As a romance author, I keep an eye on the trends for relationship/marriage advice. Most of it comes from Christian sources.
I once listened into a social audio conversation that was ostensibly about secular marriage, but the general consensus of the group was that, if you truly loved someone, you would go away so they could focus on their career. If I had a smarmy salesperson personality, I would have taken the opportunity to pitch my novels to them as romantic escapism, because that is some hardcore dedication to loneliness.
I have a unique perspective, because while I grew up Christian, I married as a Pagan.
The overwhelming impression that I get from Christian sources is that the women are too picky when it comes to men. I guess they aren’t getting hitched because no one is good enough.
Once upon a time, during my early days of marriage, someone pulled out his Bible and read a lot of verses about the sort of wife I was supposed to be. Heck if I can remember much about it, but by the time he started reading about how I was supposed to earn extra money to help with the household finances, I knew beyond a doubt that I would have to develop a serious cocaine habit in order to have that much energy. I have never come close to being a perfect biblical wife.
Thank god I don’t believe in the Bible. (har har)
But lets go back even farther, to when I was a Christian teenager. This was when I really began to shine as a misfit, because when my church leaders advised me to date around a lot and aim to marry as close to perfect as I could, but I was more like, “Husbands are human beings, and marriage isn’t like buying a car.”
Yeah, I was bullied rather badly in church. Can’t imagine why /sarcasm.
But apparently, plenty of other women took that sort of advice to heart, and now the Christians are moaning that they aren’t getting married at all.
I think my husband is pretty great. I won’t go into slathering specifics, but he’s wickedly smart, he helps take care of me, and he plays with the kids — I can’t imagine wanting to be married to anyone else. He also doesn’t fit any of those bullet point lists that I was given in church during my teen years.
He cusses, he loves a good whisky, and he doesn’t believe in God.
But I fall short, too.
I go to bed with dirty dishes still in the sink. 😀
So we’re a couple of heathens who take our children to the park on Sunday instead of church. We’re happy.
Marriage isn’t shopping for a car, and you shouldn’t go out with a list of requirements, make comparisons, then pick the one with the most cup holders. Marriage is building a deep bond with another human being. A connection between souls.
And stop blaming women for being what you raised them to be.
When I was a teenager, my mom took me to her hairstylist for a complete makeover. She braided up my hair, chopped off a full foot, then proceeded to push me into one of the most awkward stages of my teenagehood.
I’ve always been a “wash ‘n go” sort of girl. Never really could get into the habit of using blow dryers, let alone curling irons. Yet I gave that new hairstyle an honest shot, because all of the adult women around me kept going on about how “mature” it made me look, and I was scared of standing up against people back then.
I hated that hair cut. Loathed it. There isn’t a single picture of me smiling with that stupid style. I eventually drifted back to “wash ‘n go,” because that’s my fundamental personality type.
We’re talking about two decades ago here, so I can’t remember the specifics, but I do recall feeling bombarded with criticism from the hairstylist. She went on and on about split ends and breakage, then proceeded to donate my hair to Locks of Love … *eyeroll* The stylist was bad enough I remember asking my mom about it afterwards, and she told me that it was best to ignore the criticism.
But it still bothered me. It bothered me badly enough that I switched over to going to the local college for haircuts, then eventually started doing it myself. When I turned 30, I vowed to never cut my hair again, and I’ve been much happier with my appearance ever since.
I’ve been married for over a decade now. My husband likes to help brush and braid my hair when we get ready for bed, and he always praises how silky and shiny my hair is. Sometimes he even recites poetry. He doesn’t see the split ends or the wispy bits that stick out awkwardly, even though he’s perfectly aware of the horrible things that happen to my hair in the cause of motherhood. He sees the beauty, not the flaws.
That matters far more than the nitpicking opinions of near strangers.
This month, my husband and I celebrate 12 years together.
It was one of those “love-at-first-sight” whirlwind romances that everyone insists is unrealistic and guaranteed to fail. Yet here we still are, and there’s no one else I’d rather go through the fall of civilization with. 😉
Don’t let the critics and naysayers stop you from making your own destiny.
Is there anything more exciting than a story passage presented completely out of context?
Hee hee, enjoy.
Carol began to gasp and moan in her sleep, whimpering the words, “Don’t … take me …” before Lambert managed to shake her awake. She was thoroughly drenched in a cold sweat, and still confused as she frantically asked, “Where’s Henry? I can’t find him!”
“He’s there, right next to you in his crib,” Lambert answered soothingly, and waited for her to pick up their four-month-old son before pulling her into an embrace. “Everything’s fine. You had another nightmare.”
She was quiet, and he suspected that she had dozed off again. He kept her pressed against his chest, however, feeling her clammy skin underneath his hands as his mouth formed a straight line. He had hoped that with time and emotional support, Carol’s struggle with postpartum anxiety would resolve on its own, but instead it was growing worse.
The baby woke and began to root, so Carol shifted to breastfeed. “Sorry about this,” she murmured, completely awake. “Could you get out another pajama shirt for me?”
He nodded, but remained still. “Carol …” he began, and she stiffened from his tone. “It might be time for you to go see a professional.”
