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Confessions of a Hopeless Romantic
Confession: I am a hopeless romantic. Like it’s embarrassing, y’all. When I was a preteen/teenager/single adult, I would lap up Christian romances like honey. I read every Lori Wick, Dee Henderson, and Janette Oke novel I could get my hands on. I blush to admit that I would regularly binge watch Kdramas and Bollywood movies and could watch the entire six-hour miniseries of Pride and Prejudice like it was nothing. Though many of these plots were admittedly formulaic and even cheesy, something about the innocent romance in each of them touched me to the core of my being. My heart delighted in the non-sexualized romance stories which expressed something that I longed for deep within my heart.
I know that part of that was my natural desire for my vocation. To be united to another in sacramental marriage. But more importantly, that hunger in my heart was for an eternal love. A love that I was created for; a love which only God could fulfill.
Life after the “Ever After”
And friends, God is so good and faithful. After years of waiting, praying, and writing letters to my future husband, God, in his perfect timing, provided me with my loving husband. As I shared in my bio, for me marriage and motherhood have been the fulfillment of my greatest dream. It is 100% my greatest adventure. But all of my married readers also know first-hand that we don’t ride off into sunsets in real life. Like everything in life, our marriage is filled with highs and lows and it is a constant choice; one that is sometimes easy and other times very difficult. And as the years pass on it becomes increasingly easy to seek to escape the imperfections of real life by losing ourselves once more in the “picture perfect” of romantic films and books.
I found myself unconsciously slipping into this mentality last fall shortly after my family’s move to Baton Rouge. Our previous home had been in my hometown, surrounded by lifelong friends and an army of family. In fact, we literally lived down the road from my parents, meaning that whenever I needed company or was having a rough day I could just “pop in” for a visit. I had been spoiled. Now here I was, an hour away from my support system with two toddlers who were eighteen months apart. My son was at a particularly difficult stage and I felt like I was drowning from both the lack of community around me and the struggles of motherhood. Meanwhile, my husband was adjusting to a new job and the pressures that came with it. So here I was, feeling overwhelmed, isolated and alone –a fatal combination.
My Lapse into Escapism
I wish that I could say that handled it all with wisdom and grace, turning to God and using my struggles as a sanctifying moment. But the truth is, without even realizing it, I began escaping. It started with me borrowing one Christian romance novel from my sister (which I knocked through in a day). All of the sudden I was checking out Christian and classic romance books left and right, and when I was in between books turning to my beloved period films or contemporary romantic films. And though there was nothing “steamy” or sinful about these materials, I quickly lost proportion. I was binge watching, escaping my struggles and feelings through the lives of fictitious characters.
I didn’t even realize what was happening until my husband came into our bedroom, wanting to spend time with me one evening. As we began talking he told me something which halted me in my tracks: “I have a theory that when a woman is reading or watching romances it’s because romance is lacking in her life.” My husband said these words without any animosity. Instead, he told me that he took it as a challenge to do a better job of romancing me in our day-to-day lives.
The Hard Moment of Truth
But I was stunned by his words. The last thing I wanted was my husband to feel inadequate or like I was escaping him. Suddenly, I had to ask myself some hard questions. Why was I suddenly so consumed by these books and movies that I hadn’t felt the need to watch/read and years? Were they a sign that something was lacking in my life? Was it right for me to be spending so much time in fictitious worlds as opposed to working on my own spiritual growth or family relationship? As the questions poured through my mind they all came to a single, uncomfortable answer: What I was doing was wrong. I had lost sight of my vocation and purpose.
Now don’t get me wrong. I will always love romance and I look forward to the day when I can watch/read Anne of Green Gables or Sense and Sensibility with my daughter for the first time. But binge watching/reading where hours upon hours in succession are spent immersing oneself in another world is unhealthy. Yes, we all need to unwind and relax, but always within moderation. What I saw firsthand was that by indulging myself in my romances–no matter how “good” or “innocent”–I was neglecting my spiritual life and marriage. I was escaping my problems/struggles instead of seeking God’s grace and my husband’s support to overcome them.
Protecting our Wifely Vocation
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word to call. In the Christian context, it means specifically “a calling from God.” As a Catholic Christian, I believe that I was called to this holy institute of matrimony. It is meant to be my pathway to salvation–my refining fire. It is my sacred duty to help my spouse and children get to heaven. I believe that sacramental marriage is holy, and that’s why the evil one works so hard to destroy it.
So instead of binge watching the latest TV series or period drama, I’m doing my best to focus on the task at hand–namely loving my husband and children–to the absolute best of my ability. Do I fall? Often, but that’s what the road to sanctity is all about; picking oneself up again and perpetually seeking God’s mercy. That’s how we succeed in raising young saints. That’s how we create a truly romantic, honest-to-goodness, happily ever after marriage.