Good Relationship Advice From Romance Novels

by Maya Rodale

It is a truth universally acknowledged that romance novels provide unrealistic portrayals of love that delude real life women about what they can expect from men, romance and relationships. This isn’t a new idea, as I cover in my book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained . As soon as women started reading and writing novels in the 18th century, people started fretting over innocent young ladies making foolish life choices (like, oh, marrying for love) because of what they read in novels. But if we can take love advice from classic literature, why not take relationship advice from the books that always end happily?

People still scoff at the notion of Prince Charming and happy endings — be they in romantic comedies or romance novels — and the women who enjoy such stories. But dismissing novels that portray loving, respectful, and sexually satisfying relationships as unrealistic is a way of telling women they should lower their expectations. But for those women who ignore the snark and stick their noses in a romance, there are plenty of lessons in love to learn from romance novels.

Believe In Hate at First Sight

Because hate is just another strong feeling that gets your blood pumping, heart racing, and passions inflamed. From Pride and Prejudice to 10 Things I Hate About You, there is something deliciously sexy and romantic about watching two individuals falling in love despite their best efforts to the contrary. In a swipe left, swipe right world, it pays to remember that there might be more than love (or lust) at first sight.

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Don’t Fall for the “Right” Guy

There’s the good-on-paper guy, with the high paying job, the right clothes, the expensive car. But maybe you don't feel the sparks. There’s the hot, popular guy. But maybe he's boring. Or maybe there’s the guy who your comfortable with — perhaps too comfortable. Romance novels have taught me that none of that matters. So rip up your checklist for Mr. Right and pay attention to how a man treats you and how he makes you feel.

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Pay Attention to How He Treats Other People

In a romance novel, even the most notorious highwayman, ruthless pirate, or dangerous spy has honor, boundaries and basic human decency. Heroes — and heroines, for that matter — are kind to women, servants, animals and children. In our real modern world, how someone treats the waiter, the barking dog, or the crying baby on the airplane provides a valuable clue as to how that person will treat you.

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Be Totally Unrealistic

Bestselling historical romance author Tessa Dare has said “women are constantly told it’s fantasy to expect fidelity, respect, and orgasms in this life and to seek the same in our reading. It’s not.” So be “unrealistic” when it comes to stuff that really matters — not wealth, looks or whether he leaves the toilet seat down — and hold out for someone confident in themselves, who loves you just the way you are, and who believes your pleasure matters.

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Slow Down and Enjoy the Story

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can give a guy your phone number but you can’t make him call. It’s impossible to force someone’s feelings. Sometimes he’s just not that into you and sometimes it might take him a few hundred pages to be ready to say the L-word. But you can’t force the love story to go faster, so savor each moment.

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Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

OK, sometimes you do need to quit waiting by the phone (or text, or whatever) and take matters into your own hands even if it means risking mortification, your reputation, your future security and happiness. It’s only when everything is on the line does the love story get really, really good.

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Avoid the Big Mis

In romancelandia the Big Mis = big miscommunication, and when the entire plot hinges on a stupid misunderstanding, it can leave readers wanting to throttle the characters and say, Just talk already, dammit! But when the miscommunication stems from not knowing another person and what makes them tick, you might be missing out on a fine romance. In novels, outrageous circumstances can force the couple to get to know each other better. In real life, it’s probably up to you to make the effort but it can be oh-so worth it.

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Demand Satisfaction

Let’s face it: one is probably far more likely to see multiple mutual orgasms in romance novels than in real life. But what romance novels show is that a woman’s sexual pleasure is and should be a priority and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. So find a lover who makes it a point to please you. And don’t be afraid to enjoy pleasing him or her either. The sexy bits should be fun for everyone.

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Find someone Who Loves You for True Self

For this to work, you have to know your true self and it may take you the whole damn book to figure it out. That’s OK. And you might not be able to do it alone, either. That’s OK, too. Your true self may not even be the person your family or society expects you to be. That’s totes OK. You do you. And find someone who wouldn’t change a thing about you.

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Image: Maya Rodale