Do not be surprised to hear this: Books, movies, and songs rarely present an accurate picture of love. After all, their purpose is primarily to entertain, not to educate. Thus, writers churn out blends of fantasy and romance that will bring in the money. Sadly, though, it is easy to confuse such fiction with reality. Hence, people are often disappointed when their relationships do not match those of fictional characters. So how can we distinguish between fantasy and reality, between media romance and genuine love? Whether in books, movies, or plays, love stories may vary, but their essential structure, or formula, changes little. More often than not, most of romance writing is formulaic. This popular formula is the boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-gets-girl-back formula. Let us have a closer look at this formula. Boy meets girl: A handsome prince meets a beautiful woman, and love is born. This is the common love-at-first-sight notion. The belief is that these two souls belong together. The love-at-first-sight notion implies that true love is just a feeling—an overpowering emotion that grips you when you meet the right someone—that such love just happens, and that it requires little effort or knowledge of the other person. Real love, however, is much more than a feeling. Granted, feelings are involved, but love is a profound human bond that also includes principles and values and that never ceases to grow, provided it is properly nurtured and maintained. Moreover, it takes time to get to know another person. To assume that at first sight you have found the perfect partner smacks of fantasy and usually leads to disappointment. Additionally, in quickly assuming that you have found true love, you may shut your mind to evidence to the contrary. Choosing a suitable mate requires more than a strong impression influenced by a flush of infatuation. So take your time. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that the poor choice of a mate can negatively affect job performance, mental and physical health, and even life span. Boy loses girl: An evil count kidnaps the beautiful woman and flees the castle. The prince embarks on a dangerous quest to find her. This is the notion of two person s falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. Obstacles, often of an external kind, are overcome. In real life there are usually problems of an external kind and of an internal kind. They may involve money, work, relatives, and friends. Problems also emerge when one person does not meet the other’s expectations. In fictional characters, flaws are usually minor, but this is not always the case in real life. Further, real love does not carry us effortlessly through trials or differences in views, backgrounds, desires, and personalities. Rather, love involves cooperation, humility, mildness, patience, and tolerance—qualities that do not always come naturally or easily. Boy gets girl: The prince rescues the beautiful woman and banishes the count. The couple marry and live happily ever after. This is the theory of the happily-ever-after ending. Readers of romance writings are often very happy and satisfied that the couple is together and happy. And they believe, in most cases, that that is the way love goes. Romance novels rarely portray their characters after years of marriage. During that time disagreements and a host of other challenges and difficulties may have tested the relationship. As divorce statistics show, in time many marriages fail the test. Yes, storybook love is relatively easy; real love requires effort. Understanding the differences between the two will safeguard you against naive, unrealistic expectations. It will also prevent you from making hasty commitments that you may later regret.