Fictional Men & Unrealistic Expectations

We bookish folks sure do like to talk about our crushworthy fictional characters and all the swoon-y moments that happen within the pages of our books. Most of the “crushing” seems to happen in YA literature but let’s be honest…there are some pretty crushworthy characters in classic literature as well… a la Mr. Darcy!!

Recently my sister and I were talking about how, before we really starting dating seriously, we would always get caught up in movies, tv shows and books that had “cute” guys that would act so sweet and make grand, romantic gestures to profess their love for the girl in the movie/book/tv show or they would have some romantic date planned that was PERFECT. I mean, let’s be honest, think of all the chick flicks you’ve ever watched…there are always those moments were you sit there and say, “Awww, I want a boyfriend who will do THAT for me….” LIKE BUILD YOU A HOUUUUSE.

When I started dating, I feel like I had these ideas in my head from all the movies/books and I EXPECTED these types of things to happen to me…that romantic blockbuster moment.  I would wonder when he was going to stand outside my window blaring a love song or make some beautifully-worded apology about how much he loved me and needed me when we got in a fight or take me on some intricately planned date where we lay in a field of sunflowers talking about the rest of our lives. I kept waiting for those moments. And then suddenly, I realized something…I’ve got something real. It’s not always ultra romantic nor is it always perfectly scripted, but that’s the beauty — our love is not a script nor is it a love story that has been perfectly plotted…it’s REAL LOVE that comes from the heart and is found in those little moments…when he’s holding my hair at 3am because I have the flu or when he paints my bathroom or opens the car door open for me. I was putting such unrealistic expectations on my (wonderful) boyfriend and our relationship for NO REASON!

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me a good fictional romance and a swoonworthy character, but I feel like I have a much more realistic idea of what love is these days that I don’t let those sometimes unrealistic expectations cloud my judgment. And yes, sometimes I still long for that grandiose display of love but I know what I’ve got 🙂 And no, I don’t think YA lit is to blame or is evil or any of that..because I totally love talking about my fictional crushes. I guess, I just think sometimes it is very easy to have unrealistic expectations implanted in our minds because of those fictional characters we deem as “perfect” in books and movies.  I hear lots of people saying “fictional boys are better’ and I don’t always think they ACTUALLY mean that but sometimes I do wonder if it sets us up for some unrealistic expectations about relationships and what love looks like. I’m not saying NOT to have standards or expectations, because you totally should, but waiting for your guy to one-up your favorite romantical gesture  from a book or movie every other day is just not going to happen…unless you find a guy who has a thing for those grandiose gestures. I do have a friend who had a fairytale engagement. Really. It could have straight up been in a movie.

So let’s talk…am I the only one who has ever longed for those “fairytale” moments from the movies/books? Do you think you’ve ever had unrealistic expectations as a result of movies/books that you’ve put on your significant other? What made you realize that they were just that…unrealistic? Girls without boyfriends/husbands…do you think sometimes you are waiting for that boyfriend who is a combination of all your favorite fictional characters? Do you hold out for that serendipitous moment where you bump into your soulmate on the street in some romantic way and then he somehow tracks you down because he couldn’t get you out of his head? Do you feel like you have an idealized version of what you are looking for and nobody compares? Or do you feel like that doesn’t affect you that much? I’m not at all trying to be judgmental or act like you all don’t have healthy views of love but I polled some of my IRL friends and they all admitted to being guilty of having similar unrealistic expectations from movies so I just wanted to poll my bookish friends to see if the same was true of our fictional characters from books!

And while, we’re at it, because I reallyyy do like talking about romantical things despite the feel you might get from this post….tell me one of your favorite fictional moments that makes you swoon!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she’s actually that old. When she’s not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.


