I’m sure you’re familiar with the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and a host of other fairy tale damsels who are rescued from their situations by Prince Charming, who comes riding in on his white horse to marry the fair maiden so they can live happily ever after. Doubtless plenty of girls grow up with dreams of finding their own Prince Charming–that “special someone” who’s just right for them. And it’s not just women; guys often have the same ideal of finding the lady that Destiny has arranged for them to share their lives with. You’ve probably heard a young person who has gotten engaged (or at least is in a very serious relationship) say, “I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else!” Most of the Christians I’ve known seem to cherish the notion that their matchmaker will be not blind Fate or Destiny but God Himself. “The Lord has someone for everyone,” I’ve heard some of my fellow believers say.
What about this sort of mentality? Does reality bear it out? In his recent article “The Non-existent Prince Charming”, Karl Keating–president of Catholic Answers–tries to persuade us to ditch the pie-in-the-sky notions of romance to be found in fairy tales and argues that reality presents a very different picture of love and marriage:
Liking is something that “just happens.” Loving is something we have control over. Liking is a spontaneous emotional reaction. Loving is an act of the will. You never will like everyone, but you can love anyone. It is theoretically possible in a way that liking everyone is not.
And this brings me to the topic of prospective spouses.
Catholic Answers hosts chastity talks by various speakers. Such talks are aimed at young audiences–high school and college students, chiefly–and, by necessity, the speakers themselves are fairly young.
Some speakers who have spoken for us, when first starting out, told their young audiences that somewhere out there was a Prince or Princess Charming, someone fated from all eternity to be a young person’s perfect match. The speakers said something liek this: “Save yourself for that one person that God has set aside just for you.”
When I heard about this statement, I told our speakers to cut it out–because it wasn’t true. It sounded romantic, and it sounded pious, but it wasn’t true. It left each young listener thinking that there was one and only one person whom he could love and have a happy marriage with and that if he waited long enough, God would arrange for the couple to meet.
That’s not how real life works. When I have a chance to speak to young people, I shock them by saying, “Within easy driving distance, there are a hundred people whom you could marry and have an equally happy life with.” Of course, there also are a hundred or a thousand with whom they might be miserable. This does not, of course, mean that every match is a good one or that every match is wisely entered into. But it does mean that fairy tales should be left to children.
It does no harm for a 10-year-old girl to dream of a Prince Charming, but half her life will be wasted if she still thinks, at 35, that she should wait for the appearance of a Prince Charming whom God has reserved for her and that she should let pass other prospects with whom, in fact, she could be sufficiently happy.
Thank you, Mr. Keating, for the reality check. I can imagine that a lot of the young people who hear him make such remarks are shock, perhaps even disgusted, at the suggestion that there is no “special someone” they are destined to be with, that there are actually plenty of others they could just as easily have a happy marriage with. But life has a way of playing havoc with some of our cherished ideas and preconceived notions. (Believe me, I’ve learned that all too well!)