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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Trouble with Romance

(From October 2009)

I Corinthians 13
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.

That’s God’s definition of love, but where does romance fit? Doesn’t sound much like feelings and passion to me, not that there’s anything wrong with feelings and passion. I would have to say that I for one am a great fan of feelings and passion, but at the end of the day, they don’t make for love that never fails.

As a young lady, I had unrealistic expectations about marriage, and I think reading too much romance was one factor. Now, I realize personality and personal weaknesses must also factor into the equation, but here are my thoughts on problems with the typical romance scenario.

1) Romances take place over a short period of time. So feelings develop quickly and don't have much opportunity to mellow into something lasting.
2) There is a sense of the hero "sweeping the heroine off her feet," which is also based on feelings.
3) Much of the story centers around physical attraction.
4) A lot of fighting takes place between the hero and heroine, but alas, (sigh and put back of hand to head) love conquers all.
5) Heroes are almost superhuman. Although they may not see eye to eye with the heroine, or have some very specific flaw, overall they are way better than real life men.
6) Even the “happily ever after” itself is a farce. It should be “basically content although they'll still face real life problems ever after.”
7) Finally, romance novels end with the wedding. Real marriages begin with the wedding. So romances leave the reader in the midst of a high, which in actual life is short lived.

For me, here were some of the results. I met my husband and was overwhelmed by his alpha male personality and good looks and married him less than three months later. Makes perfect sense in a romance novel. He swept me off my feet and made me feel like a princess. We seemed so sure of ourselves that our pastor and parents supported the decision. I believed the fact that my husband was in such a hurry to get married proved how much he loved me.

Actually, my husband was impetuous and impatient about everything back in those days, and ended up making many horrible decisions because of it. He’s Lebanese, sexy accent and all, (Catholic background, not Muslim--people always want to know) but we had huge cultural differences, which we were in no way prepared to deal with. We were painfully poor. However, with his alpha male personality he thought he'd have a big business break any moment and went further and further into debt trying to accomplish just that.

Worst of all, the “take charge” attitude I loved so much, translated into an oppressive male who tried to control everything I did and squelch my personality.

I know that sounds awful, but the first five years of my marriage were awful. And by the time they were done, despite my strong Christian upbringing, I was convinced I made a terrible mistake and feeling desperate to escape and find someone else. The right kind of guy. "True Love." Like in the novels. I never did physically betray or leave my husband, but in my heart, I was long gone.

I could go on trying to justify my poor behavior, but let me wrap up this portion by saying what I learned. God is not interested in putting us with someone who will make things easy on us. He is interested in accomplishing His purposes in our lives and the lives of our spouses.

My marriage has been hard, but we've survived. The result of all those hard years is that my husband is now a great guy who is leading a major ministry. I don't think he would have ever gotten there without an American wife who stood up and forced him to change. And for me, well, clearly my "god" of romance has been smashed on the altar.

I asked my husband to read this post, and when he got to this part he said, “But your readers won’t be satisfied with the lessons you learned. They’ll want to know how the story ends.”

The truth is, I don’t know. This story isn’t over yet. When I told that to my husband he said, “I’m sorry. I know it was hard. I love you,” and gave me some gentle kisses. I guess that bodes well for the ending.

To wrap it up, here are some things that I think make for awesome inspirational romances with the right kind of message.

1) Making the relationship more about why God would want the couple together, especially if it doesn’t fit their plans.
2) Hearing God's voice about getting together.
3) Having to overcome old hurts, prejudices, and weaknesses in order to fulfill God's plan for hero and heroine to be together.
4) Heroes with plenty of real life variety flaws, but heroines that love them anyway. (Has anyone ever had a hero pass gas or burp in a book? Now that would be realistic.)
5) Show physical attraction and feelings coming and going, but ultimately it is a choice to love and fulfill God's plan.
6) Make sure that the hero and heroine really know and love each other, flaws and all.

So these are my thoughts. Again, I love romance, and I think there are very good ways to write romances. I’ve read some great ones by authors like Francine Rivers, Mary Lu Tyndall, Julie Klassen, Deeanne Gist, and Ruth Axtel Morren. I like when despite the strong feelings between the hero and heroine, a lot of prayer and even God's supernatural intervention are required to get them together. I also love the silly chick lit novels that have romance but on a much more realistic level. Okay, and I like it when the hero is totally hot, as long as the right message comes through :)

What’s your favorite romance?


  1. Excellent, excellent post!

    After almost 22 years of marriage, I find that I "see" my husband in the characteristics of my favorite heroes. That is a conscious choice on my part, BTW.