  1. You're definitely not the only one. I have so many fictional men that I'm in love with, and sometimes I definitely think, "why doesn't my guy do any of this for meeee?!" But you're so right, real love is exactly that – REAL. It's in the little things, like making you cups of tea and listening to you vent about your day.
    When you think about it, it's kinda a good thing that you don't need these kinds of grand gestures in your relationship. In books/movies/TV shows, they generally happen after a major drama and the guy is trying to win back the love of the girl. In reality, love shouldn't be so hard.

  2. I definitely used to have unrealistic expectations, and it didnt help that the first six months I was with my now fiance could have come straight out of a book.. But now we've been living together a while, and especially the past week when i've been quite sick, i've really started to appreciate the less romantic reality!
    Favourite fictional moment off the top of my head – Breakfast at Tiffany's at the end where Audrey Hepburn is looking for the cat in the rain and George Peppard comes back for her…..

  3. Chrisbookarama says:

    Well, when boys look at certain magazines and say "That's what I want!" we yell, "That's unfair! Those women were airbrushed!" It's not really fair to do the same to them. But yes, in my younger days I wanted the Grand Gestures from my guy. Now that I'm married, I know it's the little things that matter. He's not a Grand Gesture kinda guy. There wasn't a moment that sealed it for me but a gradual realization that we're not living in a romance novel. And believe me- I'm no fictional heroine either!

  4. DuchessoftheShire says:

    I think I'm trying to create my own little fictional romance in my head, but unfortunately that is where it is – in my head. I want this guy to turn around and tell me he loves me! We're doing the stereotypical love/hate friendship thing and I know deep down it isn't going to happen but Hollywood and YA Romances tell me that it will… Just be patient. I'm realistic about my idealism and sadly P.S. I Love You is my favourite love scene, before he dies and they fight and then make up. Unrealistic and still amazing.

    Your one and only,

    Duchess of the Shire

  5. Oh, I forgot to add my fave swoon-worthy moment… it's tough, because there are so many! Obviously anything in the Notebook and of course the wonderful Lloyd Dobler, which influenced another great moment – Penn Badgeley's homage to '80s teen romance in Easy A. Loved that! Another one that comes to mind is Captain Wentworth's letter in Persuasion: "You pierce my soul" = swoooooooooooon! Ok I'll have to stop now or we could be here all night.

  6. I always love those ultra-huge romantic gestures in books and movies, but I've also always been pretty good at knowing that it's not really a IRL type of thing. Of course I long for things like that, but I've never expected it of my boyfriend. He's an incredibly sweet and wonderful man and I love him, but let's face it – he's a man, and I know that 90% of the guys out there just don't even think to try a big romantic thing. I'm okay with little things, like occasional flowers, or him buying me my favorite turkey wrap to bring to lunch with me, or consenting to take pictures with me (which he hates). It's all about the little things :o)

    I don't know if I have a favorite romantic thing or scene for a book or movie… However, me and my boyfriend have had that one amazing kiss that makes the entire world fade away. I wouldn't trade that kiss for any fiction-type romance.

    BTW, adorable pics!!!

  7. Great post! I'm with you 100% of the way. Even though I have a great hubby, who on occassion makes a romantical gesture, he doesn't nearly get the swoon-worthy award. And that's ok. I think what is nice about boys in books is that they provide a little escape from the mundane. I love reading about those grand moments, but knowing me, I wouldn't actually like to be the target of one. I'd probably roll my eyes. Or laugh. Neither is the response they'd be looking for.

    Still- if I had to pick a moment- It's Darcy all the way. Book version, mini-series version or movie version. I don't care. I love when he realizes that while he was busy hating Lizzie, he was actually falling in love. That to me has a little reality to it and I love when he finally gets the courage up to do something about it. I might roll my eyes if I was Lizzie (and she probably did), but I'd have bought it hook, line and sinker too.

  8. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    This coming from a very single girl… I've been guilty of having too high expectations. You ask if they come from the fictional characters that I read about or see on tv? Maybe. But mostly these expectations were set way before I devoured books, like I do now. They began with my parents. Their relationship has been a map for me, of what I want someday in a partner. I know it exists because I've seen it. I refuse to settle for anything less.

