Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are you living romance or just reading about it?

I have a confession to make - oh yes, here I go again. 
I used to read mountains and mountains of Mills and Boon. You may never have read one, but you've probably heard about them.  Tragic I know.  My mother loved them too, so she never saw the harm in me reading them. I would.  I don't want my children brought up on these types of books (hope I am not standing on some offended toes - but hey we all have our own flavour).

I know that this type of reading can lead to expectations that cannot be satisfied by my husband.  The happy ever after - perfect orchestrated moments - moments only found in movies or books like these - and the alpha male (yes you know the one - always good looking, always successful and most of the time fairly wealthy too).

I did some research as I am no expert (seriously!), except in watching chick-flicks which I confess (OK this is the second confession) are some of my favourite movies.  I love the happy ever after, the laughter, the fun - and yet at the back of my mind something always bothers me a little about these - and sometimes they bother me a lot!

But where does this leave my husband and my relationship?

Psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery reports she is seeing more and more women “clinically addicted” to romantic books, and that for many women these novels promote dissatisfaction with their real relationships. Some experts claim there are parallels between what happens to a man when he watches pornography and what happens to a woman when she reads a romance book. While other experts say addiction may be too strong a word, sex addiction expert Paula Hall agrees that romance books can become an “unhealthy preoccupation.”

And it’s not just novels. In 2008, a study at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, in Scotland, found that romantic comedy films promoted unrealistic expectations when it comes to love.

Dr Moore says “Pornography and romance novels aren’t (or at least aren’t always) morally equivalent, but they ‘work’ the same way. Both are based on an illusion. Pornography is based on the illusion of a perfectly willing, always aroused partner without the ‘work’ of relational intimacy. Often romance novels or their film equivalents do the same thing for the emotional needs of women that pornography offers for the erotic urges of men.

“And in both cases, what the ‘market’ wants is sameness. Men want the illusion of women who look just like women but are, in terms of sexual response, just like men. Women want the illusion of men who are ‘real’ men, but, in terms of a concept of romance, are just like women. In both artificial eros and artificial romance, there is the love of the self, not the mystery of the other.”

Here are some interesting reads, of people who have struggled in their marriage due to their interest and preoccupation with romantic novels.

1.  I was addicted to romance
2.  Are you in love with romance?

Now that is not to say that I don't read romance and watch romance and in fact if you are lucky - you may even find a review on a book of that genre.  However, it is definitely not the only thing that I read or watch.  At any given time I am reading 5 to 10 books.  Crazy I know but it depends what I am in the mood for - a biography, a devotional, parenting book, marriage book, homeschooling book, novel.  But there is a healthy variety.  The problem comes when we start to live more through the lives of the novels we read, rather than our own lives

I especially enjoy a good crime novel but my eldest son loves to read, and often will pick up one of my books and start reading.  One day, I had one of Michael Connelly's novels lying around and saw Declan picking up the book to read the back and my first thought was to rip the book out of his hands and hide it under my pillow.  The scenes are often very graphic as many murder scenes are, just not the right type of thing for a child to read.  So I changed my reading philosophy.  I never wanted to worry about them ever reading one of my books again.  I decided to only choose books, that should they fall into the "wrong hands", it wouldn't matter.

I have realised that so much of what I read, can affect my marriage, my children, my mindset and my heart. And if it is going to affect them, I want to make sure that its in a good way! 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  What are your favourite books?  Do you like mystery novels or does historical fiction capture your imagination?  Who is your favourite author?

Linking up with Unveiled Wife


  1. I agree with the thought that romance can be 'women's porn'. It's a strong notion and not true for everyone, but it is certainly a danger. And, just as porn sets up unrealistic expectations for men and numbs them to the beauty of 'clean' sex, so romance novels can leave women deeply dissatisfied and blinded to good qualities that her husband brings to the marriage. What is frustrating is that the 'Christian Romance' market has merely recreated the Barbara Cartland 'cleanness' with as much unrealistic needy romance. The only difference is that we now not only lust after the strong, kind, adoring, protective man - we've added 'perfect Christian man of God, leading husband and understanding father' to the list. Unreasonable pressure? I applaud your decision to ensure that the books you read are ones you'd be happy for your boys to read. It's something that has been on my mind for a while, and the reason I encourage my girls towards whole books and keep the romance fluff out of our library bags.

