Letting Go of Prince Charming

Letting Go of Prince Charming

Prince Charming ask his princess to marry

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Letting Go of Prince Charming

“Read it to me one more time, Mommy.”

And off we go again, hearing how the damsel in distress was swept off her feet by her charming prince … and lived happily ever after.

Unfortunately, that’s probably one of the most insidious things our mothers could have put in our heads. Yet, virtually all of them did.

In many cases, those long-ago, childhood memories were left in that less-visited portion of our brains: the subconscious instead of the conscious part.

As we grew up, Prince Charming stayed in hibernation as we went through school, watched our own persona develop, and started believing we could indeed do whatever we wanted. (He may actually have been more present in your mother’s conscious brain than in yours, as she envisioned your future for you.)

But if you’re in your fifties or older, you were reaching maturity in an age when Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem had already done the heavy lifting. Women’s Lib had already opened some doors, even if it hadn’t established any rules or realistic expectations. All we knew was that we had no excuses: we were expected to do our part and be as effective in the boardroom as we were in the bedroom … and in the kitchen.

Then came love. Suddenly, everything we had achieved, often at great personal cost and frustration, was put on a second plane. After all, he asked us to marry! Marriage! We were going to be able to dress like princesses with flowing white veils. Our groom would look absolutely handsome, in fact, princely. This would be a special day, a bit of a fairy tale …

Hmmmm. A fairy tale.

The fairy tale was so powerful, tugging at memories of cuddly sessions in bed as our mothers read aloud about regular little girls who were saved by a prince and lived happily ever after.

Why would we ever ask any questions? Such as: What were his financial dreams? How did he look at money? How did he spend it? How did he expect the two would share the financial role within the couple? In short, what kind of financial match was he? Why ask and maybe rock the boat? After all, we were going to live happily ever after.

Once married, we tucked away the fairy tale memories for safe-keeping.

Soon demands on our time and our energy escalated: one child after the other was born. Colic, diapers, boo-boos, after-school schedules, soccer practice and teenage acne added to the weight of our days.

And falling into our beds, exhausted, added to the reality of our nights.

However, our mission was clear. We were supposed to be Superwoman. Somehow we were to master it all.  Or at least fake it.

Whether our careers were put on temporary hold, or we juggled them along with our household duties, we recognized that, deep down, we had become pretty amazing beings. We pulled our weight sufficiently to believe that we could probably take care of ourselves financially. If push came to shove and something dire happened, we probably had the wherewithal to deal with whatever hand was dealt us.

Fast forward to our 50s, today. That “fairy tale” story has had one of several endings. If lucky, the bride and groom continued side-by-side, sharing responsibilities, each taking his or her traditional role; the kids grew up and married and today everything is hunky-dory.

But other potential endings exist as well: widowhood … divorce … job loss by our mates.

That’s when the real test kicks in about how well we learned the lessons of financial adeptness and comfort. About how far we developed our concept of self-responsibility. Whether enough of our self-identity has survived the years. Whether some event will eventually trigger the critical factor of self-preservation.

Some of us will pass, some of won’t.

But here is what is most amazing: whether we take the reins and build a strong financial foundation for ourselves or not, at some point the fantasy that was left sleeping quietly in our subconscious minds for so many years … reawakens.

As incongruous or even intellectually silly as it may seem, something deep inside us calls again for a man who’s a provider. A handsome prince on a white horse. We want the shoulder to lean on, whether we need his money or not. We love having the door opened and the restaurant tab disappearing from the table. In short, someone to “take care of it all.”

It’s true that the “Women’s Rights era” we enjoy today represents a very short blip on the timeline of history. How long have we had the right to vote? The right to take out loans in our own names without our husbands’ signature? The right to attend virtually any university or to work in any profession?

From the time women gained full civil rights in 1848, seven generations of women have deliberately pushed, cajoled and demanded changes in family life, in religion, in government, in employment and in education.

So, more than likely, our natural reflex action to find a strong provider harkens back to a purely biological need: the fact that women sought out the men who seemed most able to protect and feed them … and their offspring … in order to perpetuate the species.

Who would think that something this complex would be wrapped up in something so innocent: the story of a beguiling young girl and her fantasies about being swept off her feet by a handsome young man by the name of Prince Charming?

Are you still waiting for yours? Does that fantasy come and go, peeking out in moments of greater financial uncertainty? What role does that childhood fairy tale play in your future plans, especially the long-term ones?

It’s okay that he’s there, because he’s in the subconscious of virtually every woman. The key is to know how real he is … and how much of a fairy tale.

(Whatever you do, be sure you’re taking care of yourself.)

And let me know in the comment section below what you think …


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. But yet she did! Since then, Sharon has interviewed countless women and done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.” Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve.