    Now I know not to wait around for price charming on his white horse. I am REALISTIC about what I want. I think at my age though, I'm done with the "well lets try this out" scenario & I feel better off waiting for the RIGHT scenario.

    I've always been drawn to the guys who are musically inclined in YA novels. There's just something magical about a boy behind a guitar & even better when he can put his thoughts & emotions to chords. I love it so freaking much. Oh and a boy who can bake is pretty hot too 😉

  9. Annette says:

    I absolutely LOVE this discussion. I've been feeling really weird, because when people talk about their fictional crushes, or their book boyfriends, I never have any! Then, if I think back to when I was younger, before I found true love, I guess I was more impressed by the romanticism of fictional men. So, maybe it has to do with having found my true love. Those fictional guys just can't compare….

    And, I DO LOOOOOOOVE reading romances… it isn't that I don't enjoy a good romance in a book anymore.

    Thanks for making me feel better about my attitude towards romantic fictional men.

  10. Kat Werner says:

    I've read some stuff about this that relates unrealistic expectations that girls get for romantic gestures to unrealistic physical expectations that men get from certain "adult" movies and magazine publications…

    That said, there are certain romantic gestures that really get me in movies and TV. Blaine showing up to prom alone in Pretty in Pink, the boombox scene of course in Say Anything…lots of 80's movies LOL.

    But, none of them compare to my boyfriend shoveling my driveway one day before I got home from work because I'd gotten stuck in it a few days before (and he'd had to come help me out of the driveway). Or him sending me a text message to say good morning and that he loves me.

    I've had some very crappy relationships in the past, so I think they might have broken me of my overly high expectations, and for that I can kind of glad. I wouldn't trade what I have now for the world.

  11. Jasmine (The Reading Housewives) says:

    Everytime I would bring something up to my husband about getting ideas for dates or doing something nice for me he always tells me that I have unrealistic expectations of what a relationship is supposed to be like. He HATES The Notebook because he thinks THAT'S the movie that put all these ideas in girls' heads. Now that I read books it's even worse. I know I do have some unrealistic expectations, but I don't think it's that much to ask of our guys to just look at these movies or books and get some ideas. 🙂

  12. Avid Reader says:

    Great discussion. I agree that it's easy to have your expectations blown out of proportion by books and movies. The things that really matter in life are often so simple, taking time to spend a quiet evening together, putting up with your crazy family or hundreds of books that you just can't part with.

    There are many great scenes from Austen's books and from Jane Eyre, but I'm going with The Time Traveler's Wife. There's something wonderful about a love so strong it draws Henry back to Claire throughout her childhood and keeps them together despite their huge obstacles.

  13. Jen (Makeshift Bookmark) says:

    I love this post so much. Honestly, I think that expecting perfection in relationships is stupid. And naive. Nothing's perfect. And by the way, in books, we only get to read a select part of these characters' lives. What happens after the words end? I'm sure if these characters were real people, they'd end up facing trubs in paradise. Or hey, maybe even break up.

    Sure, I've had unrealistic expectations about relationships in the past. I did listen to N*Sync and BSB all through middle school. Those dudes made it seem like chopping off your manly and delivering it in a gift box (which Justin T. later solidified) was the norm. And you know what? It was never like that. I've had unrealistic expectations about what marriage is supposed to be. Does it make me unhappy to know that everything isn't going to be a whirlwind of rainbows and lace and extravagant gestures? No way. I'm happy to come home at the end of a long week, sit on the couch next to my husband, and read while he plays video games or watches sports. I don't need lavish dinners, surprise vacations, or stars named after me (haha lame.) I wouldn't object to them, but I've grown to love the little things. Because that's all I need to be shown love.

  14. Jen (Makeshift Bookmark) says:

    That being said, I wanted to marry Aladdin when I was a kid. He wore a vest with no shirt underneath and outsmarted Jafar. Perhaps I was partially intrigued by the flying carpet. Now THAT'S traveling in style.

