Love is the greatest adventure of all. And it's one that no holographic mentor or alien sidekick can prepare you for. So it's lucky that science fiction and fantasy are chock full of stories of people who've played the game of love... and won. (Or, in some cases, just not died.)
We combed through science fiction's great love stories to glean the important lessons that could transform your love life. Here are some relationship secrets from science fiction and fantasy's greatest couples. With spoilers!
Introduce your sweetie to more people like yourself, so she can place you in context.
In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia isn't sure what to make of Han Solo, the self-centered brigand who just wants to get paid and has no notion of chivalry and heroism and all that stuff. So Han decides to introduce Leia to another "scoundrel," so she can realize that he's one of a kind, in both senses. He's unique, but he's also a particularly awesome specimen of the genus "scoundrel." (And by turning Han over to Darth Vader and getting him stuck in carbonite, Lando is making Han's point for him, thus being the perfect wingman.)
If you really love someone, you will stab them and send them to Hell.
When you're in a relationship with someone, you aren't their mother; you aren't their father; you aren't even their godparent. You're their partner, and so you can't always protect them from themselves. Sometimes, you have to let them suffer the consequences of their actions. In the season two finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy has to kill Angel and send him to Hell because his evil alter ego, Angelus, has unleashed a world-ending you-know-what-storm that only his death will prevent.
Variety is the spice of life.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys Targaryen is forced into marriage at age thirteen to a man who terrifies her — although at least in the book version it's very clear that she verbally consents to their sex:
"His fingers were deft and strangely tender. He removed her silks one by one, carefully, while Dany sat unmoving, silent, looking at his eyes. When he bared her small breasts, she could not help herself. She averted her eyes and covered herself with her hands. "No," Drogo said. He pulled her hands away from her breasts, gently but firmly, then lifted her face again to make her look at him. "No," he repeated.
"No," she echoed back at him.
He stood her up then and pulled her close to remove the last of her silks. The night air was chilly on her bare skin. She shivered, and gooseflesh covered her arms and legs. She was afraid of what would come next, but for a while nothing happened. Khal Drogo sat with his legs crossed, looking at her, drinking in her body with his eyes.
After a while he began to touch her. Lightly at first, then harder. She could sense the fierce strength in his hands, but he never hurt her. He held her hand in his own and brushed her fingers, one by one. He ran a hand gently down her leg. He stroked her face, tracing the curve of her ears, running a finger gently around her mouth. He put both hands in her hair and combed it with his fingers. He turned her around, massaged her shoulders, slid a knuckled down the path of her spine.
It seems as if hours passed before his hands finally went to her breasts. He stroked the soft skin underneath until it tingled. He circled her nipples with his thumbs, pinched them between thumb and forefinger, the began to pull at her, very lightly at first, then more insistently, until her nipples stiffened and began to ache.
He stopped then, and drew her down onto his lap. Dany was flushed and breathless, her heart fluttering in her chest. He cupped her face in his huge hands and looked into his eyes. "No?" he said, and she knew it was a question.
She took his hand and moved it down to the wetness between her thighs. "Yes," she whispered as she put his finger inside her."
But from then on, Drogo and Daenerys only have sex in a way that allows Drogo to show his dominance and gives her very little control over what's going on. After their wedding night, she finally asks her handmaiden Doreah to teach her how to seduce him. That night, under the open sky, they switch up positions so she's in control — and not only does she have a great time, but he calls out her name in ecstasy.
Long distance can work, as long as you find a way to keep a piece of the person you love with you.
As we discovered at the end of Dollhouse, Echo and Paul Ballard are finally happy together — despite being separated by the epic distance of… well, bodily death. How do they manage this? Paul is quite literally alive in Echo's mind. His memories and personality have been imprinted into Echo, and she can see him whenever she wants.
Try and find someone who shares your interests
While he's stuck on Earth, Thor (and his alternate personality Donald Blake) are pretty darn committed to nurse Jane Foster. Despite his family's obvious dislike of Jane (Odin threatens to disown Thor for dating her; Loki tries to kill her) and Thor and Jane's lack of any shared interests aside from "helping people," they stay together for quite some time, and through quite a few difficult trials.
But when the going gets tough, the tough get together with someone who's equally tough. After Jane Foster fails to prove herself worthy of immortality, Odin sends her back to Earth and wipes her memory. She eventually marries a nice mortal doctor, Keith Kincaid, and Thor ends up with a fellow warrior, Lady Sif.
