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.