Finding Princes, Making Fairytales

Every girl loves a fairytale.

It’s why we love Taylor Swift, even those of us who would never admit it in public.

It’s part of why I love being a daughter of God, part of why I love learning about my own divine nature, part of why remembering who I am keeps me strong and wise.

But being a princess doesn’t mean sitting around waiting to be named Queen.

Being a princess is hard work.

I don’t mean girly-princess of the high-drama, high-maintenance kind.

I mean divine-nature-princess, the kind who is actively learning to be kind and good and forgiving and nurturing and self-reliant and strong and smart and wise and powerful.

It’s hard work.

It requires sincere prayer more than fingernail polish, deep scripture study more than fancy hair cuts, and repentance more than eyebrow waxes and fancy shoes. It means that doing the work of keeping the Spirit present (or rather, remaining present in the Spirit) is far more important than remembering where you put your name-brand purse. It is evident when your countenance is shinier than the bling you add, your Temple recommend is more important than any credit card, and the white dress you wear in the Temple is more treasured than any expensive outfit.

This is all vital preparation, and a critical part of the process.

But the princess has no fairytale without a prince.

I don’t mean some fake drama about finding “the one”.

Both President Kimball and President Packer have said this is an illusion, and not true:

‘Soul mates’ are a fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price” (President Kimball, “Marriage and Divorce,” p. 146).

“While I am sure some young couples have some special guidance in getting together, I do not believe in predestined love. If you desire the inspiration of the Lord in this crucial decision, you must live the standards of the Church, and you must pray constantly for the wisdom to recognize those qualities upon which a successful union may be based. You must do the choosing, rather than to seek for some one-and-only so-called soul mate, chosen for you by someone else and waiting for you. You are to do the choosing. You must be wise beyond your years and humbly prayerful unless you choose amiss” (President Packer, Eternal Love [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], p. 11).

We get our own agency, including choosing whom we date (and later marry).

That’s why the naming of animals is necessary, because it is an active process. It’s hard work. It’s not just given to you. It doesn’t just happen. It’s hard work.

There are the sappy moments, of course.

“A prince isn’t a prince,” my friend told me this week, “until the girl tells him he is.”

If that is true, then it is also true that a princess is not really Eve until he tells her she is “the beginning of everything”.

This is why we must do the work to choose wisely and date well, because we are not looking for the one, so much as we are looking for the Friend.

YW General President Tanner said:

Friendship should play a key role in courtship and marriage. I see friendship as the foundation in the courtship pyramid… One of the ways to develop a strong, loving relationship is with sound communication. Communication is the way a good relationship begins and also endures… This is a spontaneity in conversation. So many couples say things like, “We just talked and talked; I lost track of time when we were talking; it was so comfortable to talk; we share the same sense of humor; we loved talking about our similar interests and values.” … I’ve heard it said that “love is a long conversation.” I believe it… This communication that is so fun in a friendship is also essential as you really get to know someone’s deeper self. A relationship may never develop into a courtship because it can’t get beyond inch-deep generalities. We sometimes look for happiness in exotic places and for romance in mystique, money, or charm. We sometimes look just for looks. Instead, we need to look for friends who embody Christlike character. As you date, seek friendships that have enduring strength and that can provide a firm foundation for a marriage.

Just because there is dating doesn’t mean there will be marriage. Girls have to chillax about that. But even boys know that we will, at some point, marry someone we have dated.

That’s why choosing well is important, because it matters.

That’s why why dating should be fun, because it is making friends; but that’s also why it is scary, because it depends on the other person. That’s the scariest thing of all about relationships, the way it depends also on the other person. It makes us vulnerable from the start, and more wary when we have been hurt before.

Nothing is more painful than losing a Friend.

So when we have experienced that, it’s hard to try again. It’s hard to start all over.

It’s a daunting task.

Daunting, but worth it.

Not just worth it, but everything depends upon it.

A successful marriage depends on the friendship built before marriage.

So it is very hard work, but it’s this hard work now that makes everything later worth it.

We must build

an enduring friendship before marriage, a friendship that could help keep their relationship stable after marriage, even in the midst of challenges. Elder Spencer W. Kimball wrote: “The successful marriage depends in large measure upon the preparation made in approaching it. … One cannot pick the ripe, rich, luscious fruit from a tree that was never planted, nurtured, nor pruned” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 242).