Pay attention to the little changes, because they can mean a lot
Peter Bishop likes to pretend he's a keen observer of human nature, thanks to his years as a conman. But when he finally hooks up with Olivia, he totally fails to notice the 1000 little clues that she's not "his" Olivia — all those little mistakes, including Olivia thinking that Ronald Reagan starred in Casablanca. Not to mention the dead body in Olivia's bathroom. And then more recently, when the "real" Olivia starts having memories of her life with Peter, he falls into the trap of thinking she's just being imprinted with Peter's own memories — he totally misses all the little clues that she's remembering the original timeline in general, because she remembers stuff Peter didn't even know about. If Peter Bishop would learn to pay attention to the small clues, his love life would be a lot smoother.
Love is worth waiting for
Aragorn is 20 years old when he first spies the beautiful, ethereal Arwen, clad in a mantle of silver and blue. She's so lovely, he mistakes her for Lúthien from the Lay of Lúthien. But then he spends nearly 30 years off fighting against Sauron and being a hero, before he finally meets up with her again. And even though Aragorn comes from a pretty undesirable bloodline, as the heir of greedy Isildur, who refused to destroy the One Ring. He's not exactly Elrond's first choice for his daughter — but you can't say no to true love, especially after it's waited three decades.
Your wedding is about you two, not the ceremony (even if your in-laws don't think so)
When Worf and Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine want to get married, Dax has to request permission to join Worf's surrogate family, the House of Martok, in order for him to have a Klingon ceremony. And Dax can't join without meeting the approval of Sirella, mistress of the house of Martok. After infuriating Sirella by cheekily pointing out that Sirella is descended not from imperial blood but a concubine, she is forbidden from joining the house. Worf asks her to beg forgiveness, and she initially refuses, but Sisko persuades her to endure the humiliation for the sake of her love of Worf. At last, they're married, with Sirella's blessing.
If you're gonna be starting something, start it right.
In Once Upon A Time, David/James and Mary Margaret/Snow White are obviously attracted to one another, despite David's marriage to Kathryn/Abigail. Unable to resist one another, David and Mary Margaret embark on an illicit affair that eventually becomes public and leads to Kathryn's disappearance from Storybrooke. When Kathryn's heart is found in Mary Margaret's jewelry box, she is arrested for murder. While we're all sure that Mary Margaret's being framed by Regina, the moral of the story here is that if you want to hook up with a new person, it's worth being open and honest about it. If only because you're under a curse explicitly designed to prevent your happiness.
Stop trying to replace your ex.
This is all over science fiction. Peter and Olivia on Fringe, Aeryn and John Crichton in Farscape and Jo Lupo and Zane from Eureka... these are just a few of the pertinent examples. People are always hooking up with the nearly-exact-but-not-quite duplicate of their former loves. Usually, it's a doppelganger and/or other-universe version of the person they're supposed to be with. For example, Aeryn pursues a relationship with the "other Crichton" on Talyn.
Revealing the awful truth about the world is like an instant love charm
This is a super common trope in SF and fantasy — if you really want someone to swoon for you, discover the horrible, unspeakable truth about your dystopian world, and reveal it to everybody. Nobody can resist that. This happens in a ton of YA novels and dystopian stories — but a great example is Wall-E and Eve. Wall-E is totally smitten with the sleek, high-end scout robot, but she doesn't really reciprocate until he helps her prove that there's life on Earth, and the human existence on the Buy N Large spaceship is a lie.
Your true love is someone who helps you remember who you really are
It happens all the time — your loved one gets brainwashed and loses his/her identity. Sometimes it's a new job, sometimes it's an evil government conspiracy, sometimes it's just some crazy trauma. In any case, helping your loved one remember their true identity and what they're really about, can totally cement your love. A great example is Mockingjay, the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy, where — spoiler alert — Peeta gets kind of mixed up, and Katniss has to help him remember the difference between fantasy and reality.
Take turns rescuing each other
When Amy and Rory start traveling together in the TARDIS on Doctor Who, we think at first that Rory is just going to be saving Amy all the time — he helps get her out of her impetuous tangle with vampires, and later waits 2,000 years for her to come back to him after she's placed in the Pandorica. But in their second season, Amy does plenty of rescuing Rory, saving him from the mermaid's curse on a pirate ship and bailing him out a few other times. And when Rory is about to be killed by the Silence in the season finale, and they're taunting him that he'll always wait in vain for Amy — she comes back and kicks some ass on his behalf.