Thursday, April 28, 2011

Being loved versus being "in love" in romances

Okay. Blog writing seems a bit like making a confession to me most of the time, but I can see by the hits I am getting that blogs about the romance genre hold interest for the most people. So here's another one about writing romances.

As a romance writer, I admit that I am enamored of being in love. It is a good part of the reason I write romances. However, every time I say this verbally to a mixed group, laughter ensues along with a lot of teasing about my sex scenes. Don't misunderstand me, I absolutely believe it is nice to be loved by someone, but it is often even nicer if you can also be "in love" with that someone. I happen to believe that the appeal of my books is that many people value being "in love" as much as I do.

So what's the difference? When a one partner loves the other, he/she will take out the trash, get the oil changed in the car, help run the kids to band practice, cook an impromptu dinner for a sporting event, and brag about the raise their spouse got at work. Each partner will take over when the other is sick and be the best friend he/she can be in times of sorrow and pain. The business of living requires that we each have a relationship with a partner who loves us like that if we can possibly manage it. Such a relationship is a very, very valuable asset of life and should be treated like it was on the top of a person's wealth list.

But when a partner is "in love" with the other partner, then the person diligently seeks to learn the source of their partner's joy including the emotional and spiritual, as well as the physical. The payback is the pleasure it brings to both. You can call it a brain chemical win-win if you want to, but that doesn't lessen the appeal of it. Being "in love" inspires a partner to go that extra distance to find out what is needed and desired the most. Now I hear all the time, and I'm sure you have too, that being "in love" doesn't last. Well, nothing much does in this world if you withdraw your time and attention from it. Sorry, I just don't buy being "in love" as a mere chemical reaction, though I concede the science behind it might explain the start-up firing sequence for most of us. What explains the people who manage to stay "in love" for years and years?

Let me show an example of how romance handles it. One of my favorite authors, Jennifer Cruise, has a very fun and funny romance called Bet Me where the hero--who used to sing but hasn't sang in a decade--sings in a restaurant to prove to the heroine that she is special to him. Compared to the over arching story line, this moment between them is a tiny scene, but it hits the core of both of them. As the hero falls "in love" with the heroine, he is pressed into behavior past his comfort zone just to be able to relate to her in a meaningful way. The gain, you ask? The heroine dashes out of the restaurant in tears when she hears him singing to her because she realizes that fact that he sang was more important than how lousy he was at it. While it sounds minor in some regards, think of your own stories. Every couple I know has one. Just start people talking about how they met, what each said, etc. Those moments are a couple's own romance story. And the real life past-the-edge-of-believable-I'm-in-love behaviors are usually more riveting than fiction.

Now here's my theory and it shows up in my stories. Maybe with the left sides of our brains we buy the scientific explanation of being "in love" as a temporary, fleeting condition caused by a surge of brain chemicals that wear off over time. However, I think the right sides of our brains seek out the romantic stories that speak to us because we know being in love is a habit that can be maintained by choice if we are reminded of its value. It requires an open mind, an open heart, a receptive willing partner, and personal risk--sometimes the kind that makes us sing badly. But is it worth it? Well it is to me, but then I'm choosing to write these novels for a living.  I have a feeling though that it's worth it to my readers as well because they are buying my books and talking to me about the characters and how they are relating to each other.

Personally, I really hope my partner considers me worth staying "in love" with for the rest of our lives together.
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