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If Bella Were My Daughter (Take 2)

Wow. I certainly hit a nerve with my last post. Hundreds of comments are popping up on Facebook and on blogs all over the internet. Most are either pro- or anti- Twilight. But very few posters commented on my points about the Danger Signs of unhealthy relationships. When I watched Twilight, I kept putting it through my “mom” grid of how I would advise and guide a daughter. What would I look for to determine if it were a good relationship? What would I look for to determine if it were a bad relationship?

Every young woman wants to be the leading lady in a heart-gripping romance–that’s a natural and normal desire. And most relationships start off all lovey-dovey and swoony and romancy. The girl usually views the guy as her heart-throb… her personal prince charming. She’s swept off her feet, and thinks their love will last forever.  But feelings can be fleeting. How much she feels she’s  in love  isn’t the best indicator of whether the relationship is a good one.

What would I do if my daughter became infatuated with a boy who was very nice, and obviously cared for her, but who had a dark side, and was, in fact, a “lost soul”? What clues would tip me off that their relationship wasn’t healthy? What would I tell her?  What signs should I warn her of, so that she might be cautious when she sees them ? So many young women blindly follow their emotions. They don’t know how to be wise and cautious. They don’t know the tell-tale “signals” to look for that indicate that a relationship isn’t healthy.

Having many more miles on my odometer than young girls, I’ve observed hundreds–maybe thousands–of relationships… both good and bad. And certain behaviors raise warning signs. Certain things set off alarm bells in my spirit and indicate to me that a relationship is not good–and will likely be destructive in the end.

So here they are again. (minus Edward.)  Young women and moms, listen up! Talk about these warning signs. Be aware of them BEFORE you get emotionally caught up in a relationship:

Danger Signs

Regardless of how “in love” my daughter felt, if I saw the following danger signs, I would argue that the romance was not good for her, and would not end well. It would ultimately be bad and not good for her soul.

1. Bad Boy Attraction

There’s something about the “forbidden fruit” of a relationship with a bad boy that attracts young women. I would warn my daughter that this attraction is deceptive, and very, very dangerous. If I saw or took note that the young man had a “dark” side, or “bad boy” tendencies, then I would warn against the relationship. I would warn her not to get involved with any man whose heart wasn’t wholly committed to Christ.

2. Shared Dark Secrets

A second sign of a bad relationship is when a young woman feels she must keep something about her relationship or love interest hidden and secret—especially from her parents. A shared dark secret forms a bond that is unhealthy. It puts up a barrier to prevent the loving scrutiny and helpful input of family and friends. It prevents people from offering outside objective feedback. Darkness loves to remain hidden.  If something needs to be hidden, then the relationship is likely bad.

3. “Us” versus “Them” Mentality

An “us versus them” mentality is another warning sign.  Whenever a woman feels that “no one understands” and that she needs to “side” with her boyfriend against family and friends, chances are that the relationship is not a good one.  If you feel like you need to choose sides—to side with a love interest against your family, and hunker down together “us” against “them”—the relationship probably isn’t a healthy one.

4. Isolation and Seclusion

Isolation and seclusion are also marks of an unhealthy relationship. If an unmarried young man and woman spend all or most of their time together alone—apart from family and friends, their relationship isn’t healthy. Healthy relationships are forged in the context of community. If a love interest isolates you from family and friends, and interferes with you building and maintaining other relationships, then that relationship is not good for you. To be healthy, a couple must develop and maintain healthy community connections.

5. Mismatched Interests and Values

I would warn my daughter against a spiritual mismatch–light and darkness don’t mix.  I would also warn her if there was a severe mismatch in their ages, their education, their cultural upbringing, and their values.

A severe mismatch does not lend itself well to a good, lasting marriage. This is particularly the case when the mismatch is one of spiritual darkness versus light.

6. Neediness and Obsession

I would warn my daughter against neediness. I’d tell her that if she feels so desperate for the young man that she thinks she can’t live without him, then learning to live without him is the very thing she most needs to do. I would warn her not to rely on men for her sense of self-worth, identity, or happiness. I would tell her that the only one she truly needs is Jesus. And in order to have a healthy marriage, she needs to work on cultivating inner strength and wholeness, based on a personal relationship with Christ.  A needy relationship is bad news. Needy women go through a revolving door of relationships. I would want her to know that there is no man on the face of this earth that will meet the deep desires of her heart. Only Jesus can do that.

7. Rationalization and Justification

Another sign of a bad relationship is when a young woman feels the need to rationalize and justify it. If she makes excuses for him, and tries to minimize his glaring faults–  if she lies or covers up for him, or if she compromises her standards when she’s with him, then the relationship is built on very shaky ground. I would tell my daughter that she shouldn’t expect that her love will change a man’s fundamental nature. I would caution her against rationalizing things so that she could convince herself that her bad boy wasn’t really all that bad.  A good relationship doesn’t require rationalization and justification. It is self-evident that it is good.

8. Failure to Seek & Heed Input

Finally, healthy relationships are open to scrutiny and input. If she can’t be open and honest with me about who he is and what they do together, then something is wrong. If she isn’t interested in feedback from family and friends, then something is wrong. If she refuses to listen to warnings and concerns from those who love her, then something is wrong.

Okay. There you have it again. I happened to have seen all those warning signs in Bella and Edward’s relationship in Twilight… but whether or not you like Twilight, I hope you’ll agree that these particular Danger Signs do indeed indicate that something in a relationship is terribly amiss.

© Mary A. Kassian

About The Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian, the founder of Girls Gone Wise, is an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and distinguished professor of Women's Studies at Southern Baptist Seminary.

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