Sunday, May 20, 2012

Can Reading Romance Improve Your Love Life?


When I first started writing romance, one of my co-workers asked if she could read my book. I nervously handed my manuscript over to her and waited. A few weeks later she returned my book along with this cartoon. She said she remembered the reason she had stopped reading romance. It made her wish for things in her relationship she didn’t have. It wasn't the response I had hoped for but it was better than "This stinks!" Or in friendspeak, "That was interesting."

I suppose reading  romance could make you question your relationship, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to re-evaluate your relationship or to want more if you’re needs aren’t being met.

I was in an unhealthy relationship in my early twenties. Every chance I got to escape from my real life via a Regency Historical novel, I took it. Did the stories make me unhappy with my relationship? Heck, no! I was already miserable and stuck. I had insecurities that my ex-boyfriend zeroed in on that kept me in the relationship way past the time it should have been over. One of those was that I would never find anyone better and I would end up alone. That’s where romance novels came in to save the day.

Okay. Maybe they weren’t that powerful, but they did play a role in helping me to break free. The stories I read were about heroes who cherished the heroine. (Once he figured out he had been a royal jerk to the heroine for at least 3/4 of the book. Those heroes of the nineties were a little too overbearing at the start of the stories for my taste.) He respected her mind and her choices. (Eventually, but first he had to undergo a personality transplant.) He supported her goals. (Well, not always, but the heroines of the nineties often had irrational goals that were going to get them killed, so I’ll cut some slack for the hero this once.) I sure wasn’t getting any of those things in my relationship, and there was no hope of a personality transplant in the future.

The first Regency Historical novel I ever read. Besides Rapunzel, who has that much hair?
I read story after story with the same types of heroes. I began to hope that maybe there was more out there in the world of dating, that men like the heroes might really exist. After they had received a dose of niceness, of course. I already knew the jerks existed.

A lot of other factors lead to me becoming a stronger person, so it’s not like romance novels were my therapy, but they did make me ask “what if”.  Romance pushed me to take the first step I needed to discover not only were there better things out there, I deserved better.

Now I’m happily married to a man who is all the things heroes should be, in my opinion. He cherishes me, respects me, challenges my intellect, and supports my goals. (No transplant required.) That’s not to say everything has been roses and chocolate truffles the whole time. Marriage takes effort, sometimes a lot. But one thing I’ve noticed since I started writing romance is our relationship is the best it has ever been. Part of it probably has to do with me pursuing something that really makes me happy, but writing romance also reminds me of the earlier days of falling in love with my husband.

You know how I knew he was the one? I had taken in a stray cat that was pregnant, and she had kittens that were ready for a good home just when I started dating my husband. He spent four hours of his Sunday in the Arkansas heat—imagine jungle—helping me find homes for them. Plus, he loves cats! Have you ever met a bad man who loves cats? Me either.

I’m sure I treat him a little differently when I recall the moments that made me fall in love with him. And maybe he gets a glance of who I was back in those days, too. Of course, our relationship has matured and grown since that time. It’s a better kind of love with more substance, but it’s fun to tap into that excitement I felt when we first started dating.

Interestingly, the co-worker who gave me the cartoon has a happy ending, too. Several months after she returned my manuscript, we were having lunch together.  She didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she and her husband were acting like newlyweds again. She attributed it to their decision to sell their house and move to a condo. I’m sure that’s true, but part of me hopes that reading my romance novel opened her up to the possibility that married life could be more fulfilling. Maybe she remembered why she fell in love with her husband so many years ago. Or maybe she too began to believe she deserved more and came to expect it. (Isn’t it Dr. Phil who says people treat us how we allow them to treat us?)

Just last week she told me about the lovely Mother’s Day she spent with her husband on the river. He fished and she read a book. She had this happy glow that hadn’t been there two years earlier. I wanted to ask if she had been reading a romance novel, but the timing wasn’t right. In my imagination, it was.

Do you think romance novels can improve relationships? I’d love to hear any stories about how romance has affected either your relationship or someone else’s.

And just to make it extra fun and interesting, I will give away a signed copy of my newest Regency Historical romance, Lady Amelia’s Mess and a Half, to one lucky commenter today.

***BTW, I wrote this blog several days before the Romance Man was a guest at Lady Scribes. It was a great interview and he basically talks about how his marriage has been improved from reading romance. If you’re interested in checking out the interview, click here.

34 comments:

  1. One of my favorite signing moments was when a man who worked with my daughter and had just broken up with his girlfriend came to buy Winning the Highlander's Heart from me at a signing. He had a Scottish background, so the story intrigued him for that reason. But mostly, he wanted to learn what women wanted in a romance so that he could give them what they needed. To me, he is the perfect hero.

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  2. Awww... Terry, that's a great story! I think I would get all misty-eyed if anyone said that to me. I hope he has found happiness now. :)

    And YES!!! That is a real hero.

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  3. Sam- that's sad your friend felt that way. I love reading romance novels for the escape. I like reading the books where I can identify with the characters. I love happy endings. I don't care if I'm a dream I think that's what gets us through the day sometimes. I can't wait to read your next book. :)

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  4. I like Terry's comment!
    Anyway I've been single for 25 years and have dated so many wrong men,I even broke an engagement shortly before the wedding,that's how wrong that one was. So this is why I keep reading romance, I know what I what and I know he's out there and I won't settle.

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  5. Melody,

    I know what you mean. It's great to get a vacation from everyday life sometimes. I was sad when my friend said that too, but I'm so pleased she has found happiness now.

