Disney Princesses and the Meaning of True Love

Written on May 13, 2014 at 5:29 pm , by

 By Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior

We were watching Sleeping Beauty recently when my kindergartner pointed at the unconscious princess on the screen and said, “Mama, what’s wrong with her?” (Like death and taxes, princess movies can’t be avoided, especially by mothers of little girls.) My older daughter, Tish, 9, replied, “She’s sleeping and waiting. She can’t wake up till she finds true love.” Amma looked right at Tish and demanded, “Well, how’s she going to find anything if she stays asleep?” I laughed and thought: Excellent point. Then Amma asked me, “Mama, what is true love?”

I stopped laughing and stared at her. It seemed clear that my usual response—Let’s Google it!—wasn’t going to cut it. Amma’s thoughtful question required a thoughtful answer. I promised to get back to her and then pondered her question all day: Mama, What is True Love?

Sleeping Beauty got it halfway right. True Love is what wakes us and allows us to start living instead of just surviving. But I’m not convinced that life is a quest to find that singular soul mate who “completes us” (as Disney, with help from Jerry Maguire, may have us believing). I’m afraid this is a setup for bitter failure, because no one will ever complete us and nobody makes us happy. Our state of mind is more of an act of will than an uncontrollable result of circumstances and other people’s behavior. Happy people are not those who have found one perfect person to love: They are those who have found a way to truly love life—in the midst of all its imperfections.

At dinner that night I told my girls that as human beings we need to fall in love—with life first, which is the greatest relationship they will ever have. I explained that True Love is a decision some people make to trust, to always look for the good, and to consider every failure or distressing experience a necessary part of the journey. They don’t expect a prince to whisk them away because they don’t want to be whisked anywhere. And they don’t lie down and go to sleep. They stay awake and engage because they believe that life is ultimately on their side, even when it causes pain.

“Why does it have to hurt? Why does it have to be hard?” Tish asked me. “You know how math is your hardest class right now, but it’s also where you’re learning the most?” I explained. “It’s like that. Life is about learning, and we learn best when things get hard.”

This led to a discussion of the difficult things we often face. We talked about life’s ups and downs and excitement and dullness. We talked about how folks come and go without warning and often surprise the bloody hell out of us with their selfishness and their selflessness.

I asked my girls how they imagine they might respond to the beauty and brutality that life will ultimately put before them every single day. I firmly believe it is best to talk about these inevitable happenings before they happen—because I don’t want it to ever be a surprise. Nor should they view it as something personal. No matter who we are or how many rules we follow perfectly, there will be great pain and loss and joy and triumph. Life happens to all of us, whether we want it to or not.

My Amma must have been pondering the same thing because she wisely said, “I think we have to keep trying to love life even when it hurts our feelings.”

So we thought together about what we can do to keep loving life even when it hurts our feelings. The fix isn’t to seek out a new drug or drink or car or dress or diet or prince. Nor is it to curl up and go to sleep. No, we keep our feet on solid ground and we find the people, things, activities that make our souls sing, filling us up with beauty so we can make it through, even during our darkest moments.

And that beauty should be spread far and wide—in friendships and mountains and poetry and bike rides and work and art and always, always in service to others. You may find it in your children. Your dog. That majestic tree in the front yard. Deep breaths. Bluegrass music. Your partner. The ocean. Books. Yoga. The quilt your mama made with her own two hands. For me, these things are all my soul mates. It takes the whole world to fill me up, to “make me” happy. I’d never pin that job on just one person.

My girls and I agreed together that our best partner is the one who will most lovingly and supportively witness our journey—and the one whose journey we find most worthy of witnessing. And that, in the end, is the beginning of a truly beautiful relationship.


Glennon Doyle Melton is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir Carry On, Warrior, and founder of the online community Momastery.com



8 Responses to “Disney Princesses and the Meaning of True Love”

  1. [...] this soft and sweet piece about true love and Disney princesses from author Glennon Doyle Melton in Family Circle (on Momster) the conversation between Mom and [...]

  2. I love this piece. Some of my own life lesson aha-moments have come through the act of answering the questions of my four year old. Parenting has shown me the world is gray- with lots of wigle room and enough love for us all. Carry on, Warrior! Heart pass, with a twist

  3. That is beautiful. I’m 25 and just learned what true love is from reading this. What a shift of perspective for me. Thank you!

  4. My son just asked me the other day if my husband was my soulmate. I told him that I didn’t really agree in the notion of soulmates because it’s about making love work–but now I have something so much more eloquent to share with him! Thanks, Glennon!

  5. [...] didn’t say this. A 5-year old did. So I insist that you click through and read this article from Family Circle. var hupso_services_t=new Array("Twitter","Facebook","Google [...]

  6. [...] Disney Princesses and the Meaning of True Love [...]

  7. I don’t even know where to begin. I absolutely loved this article. I have two little girls and I actually didn’t really agree with letting them see these princess movies. I always felt it gave girls the wrong impression. I love your explanations and how you really speak the truth. After I read this I sent it to everyone in my email. I loved this so much that I began reading Glennon’s book, carry on warrior. The book is just as educational, emotional, and REAL ias this article. I love your writings, thank you so much for writing. Love it all, Bonnie

  8. What a bunch of gibberish. Feed that to a kid and you’ll end up with one cold fish. Never did it answer the question what is ‘true love.’ In fact, she flat out denies it … not even claiming the love of her husband but only, ‘partner.’ That’s sad. To me this is a woman that has settled, has to find answers on Google instead of from her own life and gives pretty lame answers for what ‘love’ is. Obviously a fairy tale is a tale of fantasy, but love exists, is worth looking for, striving for and holding on to when you find it. Love life? Explain the brutality of life? Yes, let’s endear your under 10 year old daughters about rape, murder, war, drugs, global perversions and that way they won’t be surprised by them. Oh, and for you dolt’s over “25″ who have had their eyes opened by this tripe … you’re still blind. Oh, and before you buy into this diatribe, you might ask yourself, “Gee, how hard was math when I was 9?!” This thing is so fictional and biased that it reeks of bile and puked platitudes!