“I don’t want to,” she answered slowly.
“You’ve been having nightmares every night for awhile now. It might be best to get you on medication to help you through this.”
“I have you.”
Lambert felt Carol move to curl up around their baby, and for a moment he debated whether or not he should drop the subject all together. He got up to rummage through the dresser in the darkness, found one of the over-sized shirts that she liked to sleep in, and handed it to her.
“Cognitive therapy isn’t making any difference,” he said quietly. She remained silent, so, he pressed on, “You’re a good mother, and it’s natural to have some feelings of anxiety with a new baby …” he began, and the therapist’s intonation that he had slipped into grated against his own ears.
“Would you mind holding Henry while I change?” Carol interrupted, her voice slightly higher pitched than usual. She had recently discovered that he couldn’t argue with her when she spoke that way, and utilized it whenever she wanted him to back down. It was enough to make him cave and give up on his line of reasoning.
Lambert didn’t know what to do. For the most part, Carol was still Carol. They went fishing together on the weekends, and he came home every evening to dinner and a clean house. As long as she had their baby pressed against her in the carrier or in her arms, it was as if nothing had changed. The car trips were almost endearing, with the way she frequently checked the mirrors to ensure that Henry was still breathing, and needed the occasional reassurance that he wasn’t going to be stung by a bee or bitten by a spider while he was in his car seat.
But the nights were different.
Lambert had purchased a special crib with one side that clamped onto their mattress to help her feel closer to Henry, but it couldn’t overcome the mental separation of sleep. There were times when she had startled awake with the baby in her arms, crying about how she couldn’t find him. Recently, she had begun to fight against the fear of being taken away herself, but once awake she always claimed that she could not remember what she had been dreaming.
They had talked. And talked. And talked. Lambert had accepted the military relegating him into a paper-pusher role after the war had ended, because it enabled him to be home every night, and he didn’t dare leave Carol to sleep alone. He had even quit drinking for the most part, so he could maintain his vigilance and be there for her the moment the nightmares began.
After four months, he had reached the end of what he could handle on his own. Carol needed something more than talk to help her, and as a defunct psychiatrist, he was no longer qualified to provide it.
I read a couple of creative writing articles on “how to write realistic romance” that essentially boiled down to knocking “insta-romances.”
As a hopeless romantic myself, I’m a firm believer in love-at-first-sight. I knew that I had found forever the moment I met my husband (told him so, too), we eloped shortly afterward, and ten years later the passion is still going strong. So, don’t lecture me on what doesn’t count as realistic!
Love is like magic: it has to be believed in and practiced in order to have an effect.
My number one source of knowledge for the romance in my stories comes from my own experiences, and I can’t imagine getting any more realistic than real life. That includes love-at-first-sight, which just so happens to be my favorite.
Just because I’m outside of the majority doesn’t mean that my life and marriage are impossible or doomed to fail, and I don’t write stories to express the norms that I don’t belong to.
And given that the marriage rate is at a record low, I don’t believe that people know as much about romance as they think they do.
So I’m going to do what I’ve always done, and ignore what everyone else says about romance, even if I earn criticism for it.
As a reader, I tend to skip over sex scenes in books. Truth be told, I find them boring. Society has been so over-saturated with sex, that whenever another scene pops up, I can’t help but think of the quote from Yugioh Abridged, “Sex isn’t sexy anymore.” Most of the time, I’m not sure how those scenes contribute to the plot, and skipping them has no negative effects on my experience of the novel.
As a writer, my current WIP has a fair amount of sex in it, because marriage and babies are a huge part of the story.
I prefer to take an abstract view, and focus on the emotional aspect of it. Strangers meet on Tinder all the time, but deeply in love soulmates melding into one; now that’s something different. I don’t want to make my readers horny, but to fill them with butterflies and giggles; there are already more than enough resources for the latter.
Society has done a lot to divorce love from sex, to the point where a lot of people believe that the two not only have nothing to do with each other, but can be detrimental to each other as well. I hope to illustrate that the two can be beautifully intertwined.
My first exposure to the idea of two guys chasing after one woman was the TV series Christy. My mom watched it, and some years later when the movie, Choices of the Heart, was released, I was excited to watch it with her. I was partial to the reverend David, and found it disappointing when (SPOILER) Christy married Dr. MacNeill instead. C’mon! I didn’t like him at all!
Later, I realized that most love triangles have a clear winner early on, and the second guy is mostly just emotional gratuity.
In real life, the closest I ever came to unwillingly becoming the subject of attention from multiple guys ended so horrifically that it was a full five years before I associated with any non-family males again, and earned me the branding of “cold hearted bitch.” It was scarring.
As a married thirty-something, love triangles don’t do it for me. All I needed was The One, and I enjoy stories about people finding their One too, so I can reminisce and appreciate how lucky I am with my husband. It’s easy to spoil happily-ever-afters by wondering what would have happened if you had married a different guy.
I don’t pick teams or giggle when my guy scores points over the other one. I don’t eagerly tune in day after day to see which man the main character will choose. Despite the popularity of love triangles, I just don’t like them. I see them as a good way to alienate others and get hurt. Not fun. Not romantic. No thank you.