As a general rule, I don’t watch chick flicks. Partly because I know the aftermath they leave behind—the frustration at life being so much harder than it’s portrayed, the longing to be loved like the heroine, the pain of wondering if I can be, the temptation to throw up at the sight of fully grown girls melting into a mess of inarticulate gushiness… and the even greater frustration at knowing that deep down I’m one of those girls. But also partly for the sake of the men around me. I don’t want any future relationship to be tainted by false expectations, or brotherly friendships to be confused with romantic fantasies.
In her new book Emotional Virtue (read it—it’ll change your life!), Sarah Swafford’s hilarious description of a typical girl’s Friday night in—progressing from a movie marathon with friends through to inadvertently cyber stalking (or even physically stalking) an unsuspecting classmate and believing you’re in love—seems alarmingly relatable. But the problem with that is that you’re not in love with the person—you’re in love with the idea of them!
I hate to break it to you ladies, but the chances are that if that guy you’ve been daydreaming about were to announce his undying love for you, it wouldn’t be with that beautifully cheesy line you’ve mentally rehearsed your perfect answer to over and over again, and real life doesn’t slot into place pain-free afterwards. Avoiding falling in love with that fantasy saves you a lot of heartache, and frees you to love authentically rather than using someone. Here are four practical checkpoints to keep in mind:
Reality check: what are you attracted to?
“Love” which tries to change someone into the ideal you’ve created in your mind is not love at all—it’s lust. Try making a list of the five things you find most attractive about a particular man. Now go through the list again, and critically assess how many of those points he really lives up to and how many are things you want him to be because you’ve admired them elsewhere.
Remember your worth.
It’s easy to talk yourself into believing there’s “something there,” but it’s important to be honest with yourself and ask that hard question: Do you see a difference in the way he treats you compared to other girls? You deserve someone who will set you apart and reassure you of his feelings. If he’s not doing that clearly, then either he’s not worth your time or he doesn’t feel the same way—either way you can avoid being hurt later by admitting it to yourself now.
Pray for strength!
It’s easy to learn about emotional chastity, recognise your own shortfalls and resolve to try harder. But then that guy you’ve been fighting your own mind over catches your eye across the street or brushes past you in the hallway and you melt. Your resolve flies out the window and you’re left with nothing but “HELP ME JESUS!” So pray that prayer! Cry out to Him with all your heart, mind, body and soul, and He will come to your rescue.
Let God be organic.
Envying someone else’s life (even fictional) means being dissatisfied with your own, and with the great gifts God has given you. God has a plan just for you—allow Him to play it out as He’s written it rather than desiring a different one. That way when you fall in love (in God’s time), you can trust that it’s truly with the plan God has chosen for you rather than a fantasy.
“A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not an object of use.”
– Saint John Paul II; Love and Responsibility
Esther Rich has a bachelor degree in Psychology from Oxford University, UK, and is currently completing the Sion Community Youth Foundation Year, working on their youth ministry team. She loves Theology of the Body, Papa Francesco and a good worship band. She is passionate about empowering women to be who they were created to be, and blogs at “For Such A Time As This.”