  15. Jennifer O. says:

    Uh–I've been pining for Rhett Butler since I was 12. All the men that have come since then have suffered. Mwah haha.

  16. I could not agree more! No, seriously: After a lengthy discussion with my sister and hubby on this very topic, I had a post drafted for next week that basically reads word for word like this. Great minds think alike 😉

  17. So I'm not going to lie–I do sometimes still have dreams where I marry a man and become Lizzie Darcy. But on the flip side I'm also on the lookout for my Joe-schmoe Bennett. I think that's because while I love, love, love our dear Darcy….I might have a huge girl-crush on Lizzie Bennett and her relationship with Darcy. What I love is how confused they are the whole book. They don't really have an easy time going and I think that's what I relate to most about that book. She's oblivious half the time. So am I. So while I do sometimes wish for that grand moment (anyone hearing strands of "Easy A" in this post?) I relate more to the miscommunication and misunderstandings that my fictional dream men have with their lady loves. They give me hope that while I may be getting it all wrong now, someday I will get it right. Grand gesture? Optional. Love? Call me naive, but that's a must!

  18. Jennifer A says:

    Great topic!

    Yes, I think there are definitely times that I compare my husband to the fictional characters that I'm falling in love with. It only takes a little while to realize that those characters aren't realistic. I'm not that perfect, so why would I expect him to be, you know?

    I still think it's fun to get lost in a book and fall in love with the characters. That's part of the appeal of reading, I think. 🙂

    Jennifer of Little Shelf

  19. This is such an excellent topic!

    I admit that my expectations are high, but I don't think I'm too unrealistic. Do I want a guy who's handsome and sweet? Of course.

    But I've also dated so I know that real guys do things like failing to pick up their dirty socks, or accidentally walk home from the library without you while you sit and wait for them.

    One of my favorite fictional men is, of course, Mr. Darcy. Love him!

  20. Another Book Junkie says:

    I'm going to sound pretty cold-hearted when I say this, but I love for the romantic gestures and fluffy moments to stay between the pages. As much as I love reading about them, I don't want to experience them in real life. (If such a thing were possible.) I hate things that make me feel raw emotions, and being in love is plenty heaviness on the chest for me.

    But really, all fiction is exaggerated. It's chiseled out and perfected to the point that it really is merely based on reality, and in the end, even contemporary seems to have little basis in real life. The people are all flawed, like real people, but their good qualities are put on spotlight. Love just happens. There's nothing a man can do, no romantic gesture in the world, can make a woman fall in love with them, genuinely. It either happens or it doesn't.

    Fictional guys may be better in our heads, from time to time, but they're gone when you close the book.

    I think in at some point in life, we all expect too much out of something or someone. Whether it's books that plant the seed, or just our own imagination. Sometimes we just have to accept life for what it really is. For what's right in front of us.

  21. When I'm reading or watching a movie/tv and a fictional guy does the grand romantic gestures or says all the right things, I think to myself "Wow!, that's so romantic." But it ends there. I guess I'm too much a realist to take it too seriously.

    What I'm looking for in a man and in a relationship is realness. For me, it's those little things a man does to show you he loves you, the day in day out stuff that matters most.

    Nothing compares to the real thing.

  22. Kate {The Parchment Girl} says:

    I'm a realist, so while I enjoy a romantic scene in a book or movie once in a while, but I wouldn't want those in real life. I prefer a steady, comfortable companionship where there aren't too many surprises, and not too many heart-fluttering moments.

  23. Jennifer says:

    I am the first to admit that I am a hopeless romantic. And my idea of romance is definitely defined by what I have seen in TV/movies or read about in movies. And when I started dating, I wanted my dating life to be like what I read about in books. And sometimes, I would even take gestures from the books and use them in my relationships. But life is not scripted. The best gestures are spontaneous and truly come from the heart. I think I'm in a pretty healthy relationship because it isn't all movie moments but it does have some pretty romantic elements too.

