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Letting Go of the Fairytale
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson have apparently become engaged again—and want to demonstrate their bliss by appearing on a reality TV show. Good plan. Look how well that turned out for Jon and Kate!

I don’t mean to disparage them, though. They’re still so young, and I hope for everyone’s sakes, and especially their son’s, that they’re able to build a lasting and loving relationship. Unfortunately, signs don’t point to marital bliss.

We have a propensity to believe lies as a coping mechanism. If we think that the lie will make us happier, or better able to deal with a life we’re not particularly fond of, we’ll latch onto it. Here’s Bristol, an attractive, bright woman, from a good family, who should have the world at her feet. But instead she was pregnant at sixteen, and now, while all her friends are partying in college and preparing for a better life, she’s preparing baby food.

Many have walked her road before, and it’s not an easy one, though the blessings a child brings can make the difficulties worthwhile. When you are nineteen years old, though, you don’t necessarily focus on those blessings as much as you do on what you’re missing. And here’s this gorgeous guy, who once used to love you, and now he says he loves you again, and you don’t have to do this alone anymore. You can have your own family, your own life, instead of feeling constantly like a failure to your parents.

Of course we want to believe such love is possible, and such a betrayer is redeemable. We want to believe that the guy who beat us up, the wife who lied to us, the friend who cheated on us, the husband who stole our money, really has reformed. To not believe it means not only are we alone, but we’re the ones who messed it up by trusting a loser in the first place. And that’s an ugly thing to believe about yourself.

Some fairytales do come true, and when you’re in the midst of a romantic drama, you’re sure you’re the one who’s going to beat the odds. Maybe you will. But everybody looking on isn’t quite so sure. They’re scared for you, because they love you.

Here’s what they want you to do. Recognize that a fairytale is part of a larger story that follows a logical plotline. The bad guys tend to stay bad, unless they have a true change of heart which is evidenced by something extraordinary. They do not suddenly change from bad to good with a simple “I’m sorry”, or a few tears, or a sweet text message. They have to come back from the dead, or slay the dragon, or make some huge act of contrition which really has nothing in it for them. They have to give up something big, or they have not been transformed into heroes. They have simply become schemers.

If you’re wondering whether your fairytale will have its happy ending, then, look objectively at your story. If your love has been horrid to you in the past, then it’s very unlikely that he or she will suddenly become Mr. or Mrs. Right. If they have come crawling back because whatever they betrayed you for has now turned sour, and you’re better than nothing, then you are not in a fairytale. Don’t turn it into a tragedy by accepting their overtures.

Villains do not become heroes overnight. It takes time for a plot to logically unfold so that you can witness the change of heart. It takes time for the hero to emerge. So give your love the time and distance so that you can tell whether you have a hero or a schemer. Otherwise, it’s very doubtful you will live happily ever after. I do hope Bristol is listening.

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At 8:43 AM , Blogger Diane said…

Well put, Sheila!


At 3:08 PM , Anonymous Allyson said…



At 2:36 PM , Blogger Denise said…

"To not believe it means not only are we alone, but we’re the ones who messed it up by trusting a loser in the first place. And that’s an ugly thing to believe about yourself."

Very true words, Sheila...

Unfortunately I was a 30 yr old woman who was mesmerized that someone "loved me" (and flattered that he was only 19)...

And quickly rushed to the altar - met in September and married in mid-March.

Fast forward 13 years and two children later ... and many tears and holes in the wall and incidents where I was kicked, punched and had things thrown at me...

We divorced and I have remarried (my neighbour who witnessed much of the abuse) but still reaping the consequences. Had to send the kids away for 5 days with their other grandparents even though my almost 11 yr old son wasn't keen on going... and I still have to deal with Maintenance Enforcement for Child Support...

I am older and wiser now ... I just wish I'd been a little bit more cautious before taking the leap... we all want to be loved but sometimes being an independent single woman who can travel the world is a better choice than having a wedding ring on your finger and losing who you are (and your creativity etc.) because of the mental stress...

It's been 3 and a half years since the final break-up and only now -- am I finally feeling more healthy mentally and emotionally and starting to come out of my paralyzing stupor (I am sure it was undiagnosed depression) and able to sort through clutter and actually make strides to make a better life for my children and myself and my new husband. He has been very instrumental in speaking into my life and erasing the message that "I was garbage" -- for example he MADE me hang my Bachelor of Arts degree over the TV in the middle of the living room -- and I'd earned it back in 1989 and had NEVER hung it on the wall!

Having a supportive and kind mate is wonderful ... but only now that I am older and wiser, I know that there is a big difference between a man with those qualities and someone who always wants their own way and doesn't put the family first....

Thanks for your encouraging columns, Sheila. I have only recently stumbled on your blog -- well worth reading.


Denise in Saskatchewan
(and yes, I have commented a few times before!)


At 4:02 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


Wow, what a lot you've gone through! I'm so glad God's led you onto the road to recovery, and given you a husband who supports you and is proud of you.

I know, though, that the first marriage never goes away because you've still got the kids, and all that that entails. But I'm glad you're steadily becoming stronger! And I wish more women could hear what you are saying, instead of rushing into a marriage just to be loved, and only later finding out that it isn't what they thought it would be!


At 12:43 AM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…

You know, I think one of the saddest things I've ever read was Bristol's comment (on the re-engagement), "It just feels right - even though we don't have the approval of our parents."

Because, yah, as a hormonal teenager trusting your feelings against mature better judgment is such a reliable thing to do.




At 3:06 PM , Blogger Amanda A said…

I wish someone had told me this 10 years ago! Well said!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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