Teens

Everything I Learned about Dating and Love, I Learned from Cinderella

cinderellaWhere did you learn about love?  Who taught you about dating?  If you had to answer this question, could you?  Maybe you don’t even realize where your concept of dating came from.  Perhaps you learned from your parents, family or friends.  Maybe you learned from watching Twilight or listening to Pink on the radio?  Commonsensemedia.org reports that for teens the main source of information about sex, dating and sexual health comes from what they see and hear in the media.  Quite possibly, your concept of love started at even a much earlier age.  For so many young girls, the first idea of a romantic relationship comes from fairy tales.

“Once upon a time” is a wistful, nostalgic phrase repeated countless times in the bedrooms of little girls around the world.  It sweeps children away into a fantasy land of imagination that helps foster creativity.  Fairy tales impart important morals and valuable life lessons.  They teach right from wrong and the consequences of making bad choices.  They demonstrate that bad things happen to good people, but through hope and perseverance, good will triumph over evil. Albert Einstein once said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  But what do they teach children about love and relationships?

In Disney’s version of Cinderella, the heroine is possibly the sweetest creature that ever lived.  She works as a house servant for her mean stepmother and her nasty step sisters, Anastasia and Drizella.  Cinderella sings and dances her way through her daily chores, despite the constant demands of the household.  Yet, she dreams for her wish of the heart to come true.  Cinderella’s wishes are of course answered in the form of her fairy godmother.  With the wave of a magic wand, Cinderella is transformed.  She is no longer the servant in rags; she is now the belle of the ball.  Cue the prince to enter stage left.  He lifts his eyes to see Cinderella and falls in love at the sight of her beauty. A little dancing, a lost glass slipper and a little drama later, they go on to live happily ever after.

So what does this version of Cinderella potentially teach young girls about falling in love?

  • You are not worthy of love. But if you can magically transform; if you wear the right dress, the right shoes, you too can be loved.
  • You are not complete without your prince. The longing of your heart can only be filled if he loves you.
  • Without love, you are nothing. You are only a servant in rags.  But with his love you can become a princess.  All your troubles will be gone, and you will live happily ever after.

Here’s the truth about love.

  • You are already loved. You are rooted and established in the love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:17)  The only transformation you need to make is to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.
  • The true longing of your heart can only be filled by the love of Christ. If only you could grasp how wide and long and high and deep is His love, and know that it is this love that completes you.  Then you will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
  • You are already a princess, a child able to do immeasurably more than you can ever imagine through your father, the one true King. (Ephesians 3:20)  This birthright, that you have only to accept, promises life ever after.

The parallels are so similar; one can’t help but wonder if Christ’s love was Disney’s intended message.  Yet, without the Christian context, it’s easy to be misled by the themes expressed in the story.  There is danger in continuing to seek fulfillment from another human being, instead of from the one who can truly provide it.  The danger is a life filled with disappointment and loneliness.   Constantly trying to transform into someone worthy of love in the eyes of world, leaves you incapable of loving yourself.  There is no true fulfillment apart from Christ’s love.

Originally posted in the FOCUS Ministries, Inc. Newsletter, Fall 2014.

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It Can’t Happen to Me

I am quite simply the poster child for “This Can’t Happen to Me.”  I was raised in a stable Christian home.  My mom and dad just recently celebrated 50 years of marriage.  Both of my parents were raised in loving Christian homes, and so on and so forth for generations.  I am the baby of the family, the only girl.  I have two older brothers.  One was my partner in crime, while the other was more like a father figure.  In high school, I was the president of the debate team and floor captain of the volleyball team.  I was in all honors courses and got pretty much straight A’s.

Can you see the picture of the perfect middle class upbringing?  Of course, my childhood was far from perfect, but it definitely doesn’t fit most people’s picture of where an abuse victim would come from.  Yet, it did happen to me.

In college, I began dating a Christian guy, from a good Christian home.  After just two dates he wanted a commitment.  It was every girl’s dream, right?!  He was so attentive and made an effort to listen to the music I liked, study with me, take me dancing, and hang out with my friends.  We spent every possible free moment together.  When he felt we didn’t get to spend enough time together between school and both of us having part time jobs, I quit my job.  He kept his.  We’d see another girl walking down the street, and he’d suggest I wear an outfit like hers.  Suddenly he didn’t like to dance, and he didn’t like me dancing with anyone else.  I stopped going to the places I had gone before I met him.  I spent less and less time with my friends.

Over time things escalated even more.  My internal warning bells would start to go off.  But he said he loved me, so I would ignore them.  No one had ever paid this much attention to me before.  I was caught between feeling loved by him and being suffocated by him.  I desperately wanted him to love me, and I found myself willing to do what I had to do to keep him loving me.

The name calling got worse.  He called me things I wouldn’t call my worst enemy.  He constantly insisted that I wasn’t a normal girl.  A normal girl would do this or that, especially if it related to sex.  When he’d get extremely frustrated, he’d put his fist through the wall.  His jealousy became all consuming.

After 2 years of dating, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes.  A year later, we were married.  A month later, he hit me for the first time.

It didn’t matter that I had come from a Christian home or not.  It didn’t matter whether I came from a stable home environment or not.  It didn’t matter that I came from a middle class family in a good community or not.  It still happened to me.  It didn’t matter that I managed to complete 2 Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree.  It didn’t matter that I was the bread winner for our family.  It didn’t matter that we had the perfect house in the perfect suburban neighborhood and 2 kids.  It still happened to me.

It happened to me because I did not know any better.  Dating violence was not something that happened to someone like me.  If it didn’t happen to girls like me, then why should I be aware of it?  Why should I know what the warning signs were?  Why should I be taught what constituted a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy one?  I went to Sunday school.  I went to youth group every Sunday.  Didn’t I understand just how much God loved me?  Didn’t I find myself worthy of that love?  Why would I let someone abuse me if I did?

If I had known all of these things, this wouldn’t have happened to me. 

Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.

Ezekiel 33:5

Hindsight is truly 20/20.  So let me give you the benefit of my 20/20 vision.  You do need to worry about dating violence.  Intimate partner violence can affect you, your child, your friend, your neighbor or your parent.

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