When Fairytales Hurt

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The Article

I morbidly followed the “Murdered Pregnant Woman” tragedy in Ohio last month. Jessie Davis was due to give birth to her second child when her mother discovered her missing. Authorities have since charged Bobby Cutts Jr., the father of Davis’ children, with murder.

While any murder story is awful, this tale would have been horrible even without the gore. Cutts has children with three different women, including his estranged wife. Another former girlfriend obtained a restraining order against him. I’m not sure what about his multiple partners and violent tendencies made him a good catch, yet he apparently had little problem finding women.

The question I kept asking myself as I read the news reports wasn’t why Cutts killed Jessie Davis (assuming he did), but why in the world did Ms. Davis stick around to have a second child with him? Maybe she thought he would leave his wife for her. What she perhaps failed to think through, though, is that if he is the kind of person who would have an affair and then leave his wife to marry his lover, then she has now married someone who has shown a propensity to have an affair and leave his wife. How is that a good thing?

While Davis’ case may be extreme in the violence department, she’s not alone in the harmful romantic fairytale department. I recently ran into a young woman who was reeling from a rejection from a guy she met in a bar. She had been taught from girlhood that the world was her oyster; that she should be able to party, have fun, sleep with as many men as she wanted, and this would lead to happiness. So she hit the bar scene, ended up a single mom in her early twenties, and was still lonely. Why wasn’t this working for her?

I wanted to tell her that the problem was not with her. Our society has simply forgotten some basic principles. You aren’t going to find a serious relationship by acting in an unserious manner. The key to true love is not found in “hooking up”. It’s found in something that is constantly belittled in our society: thinking and acting for the long term. Unfortunately, this has received a bit of a bum rap as our culture instead has embraced what psychologists call “magical thinking”. We believe that no matter how we act now, we’ll still end up happy and attaining our dreams in the long-run. In other words, like poor Jessie Davis, you can begin a relationship immaturely, but you expect that maturity and stability will somehow magically arrive on your doorstep anyway. Actions, though, have consequences, and there’s really no way around that.

Maybe you crave a chance to have some fun and forget about your responsibilities, so you head out to a bar, have a few too many drinks, and meet someone exciting. In the long run, though, is this a good thing? In five years, chances are you’d choose someone who would be willing to pace the floor with the baby over someone who is the life of the party. But it’s the life of the party you’re pursuing now.

The cure for magical thinking is to think about the kind of life you really want. If you want someone to treat you well, then don’t join the party scene today. You’re just wasting precious time and you’re making yourself far less attractive to that stable person you want to meet. Instead, become the kind of person you want to meet. Find a job with stable and responsible people, not with transient workers. Hang out where stable, hard-working people hang out. And don’t make the mistake of scouting churches or gyms for the opposite sex. Go to these places to meet friends in general. The more you invest in a social network of emotionally healthy, responsible people, the more likely you are to meet your true Prince or Princess Charming.

Too many people are living in Ms. Davis’ fairyland. They think they can turn someone they meet on the party scene into Mr. or Mrs. Responsible. Life rarely works that way. If you want a charmed life, start living one. Real, long-term fun is bonding with people who share your values and care about you. Find those people, and your heart is far less likely to be broken.

Latest posts by S. Wray Gregoire (see all)

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