Let’s start this with a disclaimer: I am not a relationship counselor, nor any other kind of relationship expert. I have no training, and am not offering this blog post as a “cure all” for relationship trouble.
With that out of the way, can you save your marriage using romance novels? I think the answer to that question is: maybe.
Marriage trouble can take many forms. Infidelity, abuse, lack of attention, no respect, in-laws, etc. Some marriages can’t be saved (such as an abusive one. If you’re being abused, you should absolutely seek help. You can start by calling National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).) Sometimes, though, the problems might seem insurmountable, but can actually be resolved.
And occasionally, romance novels can help you do it. How?
Let’s look at the things you can learn to do, or be reminded to do, to help change your relationship.
- Keep your own interests. Romance heroes and heroines always have their own interests. They have hobbies, friends, careers, and entire lifestyles before they meet. And, in contemporary romances at least, they don’t give up any of that – or at least not all of it. They continue to have their own friends and interests, and to explore those and new ones, even after they meet the love of their life. Having your own friends and interests is crucial to having a solid relationship. If you rely on your partner to be your sole friend, your sole source of entertainment, pleasure and fun, you’ll be putting more pressure on him/her and the relationship than either of them can withstand.
- Respect. In a good romance, respect for each other is a key component. There may be moments where respect is forgotten, but that happens in life, too. In a romance, the relationship ultimately works because of a mutual respect for each other. The characters respect each other’s pasts, families, friends, careers, and choices. They don’t belittle each other, say rude things, ignore each other, or otherwise deliberately hurt each other. If you and your partner don’t respect each other (or if even one of you doesn’t respect the other), being reminded that respect is important can make a huge difference.
- Compromise. Whether it’s deciding where to go for dinner on their first date, or deciding what city to live in when they live in different places, the characters in a romance novel almost always have to compromise on something in order to make their relationship work. Some compromises are bigger than others, but compromise is another crucial component of a solid relationship. You can’t have things your way all the time, and neither can your partner. You have to learn give and take, have to figure out what things are most important and which ones you can give in on because they don’t matter as much to you as they do to your partner, or because what you want isn’t what’s best for the relationship or your family.
- Let go of the past. There are a lot of romance novels in which the hero or heroine has been cheated on. Some are second chance romances, where the characters were together once and broke up because of something that seemed insurmountable at the time. In order to move forward and have a relationship, they have to let go of what their ex did, or they have to let go of the situation that broke them up in the past. Sometimes this is harder than expected, but it always has to happen, and it has to happen in real life as well. Whether your current or a previous partner cheated on you, or you’re just holding a grudge because he didn’t pepper your potato when you asked him to, you can’t hold on to the past and expect your marriage to be solid. Let go of things that don’t have anything to do with the future. If you struggle to get past something (infidelity, for example), seek counseling to help with that.
- Acceptance. A criminal history, children from a past relationship, a dead spouse who will always have a place in their heart, not wanting children – there’s almost always something about the hero that the heroine has to accept if she loves him and wants to be with him, and vice versa. Maybe your partner is a workaholic, or maybe he’s really into fixing cars, or maybe it’s something bigger, like not wanting children. Whatever it is, you have to accept your partner for who and what he is. If you can’t do that, then the relationship won’t work because you’ll be trying to change him.
- Be vulnerable. The hero and heroine both have to let themselves be vulnerable before they find their happy ending. They have to open up their hearts and souls and let each other in, risk getting hurt in order to find the love they want. If your marriage is struggling, you might be finding it hard to open up to your spouse and say what’s bothering you or what you need. But sometimes, that’s exactly what’s needed to start fixing things. Open up and express yourself, and see how it goes.
Romance novels are entertaining, fun, and give us the satisfaction of a happy ending. We get to relive what it’s like to meet and fall in love for the first time, to have first kisses and the anticipation of hearing “I love you” for the first time, all while knowing that in the end, it’s all going to work out.
But they can also teach us, and help us save relationships that don’t have to die. If your partner isn’t exactly the romantic type, they can also help with that. No, you probably won’t be able to use them to convince him to change (trying to convince someone to change is always a bad idea), but you can use them to get that little bit of romance you might feel you’re missing out on.
Do you think romance novels can help your marriage? If so, how?