  2. Lol! I see I didn't answer your question! Sooo, in answer: I'm just like you. Numerous books on the go! Although, when I have a chunk of me time, I tend to flop down with a novel. Historical fiction and family sagas are my favourite. Lots of fav authors from Lynne Austin to Jane Austen! I love Sally Clarkson for home schooling and Christian women inspiration too. Hers is a blog I follow closely - another one for your list in your previous post: :-)

  3. Taryn I agree with you about the Christian romantic novels. I remember thinking - this is great. This is just like the OTHER ones, but with non of that immoral sexual detail.
    It is easy then to start to compare one's husband to the spiritual hero in the novel if you only fill you mind with that specific genre.
    And I HAVE done that in the past, without even intending to.

    I truly believe its about keeping balance and ensuring that NOTHING we do robs our husband of our attention, love or admiration and that what we read should be towards enriching, deepening and growing our marriage.

  4. As a wife that has a history of reading Christian Fiction, I would still have to agree. I have noticed that over the past year and half that I haven't been reading fiction, my reality is more, well, real. I don't have ridiculous expectations of perfection for my husband or children. Not to mention, the time it has freed up for my focus to be back where it should be...on the REAL people in my world!!
    Oh, in answer to your question I used to read Christian Fiction...or vegetarian romance, as my husband has called it! :) My favorite authors were Karen Kingsbury and Kristen Heiztman.

  5. Thanks for visiting Kasey. I love the term "vegetarian romance"! And it's a perfect analogy. I am curious - what do you read now?

  6. Excellent points. Amen!

    Thanks for linking up to Domestically Divine. It was good reading this post. I'm glad someone wrote on it. Books do affect your thoughts, attitude, and outlook.

    Personally - I stay away from anything I wouldn't want my children to read.

    Again, thanks.

  7. I agree, and its hard, because I have to have this conversation with myself every time I choose books. In fact we are in a space now where we are trying to take the same approach with movies. If its not good for little eyes, why should it be good for ours? Difficult because there are so many ways to "justify" the choices we make.

  8. As a teenager and young woman I read HEAPS of romance novels, I just loved them. I particularly enjoyed the historical romances set in the highlands, you know the sort!!!! But by the time I got to my 30s I was so over them that I rarely ever read them now. They are shallow, lack any story and poorly written. I now read non fiction mostly as I discovered that the lives of real people are more amazing that those in novels. Romance novels are addictive and creates a fantasy and when we discover that our husbands aren't like the hero in the book we are very disappointed. Some chicks aren't much different, but on a lazy Saturday afternoon I will still watch them:)

    I am not sure if some Christian romances are any better, less sex but same dreaming. So I don't read them any more. I have no favourite author at the moment, but if I do read a novel it is usually a mystery of some sort.

    Love you blog:)

  9. I'm a big fan of the christian romance novels. I get really giddy about two people falling in love and it reminds me of how swept off my feet my husband had me when we met. Often at the end of a good love story, be it a book or movie, I am reminded of how much I adore him. I think this is all very healthy for a marriage. What I don't like, is how wrapped up in a book I can get when it turns into a "soap opera" of lies and tragedy. These books (many by Beverly Lewis) can make me see gray skies for days and feel genuine concern for fictional people. I'm trying to wean myself off of them so I can have a clear head. There are enough things to concern myself with in real life!

  10. I started reading romance novels when I was young because my mother did...then others lent me ones more risque than hers. I also think they can leave us with expectations that cannot be met. I guess alot of it depends on the novels. Many are far too sexual for younger women to begin reading.

  11. Shanda, I had a very similiar situation, but life never seems as good, or as satisfying as the book. I remember thinking to myself - I wish my husband would do more of this or that. Continual state of discontentment.
    Sexual behaviour is a big part of a lot of romances and I know that as a young teenager, I had an unhealthy interest in sex as a result of all these types of books. Often these books feed the wrong type of information to young girls and so the transition to having sex at a much younger age almost seems acceptable.

  12. I agree about the analogous of what happens to a man when he watches pornography and what happens to a woman when she reads a romance book. It is also not far from the truth that women who are not satisfied in their relationships and feel emptiness and a void within may turn to romance novels to help them cope with what they are suffering from.


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