Beauty & The Beast AKA “The Rescuer & Mr. Potential”
Beauty and The Beast was one of my favorite movies as child, I absolutely adored Belle and really identified with how bookish and nerdy she was. I always thought the ending was so romantic. I’m sure you all know the story, Belle falls in love with an angry & broken Beast, because she see’s the potential & the good in him. They fall in love, he softens up and becomes a better man and then they all live happily ever after!
This is a well known fairy tale that has constantly been retold and re-imagined. People of all generations seem to admire & love this story. (I know I did!) The problem is, the love story behind it is a myth. It is a complete work of fiction. Love doesn’t work that way. Belle & the Beast would not live Happily Ever After, in reality their romance would be much, much more strained and difficult.
Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t give imperfect people a chance. We should. (After all, we all hit some low points in life) I’m saying that there is a healthy way that takes a lot of hard work and a very dysfunctional, self destructive way that causes a lot of pain.
Scenario 1. Cautiously Investing in the Beast
Belle has compassion for a cruel & broken Beast (man or woman) & wants to save him. She see’s that he’s hurting and is taking out his inner pain (in the form of angry outbursts) onto others. So she gives him an opportunity to be a healthier, stronger & kinder person, by being a good example herself. She doesn’t try to teach or influence him and she only helps when the Beast humbly asks for it.
Then she watches and waits to see if the Beast is actually putting any effort into changing. (Does he truly want what she has? ) And if he is making an effort, then Belle knows it’s worth it to take a chance on him. Belle knows that undoing an entire lifetime of wrong ways of thinking, of hurtful habits, cruel tendencies, angry outbursts and temper problems is incredibly difficult to change! So she lets him change before she lets herself fall madly in love with him. This may seems less romantic, or less exciting, but Belle is wisely deciding if her investing in the Beast is going to be worthwhile.
Similarly the Beast must be willing to accept personal responsibility and choose everyday to change his character. The Beast also has to relearn everything he once knew about himself and relationships. (which is NO easy task!) He has to commit to putting in the hard work of changing and bettering himself. And he must stop letting his own personal pain blind him from the damage he is causing others.
Belle needs to understand that this is something he has to do and has to choose on his own. And that change won’t happen over night, it’s gonna be a long and difficult process for the Beast. He will absolutely make mistakes and will let her down and will subsequently hurt her in the process. Belle has to be willing to take that risk. She also has to challenge herself to see the Beast as he really is, not as how she wants him to be. And she has to resist the urge to fix him. He must fix himself!
If the Beast makes no effort to rescue/change himself, then Belle can put her own, emotional and physical safety before his (without feeling guilty) and can leave the unhealthy relationship.
Seems pretty tough doesn’t it? But consider the other alternative, the easier, and more common relationship dynamic that we see again and again in fairy tales and romantic comedies…
Scenario 2. Belle romantically saves the Beast from himself.
Belle has compassion for a cruel & broken man (or woman) and wants to save him. She see’s that he’s hurting & taking out his inner pain on others. She believes that there is something special about her that will bring out the Beast’s inner goodness. She wants to help him! More than he wants to help himself. (After all if he really wanted to be happier/ better, he would be making some sort of effort on his own.) Belle decides that she knows how to help him become a better person and begins teaching him how to grow up and change. (AKA mothering him). She falls in love with him and his potential and continues molding him into the person he could be! It’s all so wildly romantic!
But once they’re in love, it gets messy. Belle (being the good natured and nurturing woman that she is) will continually sacrifice her own needs, for the Beast needs. She will value him above all else. And he will also value himself above all else.
When the Beast acts mean or hurtful, Belle will try even harder to fix/help him. With good intentions she’ll keep teaching him (but the Beast will eventually see it as nagging). Because Belle believes she is helping her Beast learn how to be a healthy, kind and loving man, she’ll motivate him by dangling her love in front of him. But the Beast won’t learn the lesson she’s teaching.
