|“This isn’t pornography milady; it’s literature”
I’m just as guilty as the next one: I love romance novels. I can’t even say that I “used to love” them, because I still really like them. I just haven’t read a romance novel in… about 5 years, because my husband has asked me not to. And I feel that it’s only fair since he doesn’t watch pornography (no: hardcore porn, softcore porn, no “Game of Thrones,” he doesn’t watch music videos…and more) because of his personal convictions. So if he’s trying really hard to be an honorable man, I figured I should honor him back, do as he asked and give up my romance novels.
And I really loved them! I mean, I truly loved the stories, the characters, the
formulaic character development: Beautiful and extraordinarily kind, brave, slightly naive young lady, schoolteacher, blind woman or psychic captures the heart of the stern, moody, rogue yet honorable lord, pirate, captain or highland lord. I loved that the characters and storylines were predictable, so that even a brand-new novel was as comfortable as my favorite yoga pants allowing me to oh-so-easily slip into any story and feel as though I’d known the characters their whole lives. Not only that, life in romance novels is great: you know who is good, you have a pretty good idea of who is bad, and you know that even in the most dangerous of times, before the last page is turned, all will be well and right; with a tear and a sigh, all will be good in the world. ahhhhh!
When I was an avid reader of romance novels, I even philosophized that romance novels were teaching me about life, love, and relationships. That they were teaching me how to be ladylike and lovely and allowing me to stay positive and full of love in a cold, lonely age where romance and loving your knight-in-shining-armor was archaic and “so cliché.” I mean, as a newly-minted non-virgin, I needed something to teach me how things really were between a man and a woman; I wanted something to give me hope that love can last forever. I mean, there was no divorce in the historical highland romance novels that I loved so much, I mean, these couples must be doing something right. Right?
wrong……..wrong……..wrong! wrong! WRONG!
Romance novels are SO not real life. (as I shake my bowed head, eyes closed). I just…. can’t seem to stop shaking my head, because romance novels are just so not real life. It’s not to say I didn’t know that, it’s just that….I guess… I really did think that life was like a romance novel. (I can hear your rousing laughter and ridicule from here….).
I just thought that in my relationship, if I were nice enough, loving enough, kind enough, sacrificial enough, if I worked out enough, if I weighed just enough, I could have a love like the ones in the romance novels. And I think some of that line of thought is noble and right: sacrificial love is very true and mature…but most of that line of thought was setting myself up for hurt and failure. If things weren’t working out in my relationship, I turned to my “romance novel logic” and assumed: “*I wasn’t kind enough” or “*my hair isn’t swishy enough” or “why did *I have that burger?! *I need to be alluring and lithe like the romance heroines!”….there is not a lithe bone in my body…so let’s just say that was skipping myself down a not-so-great mental yellow brick road.
But I really do think that some of the things I learned in those novels was helpful and woman-affirming, like: be resourceful, believe in your self, you are beautiful and alluring (if you are unknowingly extraordinarily beautiful and alluring with flaws that no one else sees as flaws, ie, long legs). Hum…never thought about it that way. And I do think that the idea of sacrificial love is tantamount to a marriage and to the child/parent relationship….but having a better understanding of what that could entail is key; and romance novels don’t teach that. And yes, after years of sacrificial love, the hero of your own personal romance novel life could turn around and love you back very sacrificially…but how do you ensure that you’re not bitter by that time? THAT is not in a romance novel. Sacrificial, unselfish love, is the best… but I could have learned that from other sources.
Romance novels did teach me things, but I think it taught me about myself and relationships the same way that pornography “teaches” you about sex: it does teach you, but it teaches you a warped view of men, women, romance, sexuality, and relationships, and you might not realize is detrimental until it’s too late.
It’s great to be idealistic, and pure, and loving, and sacrificial, but it’s also great to realize that your life is longer than 325 pages, that your hero might not change, that you have to be sacrificial and pure and loving because it makes YOU feel good. Just realize there will be no narrator recognizing your goodness, that people may trample your feelings, and that it could be that no one sees how very honorable you are and you have to be ok with that.
