suffer.

Characteristics of the Prince Charming effect

We’ve all done it. Idealized a loved one. Especially when we were younger. The real problem comes when you idealize love in general. This happens when, despite having a stable and satisfactory relationship, you still feel a certain emptiness and longing inside you. In fact, you tend to think that there may be someone much better out there for you.

Therefore, in your daily life, your mind escapes and fantasizes about other possibilities. You assume that there must be a perfect and exciting person out there, one capable of perfectly aligning with you in mind, body, ideals, and thoughts. You think that your soulmate is out there somewhere and this idea leads you to search through Tinder and any other dating app looking for them.

The Prince Charming effect defines those who have such a romantic version of what love should be like that they often miss out on a satisfying relationship. What’s more, they may even break off an existing engagement just because they’re adamant that it isn’t real love, and that there must be ‘something deeper’.

Almost without realizing it, they become seekers of a mythological holy grail that only brings them misfortune and disappointment. However, there are deeper and more striking aspects of this effect that are well worth discovering.

Whoever looks for their ideal Prince Charming or princess isn’t only looking for someone physically perfect and charming. What they truly aspire to is in achieving an absolute emotional and mental connection.

The eternal desire to achieve a perfect connection

The Prince Charming effect isn’t a pathological disorder, it only describes a psychological reality. Along similar lines, characters of classic tales have been used for several decades to describe certain behaviors.

One example is the Cinderella complex, coined by Dr. Peter K. Lewin in 1976. Later, a study by the University of Delhi (India) endorsed this term to demonstrate the dependence of some women in their emotional relationships.

With regard to the archetype of Prince Charming, it’s come to symbolize the need to idealize love. Furthermore, this label embodies the psychological desire to have a perfect connection with another person.

For this reason, it also seeks to make visible the origin of many dissatisfactions in relationships. These are the kinds of situations in which an individual is never completely happy because they long to achieve authentic intimacy with someone, a passionate kind of love in which the understanding and satisfaction of all their needs is absolute and almost magical.

The Prince Charming effect in men

This effect forms a polyhedral psychological reality in that it presents more than one characteristic. However, behind all of them is the often dangerous and dysfunctional seed of romantic love. The one that germinates completely wrong ideas about how affection and relationships in general work.

In the case of men, the Prince Charming effect sometimes manifests itself in a curious way. There are young and not-so-young men who embody the classic archetype of the savior hero, the one who cares, rescues, maintains, and protects. Often, this form of masculinity is inherited by the education they received and the role they’ve seen their own parents play.

This trend often clashes with the personalities of women. After all, nowadays, they’re not all looking for a male figure to look after them or rescue them. For this reason, the ideal partner for a ‘Prince Charming’ is the woman with a Cinderella complex, girls who are afraid of independence and who possess the unconscious desire to be cared for and protected.

We all have a list of those things that we’d like to find in a partner when establishing a relationship. Nonetheless, the list tends to fall apart when we fall in love with someone. This is completely normal. 

Couple hugging representing Prince Charming Syndrome
We all dream of ideal love, but, in reality, you must work for a real, happy, and enriching love.

The need to rationalize unconscious longings

There are many men and women who’ve integrated the Prince Charming effect into their unconscious. They idealize love and look down on real people. They do it because they assume completely biased ideas about what relationships are like. This means that their bonds are almost always doomed to failure.

Anthropologist, Helen Fisher, claims that romantic love is a physiological drive rather than an emotion. She suggests it’s something purely chemical and difficult to control. However, we can’t separate the sociocultural plane from this kind of behavior, and how society has instilled in us for a long time the idea that there’s someone out there who’s perfect for us.

To conclude, we must mention that a search for perfection only generates suffering. You should look for real love, a satisfying connection that can be both magical and complicated at times, but that’s well worth working on.

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