This is why I think we name the animals, instead of looking for a date. We will marry someone we date, yes. But we must first date someone who is a friend. So I think that when we are sorting through the animals, looking for the human, it’s because we are looking for a friend.

There is a handout I use in my office frequently, with older teens or young adults (or old adults!) who forget this piece, who think they are looking for “the one”, or who are the hunt for a date instead of on the search for a friend. It is by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, one of my favorite authors:

Choose someone as though you were blind. See what you can feel of their capacity for kindness, insight, devotion, ability to be concerned; their ability to care for themselves as an independent being, and the evidence of their care for and active interaction with you

Choose someone with the ability to learn. “Those who are without knowledge are often intolerant.” Not rigid in their views; they are learning and evolving; they are progressing

Choose someone who is willing to be like you: Both strong and sensitive, tough and fragile. Like a tree which is flexible in the wind, bending, but not breaking. Note: sensitive = ability to be alert to things around oneself.

Choose someone who when you hurt them, they feel pain and are willing to show it. And when they hurt you and you show pain, they are able to see your pain and they feel sorry. Watch for evidence of willingness and ability to repent – and to forgive.

Choose someone who has an inner life, who has something they love (hobby, spirituality, passion), who is on their own journey and sees you as a sojourner. Has the ability to be separate as well as together; where there can be merging and separation without breaking the bond that exists between two people

Choose someone who has similar passions as your own. Make memories together, create your own rituals; the passion can be simple, like walking around the block nightly

Choose someone with similar values as you. Family roles, childbearing, childrearing, religion, roots, roles, money; work out these issues before making long term decisions.

Choose someone who is compassionate. Who is willing, able to listen, who gives equal time

Choose someone who can laugh at themselves. Especially in times of conflict, Learn to stop an argument in mid-sentence

Choose someone who is able to overlook certain faults and characteristics. Know what characteristics you can live with; avoid characteristics that take the person away from their soul life (i.e., addictions, lethargy, not trying, “stagnant”, getting stuck, not participating)

Choose someone with whom you can be friends. You both need more than just physical attraction.

Choose someone who makes your life bigger rather than smaller.

A 1994 Ensign article put the same thing this way:

Through his Spirit, he will reveal the truth of a relationship to us as we allow sufficient time and exercise our faith. Some people expect the Lord to provide a dramatic revelation about their eternal mate, but what usually happens is that as we drop our defenses and communicate with a potential spouse, we experience subtle, ongoing spiritual promptings about the relationship.

Inspiration can come only when we are honest with ourselves, our potential mates, and the Lord. When we first date somebody, we may try to mask our faults and make ourselves as appealing as possible. To develop an honest relationship, however, we must move beyond superficial appearances and allow our true selves to emerge. Likewise, we need to be careful to avoid hero-worshipping a potential mate; we should not allow our hopes and expectations color the truth about him or her. When marriage is a possibility, dating partners should constantly assess how much real potential they have for harmony, conformity, and union.

Denying the Lord’s inspiration and our own intuition can have disastrous results. Dr. Craig Horton, a marriage and family therapist in southern California, conducted an informal, unpublished survey among couples whose marriages had failed. When asked what had gone wrong, most of the participants cited a major flaw in the spouse’s character or some insurmountable difference. What surprised Brother Horton was that virtually all participants reported having sensed these flaws or differences before marriage, yet they had relied upon romance and love to overcome them. The saying is true: Keep your eyes wide open during courtship and half-closed after the wedding.

We can know if a relationship is good by judging its fruits. Is the friendship deepening as the partners share and develop mutual interests, desires, goals, and values? D&C 88:40 describes a successful relationship: “Intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light.”

I watched the sun rise this morning.

I sat in my cozy pajamas, wrapped in my favorite blanket, sipping some hot chocolate (because I can) at 5am. I wrote and wrote until the sun started rising, and then I collected just the quotes here. The rest is for me; the rest is for later.

But what I learned is that marriage is at the end of the day, and dating doesn’t even come until supper time. The whole day is spent on friendship.

And I think that friendship grows like Light, the way the sun rose this morning, a little at a time.


Posted in Dating permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Finding Princes, Making Fairytales — 2 Comments

  1. Oh wow. LOVE this. You expressed it so well and it’s so true. I dated two men in my life, and only one was my friend first. Guess which one became my prince? :)

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