    It's good to see you here today. You're up early for a Sunday. :)

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  6. Sheila,

    Being with the wrong man is miserable. I'd rather be alone. I hope you meet that special man soon. There are some really great guys out there that no one has snatched up yet. Sometimes I'm shocked that they are single, because they would like to be in a relationship, too.

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  7. Sam- your right it's early, however my children like roosters saw the light and said its time to get up.

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  8. I really love reading romance books. However, from reading them, I feel that I've missed out on so much in my everyday life. I do, however, get lots of enjoyment out of my books, they're my escape to my Happy Ever After.

    I can honestly say that if I knew back then what I know now, when I was younger, then I would have been a very naughty, naughty girl. lol

    Thank you and all the other wonderful authors so much for brightening up my days and nights with your books.

    dpd333 (at) aol dot com

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  9. Great post, Samantha! I love that cartoon, and I'm happy your friend got her HEA.

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  10. LOL, Diane. Yeah, I would have been naughtier, too. Thank goodness there's still time! ;D

    It's always great to have you drop by. Have a great Sunday & happy reading.

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  11. Thank you, Shana. Do you watch sports with the Ultimate Sports Fan or do you read a novel and eat chocolate? JK. With a little one, there's hardly time to sit down much less eat bonbons in bed! :)

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  12. Samantha ~ I am such a fan of yours! I can't wait for your new release. Good luck!

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  13. Aw, thanks! The feeling is mutual, Ava. I love your stories.

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  14. Unfortunately I didn't start reading romances until after I was married! I keep trying to tell my 28 yr. old daughter who is recently divorced and tends to go for the wrong type of guy, to read romances but so she won't. She has 3 friends that are all english teachers and they keep reading oprah type books which are fine once in a while but I think they need to open up and give some different genres a try.

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    1. Catslady,
      I think it's great to be open to trying new things. Maybe some day you're daughter will pick up a romance novel. I did the whole Oprah thing, but sometimes I would feel depressed for a day or two afterwards. I made a choice to be happy, so I'm sticking to it. :)

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  15. Great post, Samantha! SO looking forward to your latest!

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Oprah Winfrey once said she didn't feature romance novels in her book club because she felt they gave women unrealistic expectations. Really? What's unrealistic about expecting a hero? What's unrealistic about WANTING a hero? There is nothing unrealistic about expecting and wanting the best. I think romance novels offer women the idea they deserve BETTER! And any man who chooses to read romance novels to discover what women want is a hero in the making. Expectations have been and always will be one of the things that make the world a better place.

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    1. Louisa,
      I agree. If it's unrealistic to have a man care about what's important to me or one that treats me with kindness, respect, and tenderness, then this world is a sad place. I don't think that's too much to ask at all. Now maybe if women expect all men to look like cover models... But, really it isn't about that.

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  16. I think romance novels absolutely help with relationships. They show you how real, loveing relationships should be, and give you standards when it comes to dating that you may have lost. Definitely high standards, but you should have high standards! You shouldn't settle! Some of my friends who are in bad relationships I just want to shove a romance novel at them and be like, "Here! Read this! *This* is what love is like!" :-)

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  17. I think romance novels can improve relationships because it gives women an idea of what a good relationship could be and what we deserve. I think too many women settle for something that is making them unhappy because they think that's all there is. For myself, I'd rather have nothing (which is what I currently have), than something that makes me unhappy. I've had the bad relationships and I'm perfectly happy with no drama or relationship crisis going on all the time. I'll stick with reading my romances.

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  18. Love the post! I'm of the opinion that if more men took the time to read romance and figure out what a woman really needs, there would be less money filtering through the divorce lawyer's bank accounts. I love fan mail that says a romance book has proven to a reader that any man is not better than no man at all, if any man doesn't treat her right.

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  19. Samantha,
    Great interview! I'm not sure I think reading romance can improve your relationship, but I do so love a good romance!

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  20. Chelsea,

    I hope your friends are able to find guys that will treat them right. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. :)

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  21. Barbara,

    I'm with you. I like my drama in movies, TV, or books only. For me, a bad relationship was worse than being alone, so I can relate.

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  22. Thanks, Carolyn. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, IMO. I'm surprised by some of the men that stay in relationships where they aren't being treated well, too. Can't we all just get along? :)

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  23. Hi, Julie!

    Thanks for stopping by today. :)

    Oh, and for those of you who want to be in the drawing, I'm going to need your email addys so I can contact you if you win.

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  24. I think these books can improve relationships by showing you what not to do.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  25. I think that reading romance can help with relationships because sometimes they can help the reader, woman or man, identify what they are looking for in a relationship. Also wanted to say that I so agree with Louisa's comment! :)

    chibipooh(at)gmail(dot)com

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  26. You know I want to be in the drawing.

    countessofmar@yahoo.com

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  27. Winnie,
    I think you're spot on. Knowing what you're looking for is step 2. Knowing your own value is step 1. :)

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us.

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  28. I know romances have done great for my marriage.

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  29. Great post, Samantha!
    My marriage improves when I'm writing. When I stop for a while, we fall back into patterns of behavior that aren't so romantic. Must keep writing!

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  30. Brooklyn Ann,
    I'm so glad to hear that other people feel romance novels can be good for marriage.

    Cheryl,
    Definitely keep writing. :)


    And the winner of Lady Amelia's Mess and a Half is MallyMel!!!

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  31. Nice choice of topic Sam! It really interests me alot. I'm also an avid reader of romance novels because I do love fantasies and also I am dreaming of a guy who doesn't know how to cheat. I love romantic men who knows how to fight for their love. I hope this guy still exist!I am so amazed with love stories who has a happy ending.

    I can't wait to read your next post. Thanks for this one!

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