  24. I love the grand gestures and the perfect men in the books. I love them because they are an escape. As much as I love the Darcy's, Brandon's, Etienne's and every Dessen boy ever created. I don't really want that in my actual life.

    I love my boyfriend because he's not perfect and most of the time he makes mistakes. He's also not one for grand sweeping gestures, which makes the little things so much sweeter. A text from the bf in the middle of the day just saying "thinking of you" makes me swoon just as much, if not more than Mr. Darcy's speeches.

  25. Midnyte Reader says:

    Of course I have had/sometimes still have unrealistic expectations. Love the John Cusack moments, the Mr. Darci moments, when he fixes everything for Lizzie's family.

    But my husband cleans off my car & turns it around for me when it snows. I sooo appreciate that. And one time he came home from the store with tissues because he heard me sniffling. Those are the things that really let me know he is thinking about me.

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  27. Phaedosia says:

    Heh. I remember discovering Harlequin romance novels in like seventh grade and devouring them for the next five or six years. (I don't think my mom knew or she would have had a fit.) I think I did end up being mildly surprised by the lack of huge sweeping dramatic gestures when I started dating my now-husband. But staying up late playing Scrabble and taking long car trips was way better than anything those books led me to expect.

  28. Blueicegal ♥ says:

    I found this post so touching especially when you described the moments that made him special to you. I actually don't think about it too much. Of course I swoon over boys like Jace and Damon but I am aware that they are fiction and it's important to not confuse them with reality. Most boys who are cocky and slightly arrogant like them are not also loving, protective and caring. That is just not how it is but it's okay to dream a little when it's fiction. 🙂

    I don't know what I would want in a man. I don't know what the future will bring either. I just hope that when the time comes I don't freak out and get all these unrealistic expectations all of a sudden.

  29. I'd love to see a post (better than the article you linked to) of the hottest fictional guys, from TV, movies, and books. There are so many!

    That said, I am blessed to be married to an incredible man whom I love deeply, but after 12 yrs of marriage, elderly sick (and dying) parents, his two jobs, my two jobs, insanely expensive food/gas/heat, two very small kids, salary cuts, no sleep and no time…. he's got nothing left for romance. He's there for me and I know he loves me, but sex, kissing, flirting, well, it's too much for him right now.

    So I have wild adventures with Sonny Crockett on his Miami Vice boat. I'm a senior analyst having a sexy affair with Sam Seaborne in the West Wing. Doug Ross and I disagree professionally as doctors but we have a torrid affair in the ER. Greg House's icy persona melts as he falls for the brilliant new hospital board director. And Jason Bourne races around the world to save me from a potential terror attack.

    My daydreams and fantasies about fictional characters are entertaining, and entirely safe. Fantasizing about a real person – celebrity, friend, or co-worker – is a bit riskier. And in fantasizing about fiction, I can be whomever I want to be. It's fun, relaxing, and it makes my morning commute all the more interesting!

    There's a reason FanFic is so popular 🙂

  30. Cutiepie-vintagegirl says:

    haha true. it's probably why i don't and have never had a boyfriend. i think the other problem is that my small town is so filled with thugs. so you have too extremes. a tooo perfect guy in a book or a real life idiot who gets drunk every night of the week end. i pick the fictional guy any day

  31. Aww, you and your boyfriend are so cute together! I love this post. Yes, when I first started dating, all my pining for the swooning romance got the best of me. I had a couple of ridiculous fights with my boyfriend/now husband out of nothing.

    Then I woke up and realized the same thing you did, our love is real. And that makes me appreciate the little things he does, like pick up my favorite ice cream from the store when he knows I had a really bad day, so much more.

    I still swoon over my fictional romances in books/movies. I don't think I'll ever stop that! But I am glad I am mature enough now to see and appreciate the differences between reality and fiction.