This one’s for all you ladies — I have a hunch some of you can relate to an experience of mine…

Once upon a time, I kinda had a crush on a boy. And once upon a time, said boy kinda didn’t necessarily have a crush on me. And so I wallowed in my sadness with some chocolate chip cookies and a romantic movie about two peoples’ love lives that were a million times better than mine.

And there I was, alone in my bedroom, captivated by the story of some beautiful blonde and a handsome young man, who fell in love over small talk and a matter of hours, in some small beach town filled with kind people and unlikely drama.

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Before I started watching this movie, I knew, as I would watch this story unfold, that what I was watching wasn’t real, wasn’t likely, and certainly didn’t involve me. But during the movie, I found myself trying so badly to believe that it was real, likely, and that I was the protagonist.

You see, this evening, provided by Netflix, Nicholas Sparks, and things not going the way I’d hoped with a certain fella’, was my pathetic little attempt at satisfying my infinite desires for affection, love, and my desire to be desired itself. And as I watched two perfect people fall in perfect “love,” I let my heart ride that emotional rollercoaster right into the happy ending, only to find out that my heart was still empty.

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Sadly, I’ve learned from experience, that as fun as they may be to read or watch, romantic books and movies may not always be the best things for our heart and here’s why:

1. They teach us to seek an emotional experience rather than real relationship

Whether we want to admit it or not, when we seek out these kinds of stories (especially when we seek them out alone, with a bar of chocolate, after a date gone wrong — not that I would know what that’s like or anything), we are looking for some kind of emotional experience detached from any kind of real relationship.

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Made in the triune God’s image, we were made for communion — we are relational by our nature. So when we seek out emotions that properly exist in relationships, in fabricated stories, we are allowing ourselves to settle for the thrill of a relationship without a relationship itself.

I’m not saying we should boycott all the fun chick flicks out there and start serial dating; but, we should be aware of the ways we approach these kinds of stories. We can’t use the emotional high we might get from a heartfelt rom-com become a replacement for real relationships and real love… which leads me to my next point.

2. They present a false idea of what love is

Sure, it’s fun to watch the small town boy and the new girl from the city fall in “love” against all odds. In this, we see a very pretty picture being painted, in which all the loose ends are tied up in a happy ending, chock-full of all the feels. But the reality is that, as pretty a picture these stories might paint, they don’t really tell a complete story of love.

We were made for authentic love, not love like the movies. Real love isn’t pretty like the movies, full of good feelings and romantic embraces. It is far more beautiful — the Cross is far more beautiful. Love, the way we were meant to experience it (and the only way it will truly satisfy us), doesn’t come in the feeling you getting stuck in the rain with someone you kinda have a crush on — it comes in sacrifice, self-denial, in truly willing the good of the other and choosing his or her good at whatever the cost.

3. They can prevent us from going to God when we should

When I first sat down to watch that chick flick, whether I wanted to admit it or not, I was going to that movie to have an emotional experience to fill the ache in my heart that longed to be cherished, pursued, desired, and loved. Yet rather than looking to the source of Love itself, the God who loves me enough to give everything for me, I looked to a cheap piece of “art” to satisfy my heart’s infinite desires.

By our very nature, we all have an infinite desire to be loved because we were made to be loved by God. So when we go to books or movies seeking an emotional experience that will fill the void in our hearts for God, we will no doubt be left wanting.

None of this means that we can’t occasionally watch a fun rom-com with our girlfriends and enjoy it, or that we need to take a trip to all bookstores in our area and proceed to burn all Nicholas Sparks books.

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I’m all about enjoying a good chick flick every now and then (or every other weekend). And for you literate types, I’m sure there are plenty of charming stories about love out there that, when approached properly, are completely harmless!

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But we do need to be mindful of whether or not we’re approaching these stories with virtue, we can ask ourselves the following questions:

Am I using this book/movie to fill an emotional void in my life?
If yes, then maybe it would be a better idea to journal to Jesus, spend time with family, paint your nails, go on a run, grab coffee with some girlfriends, or reach out to the people that love you and let yourself be reminded of how loved you are!

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Am I reading this book or watching this movie because I’m lonely?
If yes, then learn from my mistakes, DON’T DO IT! It’s just going to make you feel lonelier when the credits roll and you realize that it was all just a fabrication, designed to make you feel a certain way for an hour or two, but not an accurate depiction of reality.

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Am I looking for authentic love in this book/movie?
Although these stories may not be realistic, they often do contain elements of authentic love, true self-gift, and true sacrifice. If we go into these stories looking for the truth in them, we will surely gain a more complete sense of their beauty.

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Am I looking for a fun thing to do with a few of my girlfriends on a Friday night?

If yes, then enjoy the rom-com and bask in the glory that is female friendship!!!

Now, let’s not all become cranky cynics whining about the false reality of romance presented in the media. We can virtuously appreciate these stories, as long as we approach them with the right mindset.

But as we engage these media, let’s refuse to settle for the secular culture’s incomplete view of romance as a mere emotional experience. Let’s look to the greatest Lover of all, on the cross where He hangs, and let Him teach us what it means to be cherished, pursued, desired, and loved.

About the Author

Leah Murphy

Leah serves as Life Teen's director of digital evangelization. As a graduate of John Paul the Great Catholic University, with a background in video and a passion for that wild place where faith and culture meet, she lives to tell God's love story to the world, in the digital space. Dwelling in San Diego, CA, she spends all her free time doing all the things with her friends, enjoying the best music out there, and going on every adventure that comes her way.

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