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Relationship Counselling informed by fairy tales.

Relationship Difficulties — admin @ 5:38 pm

What a historic few weeks we have had with the Royal wedding, the visits of Queen Elizabeth the second and President Obama with his First Lady, Michelle to Ireland. It has been interesting to watch and hear the reaction of ordinary people to each of these events and it poses the question of what these occasions mean for us who happen not to be influential world leaders or royalty. It appears a large majority of us were attracted to watching the royal wedding and the royal visit. So what is in it for us that holds our attention?

Domhnall Casey, Dublin Psychoanalyst, writes in the Sunday independent (22nd May 2011) of how our childhood fantasies are played out in our fascination with royalty. He says “it has nothing to do with a desire to be ruled by a king or queen but everything to do with childhood fantasies . . . representing an enchanting make-believe world that we all grew up in”. We are all familiar with the hero in the prince who rescues Snow White. Of course he was not a commoner but happens to be a wealthy prince. We also see examples of how the rescue role is reversed, where the princess frees the prince from a witch’s spell. Fairytales like ‘The princess and the Frog’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’…of course the frog and the beast both turn out to be (wealthy) princes as well. We all love a happy ever after and almost expect it in fairytales, films and books. This can leave us expecting the same from life and relationships and sometimes leaving us reeling in disappointment when it doesn’t materialise.

And so we turn out attention to modern day royalty where Kate Middleton, essentially a commoner, (albeit a wealthy one), gets to marry her prince. Of course we expected that she would be pleasing to the eye: it wouldn’t satisfy the fantasy if she wasn’t pretty. Most little girls love to dress up in princess clothes and tiaras and plastic jewels. In the unconscious mind of the girl is a desire to be a princess in her own right and to look for a guy who will treat her like one! How fabulous it is to actually see it for real, with a real princess dress and a real diamond tiara. It is like a fairy tale come true and we seem to have a need to believe that that’s possible amidst the drudgery. Pictures of Kate Middleton doing her shopping in the local supermarket a few days after her wedding evoked an interesting reaction among the public. It didn’t ‘look’ right. She challenged our fantasy and our idea of what a real princess is….someone that doesn’t do her own shopping for a start!

This idea of prince and princess, hero and heroine can be extended to include the Obamas who appear to have a perfect marriage and also retain such a powerful position in the world. Is it any wonder then that we want to claim them as our own? For the people of Moneygall and indeed Ireland, it seems to suggest that we all have the potential to assume positions of power in the world and happy ever after in our partner relationships. Modern day ‘fairy tales’ too seem to bring us nearer to having royalty within our personal grasp, even if it’s by marriage. In ‘Shrek’, an ogre finally gets to marry Princess Fiona who behind her aesthetic beauty has a lot in common with Shrek in that she is part ogre too.

For those of us in relationships it is probable that we can identify with the likes of Shrek and Fiona. Maybe this is a more realistic union, owing to the fact that neither party are perfect but together their union works. For us ordinary people struggling in relationships, it is important to be aware of what our expectation of our partner is. We are unlikely to be aware of it but deep in our psyche we have fantasies of being princes and princesses and of achieving the perfect union. No relationship is ideal by virtue of our being human. It is only with knowing and accepting the darker side of our self and of our partner that relationships become real and loving. A new kind of fairy tale perhaps with a different kind of grown up happy ending.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk, Co Louth.

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