When raised in a traditional household, the mentality drilled into a young Latina is that she must go to school, find a job, and find a husband. You get married, have children, and live happily ever after as husband and wife. While this sounds like a nice goal to have, there’s a serious flaw in the “find a husband” clause.
Finding a husband requires dating different men, but dating can be stressful for young Latinas. Many girls face strict rules and fierce resistance as they first attempt to spread their wings and enter the world of romantic relationships. And amid this struggle is the unspoken message that dating different men isn’t okay. That the goal is to find The One, not by being with one guy after another, but by magically, romantically, meeting your future partner quickly and easily, falling in love, staying together for years – and of course – all without giving it up.
There are problems with this thinking. It limits our daughters to choosing from a small pool of men at a young age. It encourages the fairytale fantasy of finding Prince Charming and being whisked away to happiness. And it leads to unfulfilling marriages.
Overprotective fathers, brothers, and even mothers, I’m talking to you: let your young women explore their options. Don’t force them to feel that dating is bad, or promiscuous. Don’t make it so difficult for your young girls to say, “No, I’m not settling. No, I’m not happy.” Give them the freedom – the green light – to discover who they are themselves, what they want and don’t want, and to fully understand what they are worth. True love isn’t something you usually find on the first try. You must be able to recognize it, as well as be ready for it.
How can we prepare our girls for the process of finding a mate? Through discussion and giving examples, but most importantly, by letting our girls learn from their mistakes. They have to fail a few times in order to succeed. Protect them too much, and they will marry the first guy who offers them what they think is the true jackpot – an engagement ring. With divorce rates being so high in these troubled times, allowing them to explore their options still might not lead to a lifelong marriage. But, at least you can allow them a fair shot at attaining their own happily ever after.