Ultimately, I think romance novels are a lot of fun and can help one stay idealistic and sweet in a very harsh world…but romance novels are perhaps “fun” like how a one-night-stand is “fun” in that they seem fun but they are actually detrimental to learning how to behave in a marriage. (This is conjecture because I have no experience with one night stands).
For me, reading romance novels made my fiance all the more dreamy, because I would look up from the novel with stars and rainbows still clouding my eyes….and that is unfortunate because our engagement was the time when I really needed to see him as clearly as possible in order to gauge whether or not we were really a good match, to see where we wanted our relationship to go, and also to see if he had any moral problems that we needed to address. It doesn’t help your mate if they are on a pedestal; if you don’t see who they really are. They may even begin to resent you for not seeing the real them and their real heart, and their very real issues. Or even worse, you could end up with a stranger, someone who is more imaginary than real, more you than him, a man who you transposed your romantic fantasies on, but then one day you realize that instead of being brooding, and mature, and lovely, he’s actually just moody and mean. Not talking about you, my Dear Husband, just conjecturing (he got a little moody after reading that ;).
I’m sure I could think up lots of other “negatives” for romance novels, but that said they still have a fond place in my memory…I guess…maybe. Even though they were rousing good fun, maybe they really did do more harm than good. I loved being immersed in a historical world, but there are other ways that could have been accomplished. I loved the windswept romance, but I could have concentrated more on my own. If my husband was ok with it, would I read them again? No.
No, I wouldn’t because they draw me into a fake world that is very fulfilling when I need to use all my energy to make my real life and relationships fulfilling, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 5 years.
If you want to break away from romance novels and give yourself a chance to think about if they are really helping you, but ask yourself: what the heck would I do with my time?
Or you think: “romance novels make me want to be around my man more or without them I’d have nothing to do.” Maybe look at your relationship. What makes it so you have nothing to do? Is your spouse acting as your best friend? Do you sit and talk, or is he somewhat of a workaholic and you don’t really connect. Or he’s into his own thing: tv, video games, porn, etc.
If that’s the case, see my next posts about “fiance/wife initiated dates,” I’ll also try and write about things that can help you get closer to your husband/fiance/boyfriend and things that you should maybe look for in a potential partner.
ALSO here are a few other book options, if you love reading, love romance, but want to phase out the explicit scenes and just think that romance novels don’t really nourish your best you, try out my favorite contemporary novelist:
I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Amish. O.M.G. I loved the Amish before it was cool to love them (classic fangirl comment). I mean WAY back in the 1990s when I would drive out to Amish country with my Grandparents to get apple butter or go to the fabric store, or the big Walmart that had the buggy hitches outside. I don’t know what it was about them and their lifestyle; maybe the sense of belonging, of community, of having traditions, of having a routine, a “simpler” life of no buttons, or makeup, or what-have-you. Maybe every girl goes through an Amish phase. Well, I certainly did, and it’s never ended. My wedding rehearsal dinner was at an Amish restaurant in Ohio. LOVE Amish culture. Anyhoo, it probably goes without saying that I love Beverly Lewis, prolific novel writer whose stories are based in Amish country. OMG, her stories are about the “simple people” but they are nothing short of spectacular. She tackles hard issues like abuse, adoption, teenage pregnancy, illness, abandonment, but all within this community but it’s never depressing, it’s always interesting, and hopeful, but scary at the same time. Not horror novel scary, just…you’re invested in the characters and you are invested in the story and you want things to work out. I really really like her work.
OH MY GOSH, FREE E-BOOK ALERT!
I was going to link to this book for you as an example of her work and I see that it’s FREE RIGHT NOW!
I don’t know if this is a promotion or when it will end, but this is a great book and it’s totally free to download. Click the Amazon link/picture below and happy reading! I will try to post this ASAP so you can start reading 😀 hee hee hee Have a good weekend Friends!
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