  • My father was often frustrated with the message in most fairy tales. Number one irritation was that women were helpless without a man. As a father with 5 daughters, he was determined to teach us differently; subtly. We had to be able to carry ourselves in every situation life would throw at us.
    I love your perspective. Thank you for this honest article. 🙂

  • Love that you tell it like it is!!  I have coached cheerleaders for years and have had to come to odds with some parents about their princess being in the heat or having to work so hard – my question is always, “what about when life doesn’t treat them so nice?”  My ending was divorce, but thankfully my parents had raised me to keep moving forward.  Well, that and rely on God and not a person.  Great, honest article!

  • Powerful and we ought to teach this to our middle and high school students the realities of life. I grew up reading fairy tales but lived in an environment that was far from what was portrayed….my parents were not ‘fairy tale readers’.

  • D. P. Massad

    Having met Betty Friedan during my college years [as a dance major], you can determine my era and the impractical career directions to which I was drawn. But ole ‘hard knocks U’ punched fairy tales as divorce and entrepreneurship structured several decades. Larger sense, I appreciate your statements as applaude your energies to educate women. Thank-you!

  • Sondra

    No one tells it better than you Sharon. And if your “fairy tale” does exist, beautiful for you, but please don’t let it handicap you. Like Sharon says, “be sure you’re taking care of yourself.” Nothing saddens me more than a woman completely in the dark about financial matters, when her prince charming is no longer there.

  • Excellent article Sharon!  I personally love how you just tell it like it is!  That’s what I want; no beating around the bush!  Thanks for sharing! 

  • Deb Baxter

    Great article!  My dad raised me to financially independent and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way.  Marrying later enforced that independence.  I am trying to do the same with my daughter (even though it is contrary to most of her peers’ upbringing), but wish there was a class or something to give her a stronger foundation than just learning to earn and spend. 

  • How many times can I comment that we need more wise voices like yours, Sharon?  It’s not too hard of a message to hear. Maybe it’s just one that we have to learn on our own to really appreciate.

    Can’t wait to share this one 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Having read your post, Sharon, all I can do is wonder why the magazine asked you to rewrite this article… it’s down to earth and pretty much spot on! I ask myself what kind of person could be so blinkered in his thinking as not to see the reality and wisdom behind your words…

    There’s little point in bringing up your daughters (and sons, for that matter!) with expectations and hopes based on less than realistic fairy tales when the world around you literally screams at you with facts of life that bear no resemblance to Prince Charming saving the day… Perhaps womenfolk do have a genetically built-in need to find a male provider (I’d much rather think that it has to do with choosing the right biological partner to ensure one’s safety and wellbeing as well as the continuation of a healthy bloodline which, as you suggest, is something the female species appear to do subconsciously), but more than ever do we live in times where the need for the woman to be moneywise and finance-savvy is of prime importance for the survival of the family unit – regardless of the number of members involved.

    I’m sure your coaching programs will provide not only a solid basis from which to achieve that financial freedom but in many cases also a lifeline to simple survival!

    As always: thumbs up! Great contribution…


    Emm :))

  • Life is just not a fairy tale; we all face hardships in life that we have to deal with. Thanks for your wisdom Sharon!

  • Thanks for shedding light on the reality of a “fantasy”! Too often we want to put our head back in the clouds when the paint starts to peel…hoping somehow all works out. With your wisdom and courage at the helm many women will have the tools to stop hoping and wishing and take action! Brilliant article Sharon…I wouldn’t change a thing!

  • Great article!  My favorite line was your last quote, “Whatever you do, take care of yourself.” Keep sharing your wise tips-others are listening! 

  • Rachelle

    Sharon, I too am surprised that the magazine asked for a rewrite. I think this is one of your best, among the excellent articles you write. I’m living in my “happily ever after with my Prince Charming”, AND I do know our financials, we make money decisions together.  Maybe if you sent these comments along with your article the mag would change there mind about publishing your article.

  • You are great Sharon! Love your articles and yes!!! – women unconsciously sabotage their financial success by having this limited belief about “Prince Charming”, you are a very masterful coach teaching the core money mindset! Have a wonderful day!

  • I loved this and didn’t think it was too harsh at all! Sometimes the best friend is the one who can tell us the brutal truth, and these times call for VERY BRUTAL TRUTHS. Thank you for rising above everyone else who dances around the hard truth. Also… difficult truths can still be delivered with love and respect, and I always feel these in your posts.