Instead he learns very quickly, that the better he acts and performs for her, the more affection and good times he will have with her. (ie, her love is conditional and he has to put on a good performance to get her affection, he can’t be himself around her.) Belle thinks she’s gotten through to him and this reaffirms her desire to fix and rescue him from his pain and poor behavior. Seems like a happily ever after right??
The difference here, is that the Beast hasn’t actually changed, he’s just become a better actor. The Beast will still engage in the same mean and selfish behaviors like he’s always has. He may apologize or justify his behavior, saying “I’ve had a bad day” or “I’m stressed out” or “I’ve been through too much.” Or he may be more manipulative and claim “I did that because you did this….” or “I don’t know how to be any different or be better, this is just who I am.”
But these are all excuses designed to make Belle feel guilty and responsible for the beasts mistakes/abuse. Typically the reason for the Beasts underlying harmful behaviors can stem from either depression, severe anxiety, childhood trauma/abuse, PTSD or addictions. (All very sad things, that are easy to sympathize with!) The Beast unfortunately won’t take any responsibility for his actions towards Belle (or else he would have done it long before Belle showed up at his door!)
In fact, he now has the perfect scapegoat…. Belle. He will convince himself that her constant nagging and desire to fix him, is whats causing his inner turmoil and therefore bad behavior and choices. The Beast will take advantage of her kind, helping nature, he will let her pour herself out for him, and then give very little in return. (Why? Because he can! Belle lets him.)
Belle will wonder how he can be so cruel to her, after all she’s only tried to help him and love him in her imperfect way. The relationship will begin to feel very once sided as Belle continues to take care of, and take responsibility for the Beast. The Beast will resent and blame Belle for his problems and Belle will eventually believe that she really is the cause of all the strife. Years will go by, and ever so slowly Belle will finally realize that he hasn’t actually changed his character at all. He’s just put on a very convincing performance.
Yes, the Beast may have heard all her advice, but he didn’t take it to heart, he didn’t learn how to put his selfishness aside. And he didn’t make any inward changes to build his character, instead he says what he knows Belle wants to hear. (After all she’s been telling him for years what she wants/needs from him). He will say the words she’s been longing for, but it wont be genuine, because behind her back he’ll revert to the person he always was. (He hasn’t really changed at all!) He is still just as dysfunctional and beastly as he was in the beginning, he’s just much better at hiding it now. This will of course exhaust and stress him, because he’s hiding who he is, always acting and performing for Belle. This in turn will cause him to be even more short-tempered than he was in the beginning. And his abusive nature will continually slip through the cracks and sadly, Belle will get used to it and tolerate it more and more. Like a frog in a frying pan, she won’t realize how bad it is, until it gets much worse. Most likely she will change into 1 of 3 options:
- A hurt, angry and bitter woman who becomes controlling and manipulative in order to get the kind of love (or revenge) she desires from the Beast.
- Or she will become depressed, exhausted, defeated and desperate to numb or escape the emotional pain, disappointment and heartbreak she feels.
- Or she’ll be so lonely and desperate for love that she’ll start looking for another person to fall in love (or in lust) with.
In all 3 of these scenarios Belle becomes miserable, lonely and disappointed and finds herself unable to connect and revive the romance she once had with the Beast. AND most likely she’ll end up searching for another Mr. potential to rescue, and then repeat the cycle. After all, it’s what she’s become accustomed to.
OR she can take responsibility for her own actions, own up to how she was forcing the Beast to be something he’s not (and didn’t ever want to be). She can realize how she was enabling his bad behavior, even though she thought she was helping him. She can also take a hard look at herself and question her inner need to save people… perhaps all along she really just needed to save and rescue herself.
So the next time you find your self infatuated with the romantic notion of rescuing the broken, brooding Edward Cullen type, remember that this particular fairy-tale is a recipe for disaster. It takes either a lot of work and commitment and maturity from you and your partner…. or ends in self destruction and heartbreak for both people.