What to do when you meet Prince Charming and he’s not a Prince?


A dear friend of mine called me a few days ago to tell me she was considering re-marrying. Having been divorced now for several years with younger children, she was concerned about taking a second plunge. She went through the traditional phases of having a bad break-up, all men are the same, you can’t trust any man, men only want one thing, you name it. A half a billion men on Earth and she had decided they were all evil.

She began telling me about her new bow, how nice he was, how considerate he was, how charming he was, but she said he was lacking in the looks category. Everything about him was a 10, but sadly he was lacking George Clooney features.

I let her vent and then asked her this question: “Do you know the difference between a handsome man and a charming one”? She replied, “No what?” I explained that a handsome man is one that you notice, and a charming man is one who notices you.

She paused, seemed to gasp, and said “oh”. She quickly hung up either upset with my analogy, or she got an answer to a question that she was implicitly attempting to ask me. Rather than continue this discussion with her in person, I felt that sharing a few thoughts with her via Facebook would be interesting for her and possibly for some of you.

When it comes to relationships, you can’t use what happened in the past to look forward; you can only use prior events to look backwards. When you meet someone new, the person in your past cannot define someone else. You have to trust that what happened in your past has nothing to do with your future. You have to learn to again trust in someone and follow your gut, destiny, karma, whatever. Remember, the first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is more often than not substantial.

Relationships as they end, and new ones come to be, are about evolution, so is life for that matter. What looks like a mistake to you today may be remembered as a milestone that helps you make better decisions later in life. Even if someone close to you betrayed you, even if your heart was broken, even if people misunderstood or judged you, learn from these events. Yes, some men are actually human and make serious mistakes, but learning to forgive and to move forward makes all the difference.

And, when it comes to men (or women for that matter) that cheat, ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do, and what is right to do. Some times that person in your life will confuse their ethics. After all, the only difference between a hero and a villain is when someone chooses to use the power they have over you in a way that is selfish and hurtful. But, sometimes that doesn’t mean they love you less. Oscar Wilde once said “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” If you’re still looking for a saint, maybe it’s time to slightly modify your expectations.

I guess I would also argue that if you’re looking to start a new relationship you need to remember this: there is one significant difference between a relationship and a good dinner. When it comes to dinner, the sweets are supposed to come last, in relationships the sweets come first and more often than not get consumed quickly. In a relationship, the difference between something good and something great will likely fade over time, you’ve already experienced this. The trick is finding how to get things to just stay continually good.

There’s also a big difference between falling in love with someone and falling in love with someone and getting married. Relationships, especially new ones, are also about evolution. Give them time to evolve as they should. The whole difference between constructing a new relationship and creating one is exactly this: a relationship that is built can only lead to real love after its constructed; but a relationship created is loved before it exists. Confused? It’s kind of like having a baby. You love your baby from inception, from the second you were told that you’re pregnant, at least most mothers do. Your in love before you’ve ever even met. Yes, this happens when you meet Mr. Right, some times known as love at first sight, but it’s rare. Everything else needs to be built, it needs to be constructed.

Relationships, especially at inception, require hard work. You know that. Love can actually come from discipline, the trade-offs you need to make to get a relationship to work. If any sacrifice you make for someone else you see as a punishment then the relationship you are in is destined to fail. And, whenever you’re in conflict with your partner, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude. Maintaining a positive attitude and not seeing your relationship with someone as a burden, or as punishment, is the only way you can make things work this time.

When it comes to relationships, once they’re established, the best words in the English language to keep things moving forward are forgiveness and compassion. I think they hold the key to everything. They keep love alive and knowing the meaning of these two words and their application makes all the difference. The difference between average relationships and successful relationships is perception and a continued desire to avoid failure and this inevitably requires forgiveness and compassion. If relationships were a theory, there technically should be no difference between theory and practice. Love would be all you need to make things work. But, love is dynamic and not static so in practice there always needs to be a way to adapt as your feelings for someone change fundamentally over time.

Let me summarize by saying this: you’ve been in a relationship before and it failed. This happens a lot, so you’re not an outlier. You were left alone, feeling abandoned, kids and all. But, now you’ve met a man who is charming, and the difference between a handsome man and a charming man is the handsome man you notice, and the charming man notices you. He noticed you. Is he bald, he’s getting there a little. Bad sense of humor, I know him, yup that’s a given. Is he the kind of man that can love and be brought into your family, I think yes. He is kind and loving and now I am talking to you directly. If he can give you love and kindness remember these attributes are completely aligned with the true meaning of happiness. Kindness and love always make such a huge difference in our lives. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless the giver too. You kept telling me that a relationship with him is going to be next to impossible. I say this to you, the difference between the impossible and the possible lies in your determination to construct this new relationship and to build love.

These are my thoughts as they have been written in a very boring meeting thinking about what you told me. Remember, he noticed you and as Einstein once said “the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits”. Will it be stupid to let someone charming slip away? I think so. Give it a try, what have you got to lose? Of course, any advice I give especially in the relationship area must by definition be bad advice, and I’m a very bad substitute for Dear Abby. At the very least then focus your energies on figuring out how to never have another bad day for the rest of your life. That inevitably lies in finding a solution, a partner, and not to continually be alone.

May the force be with you.

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© Khaled F. Sherif, 2020

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