The Lure of Romance VS. the Reality of Work in Relationships

relationship expectations, authentic happiness, happy life, how to be happy in a relationship, happy relationship

I’m a book snob and I cringe at romance novels. The romance novel business is a powerful industry that creates a lot of false hopes about how love should be. Affairs are fueled by the same kind of passion that romance novels are: The power of imagination trumping the hard realities of real life.

Affairs, romance novels and ideas about a different future are all easy to have because they don’t require any work. If your marriage is boring or has important parts missing then it takes work to do something to change it. Day dreaming about how some other relationship could be so much more rewarding is essentially writing your own romance novel.

Too many women don’t say enough about how they honestly feel. Too many men are oblivious about what may be missing in a relationship.

Stop avoiding the work of being authentic and risk sharing the truth. Close your eyes and imagine what you would honestly change about the relationship you have in order to make it more satisfying. Talk about it with a trusted friend or therapist. Then figure out how to talk about those same issues to your partner.

Is your relationship lopsided? How?
Is your relationship boring?
Does your relationship lack depth?
Has your sex life evaporated?
Have you evolved into roommates rather than partners?
Do you have the courage to risk the truth with your partner, the person you love the most?
Or is it possible that that person is no longer the person you love the most?
Do you swallow resentments after feeble attempts to address problems in your relationship?
Or are you allowing a giant stack of grievances to grow even larger?

If you are unhappy and want to leave; are you emotionally prepared to be alone for a long time, perhaps forever? In the romance novel a perfect partner is right around the corner but too often, the experience of the hundreds of women who have visited my office is that the only thing around the corner is one more guy who isn’t right for them.

The truth is that you are likely to make the same mistake with a new love as you did with the last one. The lonelier you become the more likely it is you’ll jump into someone else’s arms too quickly because you’ll be feeling the exciting passionate side of the new relationship. When the new relationship becomes more complicated and newly troublesome you’ll be back to the point where you need to do the hard work that long-term relationships require. The romance novel ends at the blossoming beginning of the new love while the substance of real life just starts there.

It’s very hard to convince anyone to do the hard work of returning to the original relationship in order to build on what was the attraction in the first place. The romance novel illusion of how great the new relationship will be, distracts most people from realizing that nothing that important is that easy. Whoever the new partner is will at some point require the same care and feeding that you neglected to give the original partner.

Have you ever noticed how many people break up with someone and then start a new relationship with someone remarkably similar to the first person? We are all drawn to people who somehow reflect what we believe we need in a partner and often the new partner starts out appearing to be very different but over time that’s not so true.

50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri. The point is that experience doesn’t make us better at picking partners. That part of the story is delicately left out of the romance novel.

There is a challenge in maintaining a long-term relationship. There are certainly ups and downs, people change along the way and these fluctuations and changes require that both partners understand them and learn to accommodate them if the relationship is to remain intact.

The fantasy of the romance novel is that there is that one perfect person is out there just waiting for you. Real life dictates that the right person is out there for you and that you may have already found him/her – your job is to make the relationship right.


5 thoughts on “The Lure of Romance VS. the Reality of Work in Relationships

  1. Anne Gracie says:

    I don’t agree with your comments about romance novels. All romance novels are not alike. The better ones do explore the difficulties in making a loving relationship work — that’s actually what many of the novels are about. In their past, the hero or heroine have not been able to make a relationship work,so implicit in the construction of the novel is that they must learn to change in order to make this one succeed. OK, it’s a convention that they all end happily — but that’s the power of fantasy. We know it’s not true life — but we get to explore some difficult issues through the pages of a novel. And it can give us hope.

    I lent a friend in her 40’s some romance novels that dealt with similar issues to hers. She’d never managed to sustain a relationship longer than a few months, and was on the verge of giving up, even though there was a guy at her work who’d asked her out. “But what’s the point?” she said.

    She read the books I gave her and enjoyed them, though she’s usually a book snob, too, and when she was returning one said “These books give you hope, don’t they?” and that’s right. They gave her enough hope to try again, and at last count, she’s been in a steady relationship for 7 years.

    Please don’t dismiss romance novels. There are some wonderful romances out there that have given a lot of women hope and comfort and pleasurable time out from a difficult time in their lives.

    • rhodasommer says:

      Fair enough. I believe very few things have no value at all. The point of the article is not to ignore yourself & your own needs in relationships if you are a caretaking of others person. Thanks for taking time to comment. Hope is a good point. Rhoda

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