Gasp! How can I be talking about the Romance Myth in the 21st century?! Can it possibly still hold sway over women? Absolutely.
The Romance Myth is the myth that we, as women, will be taken care of. In its classical inception, it is about marrying the right man and providing a home (and children) for him. In exchange for this, he will take care of you, now and into the future. That is the magic formula our mothers and grandmothers were raised with, and even now, many of us fall into. If we put our families first, and perhaps sacrifice our personal ambitions and goals, we will be taken care of financially, both now and in retirement. We don’t have to focus on making money. Looked at in another light, the Romance Myth is simply indulging in the magical thinking that someone will provide for us.
I also know that many of us are very opposed to the whole notion of the Romance Myth—we are strong, independent women. Perhaps we saw our mothers fall victim to the Romance Myth, sacrificing their lives for their families, only to end in divorce and a subsequent financial struggle to provide for themselves. But whether we fall prey to the Romance Myth, or live in opposition to it, we must understand it because it may be affecting us.
As I’ve studied the Romance Myth and its effect on women’s careers and lives, I’ve come to realize that there are many “Prince Charmings” besides a man/woman who will take care of us. That is partially why it is so insidious. The Romance Myth is anyone or anything in your life (present or future) that allows you to not take full responsibility for your earning power. In seminars I give, many examples come up. Some women confess that they believe they will inherit a lot of money from their parents some day, so they don’t have to really focus on making a lot of money now. Others say the equity in their house acts as a form of Prince Charming—that someday this money will come to their rescue. Other examples of Prince Charming: the lottery, a current or hoped for future marriage, adult children who will provide for us, stock portfolios that will (hopefully) grow.
When we fall prey to the Romance Myth, we are abdicating responsibility for our lives and money. We allow ourselves to become passive because there will be something to take care of us when … with half of all marriages ending in divorce, we must address this thinking. By falling prey to this warm, enveloping myth, we put ourselves at terrible risk because when Prince Charming evaporates, we are left holding the pieces—confused, angry, and alone.
If the Romance Myth hits a cord with you, I’d recommend this book: Maxing Out: Why Women Sabotage Their Financial Security, by Colette Dowling. (Colette Dowling wrote the Cinderella Complex.) This amazing book, full of her personal life story and struggles, as well as other women’s, is out of print! So I recommend you buy it used on Amazon. Maybe we can get it back in print!
To begin your own exploration, answer the following questions. Who or what may be operating as a form of “Prince Charming” in your life? What do you hope will happen/not happen, so you don’t have to rely 100 percent on your own earning power? I would encourage you to write down these powerful questions and do some journaling on them.
There is nothing that beats the inner security and the amazing sense of freedom that comes with self-created financial stability. This happens when we become our own “Princess Charming!”
By Mikelann Valterra, Founder of the Women’s Earning Institute
Related Story: “Tales of a Working Single: Musings from the Corner Office”