It’s no wonder they say Disney gave us unrealistic expectations for romance. Most of us want a guy who will fight for us. I've had the same director for my spiritual discernment for most of my 20's. At the inevitably close of my relationships, he has reminded me - none too gently - that a man in love will fight lions.
But the last several men I've dated haven't seemed interested in fighting the price of gas, let alone the king of the jungle.
This post is hard to write because it has to do with the sickness in all my former relationships, the 3-6 month long ventures whose common denominator is me. Have you ever asked for a guy to fight for you? Have you ever struggled to find the balance between courtship, chivalry and being considerate that a guy is just human, a guy might need a little bit of help?
In Princess in Pink, Mia’s Grandmere tells her, “Men are like little woodland creatures. You have to lure them with tiny breadcrumbs and soft words of encouragement. You cannot simply whip out a rock and conk them on the head with it.”
A lot of the teenage girls I work with are like me. Like Mia. They flirt as well as Queen Elsa. They know how to insult, tease, whine and complain. They know how to throw a guy's hormones into a raging unquenchable fire. But they don't know how to speak to his heart, to encourage the coals so to speak, and honor the gentle soul he is. Not all guys were given the shield of virtue by three fairies, like Philip. The main character in my book is another Ice Queen; too emotionally unavailable to develop friendship, let alone romance. Maybe instead of taking on a boyfriend when we're young, we all ought to make sure we're friends with ourselves, our moms and a steady handful of sisters - not suitors. This is the solid foundation we need to stand on first. Otherwise, we end up asking a guy - a human who probably can't even remember to put the toilet seat down - to fulfill our heart's greatest desire, to make us the happiest person on earth. No one can stand up to those flames. Any guy will whither under those expectations, and I sadly have a long list of names to prove it.
Your Primary Spouse
Whether it's lions, or dragons, or thorns (oh my!), my friend Alicia once wrote, "Love Himself will satisfy your greatest desire and give you joy you never dreamed to ask for."
It's time to go on a dating fast if you struggle with expectations and emotional chastity as much as I do. Why the drama? Because if you aren't able to take it slow, you will only end up hurting people. Including yourself. I have never respected that relationships are formed in God's timing. And have made myself into something worse than Maleficent. With my girlfriends, I understand it completely. I barely see them, would never dream of asking them to help me move and rarely call them when I have a bad day. If I can't ask for help from even the girls in my life, why would I thrust all of that responsibility on one guy?
This is the difficulty of accepting Jesus as my primary spouse. That sounds like I've written it from my choir cell in a convent, doesn't it?! We're often attracted to a guy and might have the same values, philosophy in life, parenting ideas (ha - as if we know anything about that before we're married) and approach towards faith. But unless we have a good 3-6 months of friendship and the approval of the 12 people closest to you - your inner cabinet - then it just might not be time. Chastity is the proper ordering of things - not just sex as nuptials, hand-holding as sweethearts, but also discernment of dating as friends, not strangers. But in all seriousness, I think anyone who is overly demanding in relationships should look first to see whether they have their bridesmaids, let alone their groom (Crystalina & Jason Evert, How to Find Your Soul Mate Without Losing your Soul.) Remember that in the end, it's Flora's enchantment that kills Maleficent - only with the help of Philip's heroism.
If you're still unhappy even with your best friends and your family close to you, it's time to look even deeper. We have a God who loves to save the day. Who reputedly comes in when all hope is lost to ransom the strayed. For prayer, I'd recommend the novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots to untwist our expectations of love. Our expectations of happiness. To remove the thorn in our side, piercing our hearts, that a human as flawed as us should magically bring us contentment with true love's kiss. This is what God loves to do. Know that in heaven, we are neither married nor given in marriage (Matt. 22:30, Mk 12:25) Our eternity is with the Lord. In the grand scheme of things, this sinful life on earth is just the preliminary drama... and distraction. (1 Cor. 7:25-40)
I hope you're not guilty, like me, of setting up an obstacle course for new boyfriends. Meet the parents, please grab me a tissue, help clean up after work, just to see him sweat? Guys can see right through that. The Machiavellian principle ("It is better to be feared than loved") is about cruel dictatorship, not a princess of courtship. I'd set up trials like I was coordinating an icebreaker at youth group to build intimacy, observe character and see how they act in stress. But I'm not their tester. I'm supposed to be their companion. And don't honest guys have enough hard work ahead of them to build a Christ-centered, healthy relationship without us creating ridiculous, extraneous trials? Why would we make ourselves Maleficent when there are enough dragons in the world for them to defeat?
Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine about this habitual hurdle-making. She interrupted, “Wait – what do you think you did wrong?” I told her I shouldn’t expect someone to fight for me. I shouldn't be so insecure. I still remember the way her brow furrowed. The way a friend's face should when an ugly Demon shows it's pickled face.
It's not wrong for us to want to feel safe. It's not wrong for us to desire someone who knows that love is suffering, that love is inconvenient. Someone who desires marriage, ultimately, and doesn't shy away from serious discussion or predicaments. But Disney is wrong that he should have that figured out at first sight or even the first few months. Only Prince Hans with his secret agenda gets engaged the night you first meet.
If you remember, even Prince Philip stuck his tongue out and grimaced at the first sight of Aurora. He also saved her with the help of three ladies, the people who loved Aurora the most.
I'm not an expert. I'm not closer to getting married than becoming a nun. Right now, I'm called to the single life and to ministry and to figuring out my own happiness and holiness.
Here are the things I know are true, the things I want to live out but honestly can't. Too much pride, too much hopeless romanticism, too much Anna-in-the-way, but I hope I learn them eventually: Friendship is more important than anything. Give a guy a break, and give him some time. He can't sweep you off your feet if your head is in the clouds, if you jump into his unready arms just to knock you both down. Make sure you both have your feet on the ground, first.
Jesus is what we long for when we're craving intimacy. If prayer cannot satisfy your restlessness, nothing ever will.
The Lord Himself will fight for you
You need only to be still.