Dating/My Relationships/Teen Relationships Rom-Coms Almost Ruined My Relationship by Christina Mead I’m a diehard rom-com fan and the first thing I am going to say here is this: I am not here to bash the genre. I’m not hating on every Rachel McAdams, or Katherine Heigl, or Emma Stone movie. And the next time you have 5 hours to spare I will tell you all the reasons they’re great. But for now let me tell you how they almost destroyed my relationship. I’ve been dating the same guy for over a year now. Back when our relationship was starting, I kept feeling confused. I had this peace in my heart, but in my head I had all these nagging thoughts that wouldn’t go away. These questions that begged to be answered and were playing tug-of-war with my heart. It wasn’t the big stuff like, “does he love God?” or “is he committed to growing in virtue together?” or “is he up for ordering pizza any night of the week?” The answer to all those was a loud and echoing YES. via GIPHY The questions in my mind were about how he acted sometimes, and the things he said. Sometimes he was so articulate with his emotions I didn’t even have to ask for clarification. Other times he was unsure and didn’t have a strong opinion about something… He didn’t ask for my number, so I finally asked for his… He wasn’t afraid to cry… via GIPHY The Box I Made I thought that men were always supposed to make the first move, plan all the dates, and be emotionally withdrawn and need my gentle and feminine coaxing to tell me about their emotions. I expected someone who would pull up in a nice car and try to race other cars on country back roads to prove his manhood. I expected to fall in love with a broad-shouldered, tall, football player with piercing blue eyes who could sweep me off my feet and lift me up onto the kitchen counter to kiss me. I know now that these ideas about what makes a “real man” was heavily influenced by the entertainment I was choosing to consume. But at the time I had no idea how far off it was from the reality of a living, breathing, mature man. It was like I had created this box in my mind of what a real man was “supposed” to be and my boyfriend didn’t fit perfectly into the box. It made me confused. I thought he couldn’t possibly be the “right” one if things felt so “off” because he didn’t meet some of my expectations. My heart was falling in love… but my mind was lagging behind. I started pulling away, taking steps to withdraw to brace my heart for another heartbreak. I was getting ready to break up with him. The List And then we were at my Monday night holy hour together and I opened my journal. I found a page that I vaguely remembered writing months before. It was a list of all the things I was looking for in a future husband. These things were my non-negotiables — the things that qualified a man to be considered “marriage material” for me. I looked over at the man kneeling beside me in that adoration chapel. As I re-read the list, I couldn’t believe it. He was everything I had prayed for. I hadn’t prayed for a man who was a real-life version of Flynn Rider. via GIPHY I had prayed for someone who was patient, and not lazy, and could make me laugh, and cared about growing in virtue. The rom-com version of a man was different, but far less than the man he was. Facing My Own Wounds The things I “thought” I needed a man to be, were actually only band aids that would cover up my own wounds and brokenness. I thought I needed a man to be big and tall and strong to lift me up and spin me around because of my own insecurity about not being a size 2 like every model in the Anthropologie magazines. It was me that needed to learn to love myself. I thought I needed a man to “prove” his love by planning intricate and unique dates but in reality I just had a hard time with trust. I didn’t trust that when he said he loved me, he really did — no proving necessary. It was me that needed to learn. I thought he had to make the first move with everything because a girl shouldn’t be so assertive and up-front. But that’s who I am. I’ve worked hard to be an assertive, direct, straight-forward, strong woman — I needed to embrace that in all aspects of my life and not deny what I had worked so hard for. I thought men weren’t supposed to be emotional because it was contrary to their strength. Strong men don’t cry, right? Wrong. The strongest of them do because they know emotions are a part of a healthy person. To not feel is so not live fully. I was so obsessed with the idea what a strong man was, someone who could reach in and save me from my own emotions, that I forgot that what I really wanted was a teammate. A partner, not a savior. I didn’t need a rescuer. I already have a Savior — Jesus Christ — who died to save me from my own broken sinfulness. In Christ alone all my wounds can be healed. What I needed in a dating relationship was a companion to walk by my side, not someone to carry me and my feelings. Let Him Be Obviously, I didn’t break up with him. Instead, I adjusted my expectations. I stopped looking at him through the lens of every movie I had seen and every book I had read and instead just let him be him. I took his words and actions at face-value instead of over-thinking it all. I learned to face my own wounds and insecurities, and with him by my side as a teammate, we worked through it together. We complemented each other’s strengths and weaknesses instead of the man being the “powerful” one and me being the “weak” one. It seems so silly now that I look back on it all. I can’t believe I almost broke up with him because he didn’t fit in the box. I never knew that it was the box that was limiting my heart from appreciating the amazing man in front of me. What I Hope You Take Away From This I want you to know this one thing: God has an amazing plan for your life. It is way better than any romantic movie or book you’ve ever seen because it’s personally tailored for you. His sons and daughters are also much more complex and beautiful than any writer can create in a script. And if you feel like you’ve already messed up that plan, or strayed too far from God’s ways — stop. Since when was there someone too far gone that they couldn’t be saved and restored by God’s grace? Never. He can make our crooked roads straight again, and lead the lost sheep back in the fold of His love and mercy. You can still have a beautiful love story. But you do need non-negotiables. You need to know what you want for your life and be true to that. I knew I needed someone who would love being Catholic and going to Mass and talking about theology, so I stopped dating people who were only mildly Christian. I knew I needed someone who cared about purity now and in the future, but I knew I could forgive someone for their past if that’s what I needed to do. Make your list. But make it after you do some serious soul-searching about what your wounds are. The person God has in store for you (if your vocation is marriage) isn’t going to come along and fix you. You are responsible for you. A partner is meant to complement you. Just like me, you don’t need a relationship to rescue you. You have a God who wants to continue saving your soul every moment of every day. He is strong enough to lean on. Don’t write someone off because they don’t seem like your “type.” If they fit your non-negotiables, then you never know what God may be trying to teach you through them. God taught me that I was being narrow-minded and that I had some serious growing and maturing to do. I’m so grateful for that. And I’m grateful for every rom-com that shows me a narrow view of masculinity and femininity, because it accentuates how beautifully complex and rich real people really are. Know that I’m praying for you. *One more thing: I made my “list” based on life experience, but also after reading these great books: Safe People, Boundaries, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, How to Get a Date Worth Keeping, and Codependent No More and you can find them all on Amazon.com.