  • Hi Sharon, thanks for this delightful and true article.  I am still married to my prince charming after 50+ years.  The painful part to me is that I have not always been the princess thus have made it very difficult for my prince charming to always be the charming prince.  Dreams, fairy tales, and reality are all a mix of our 50 years+, 3 children, and 7 grandchildren.  I do not consider the article too harsh at all.  Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Sharon… I’d rather have “straight-talk” … you’re not being harsh at all, but prodding yes… prodding us into reality, face-to-face. Most of us need that! I’m looking forward to developing my own financial foundation… thanks for being a such a courageous captain steering us through these stormy financial seas!

  • Fairy tale or not this is one “hot and fiery” article that every young girl, woman and baby boomer woman needs to hear. Gone are the days of sugar coating any message. It is what it is and circumstances wait for no one. That may sound harsh, yet life ain’t no bowl of cherries, it is laden with pits. Better to know ahead what to expect than to hide one’s head in the sand and play dumb. I know, I’ve swallowed many pits, hid my head and ate the sand. Wake up girls, this game of life is real, it’s not always easy and there is no Prince Charming…it is a fairy tale marketed in entertaining stories. Thanks, Sharon…we need you and more hard hitting stories like this one.

  • Really love this article–for many reasons.  Central among them is this: if we don’t address those motivations that drive us we cannot take personal responsibility.  I think feminists and the women’s movement have been so afraid to face this topic head on–which is sad because it leaves us MORE vulnerable not stronger. To pretend that there isn’t a Princess hiding away inside all of us is to ignore what can be our greatest strength or our worst weakness, our innate femininity. 

    From a very personal perspective I can share that this is not a simple motivation to untangle. I was raised my a career woman who always told me not to expect anyone to take care of me yet I found this ‘secret fantasy’ drove me right into the ditch as soon as I grew up.  It’s only very recently that I’m beginning to understand that I can ‘have it all’–personal responsibility, great relationship and some of that ‘taken care of’ vibe without dropping the ball myself.  

  • ENO Nsima-Obot MD

    Wow Sharon I like the way you weave in the power of subconscious indoctrination into our way of being and how we even go forward to deal with our finances irrespective of the stage of life we find ourselves. I was recently speaking with a friend of mine whose Prince Charming left her after many years of marriage and went back to Nigeria. Leaving her to take care of 2 kids in college. What intrigues me is that a lot of us appear to be savvy with our finances- the way we dress, the cars we drive etc. but when stuff breaks down as predictably it can, things start to unravel. Thanks for being bold enough to call it as it is and not soft pedal the issue. We need to stop spending thousands of dollars on one fairy tale day and make sure we didn’t marry a frog dressed as a Prince!!

  • Dawnriver1

    Good stuff, Sharon. Unfortunately the “Prince Charming myth” is alive and still being instilled in young girls. I was disheartened to find my 5 year-old niece designing her “Barbie wedding” complete with gowns, accessories, prince, white horse and castle on a computer program. We have come so little distance…

  • Annemorrissey

    Very well said Sharon!  This subject is not a fantasy.  It’s not a game.  There is no way to tip[ toe around it, for that would water it down and the message would lose it’s power.  If I was a magazine publisher, I would print as is.

  • Very good advice Sharon!  I wish more people would take it.  It would be so much better for women (and men for that matter) to learn how to take care of themselves both before and during marriage.  That way they can be positive contributors to the financial relationship as well as prepared if bad things should happen.  Thanks for sharing and for this great wisdom!

  • Sharon,  Once again you have hit the nail on the head with your savvy insight and advice for women to take charge of their financial lives.  I know of two recent widows who are completely bufuddled about what to do and who are not sure where to find someone to help them straighten out the mess.  I know of women whose husbands refuse to make out wills and who don’t tell them anything about the fifnances of the household.  These women are completely in the dark about how to pay the household bills.  Their husbands think that if they make out a will it means they are going to die soon and if the wife nags them about it they get upset.  What a mess.  Education is the answer to many of life’s problems and you are doing a great job of doing just that.

  • Holli

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this article.   As I like to say, we all need to pick up “our big girl panties” and take responsibility for our finances.  Whether a woman is in a warm loving marriage or on her own, she needs to start entering the financial conversation, ask questions and become financially literate. No one knows what life has in store for them and as the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Women need to learn NOW before a financial disaster or any other occurs in their life. Kudos to you for writing so openly and honestly.Your friend,Holliwww.HolliRovenger.com

  • Holli

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this article.   As I like to say, we all need to pick up “our big girl panties” and take responsibility for our finances.  Whether a woman is in a warm loving marriage or on her own, she needs to start entering the financial conversation, ask questions and become financially literate. No one knows what life has in store for them and as the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Women need to learn NOW before a financial disaster or any other occurs in their life. Kudos to you for writing so openly and honestly.Your friend,Holliwww.HolliRovenger.com