What is Love in Romance?

by Lori on 04.09.2011

in writing

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In my not-writing day job, I do therapy.  I spend my day encouraging people to accept and care for themselves, helping them search for balance, and examining what, in their lives, isn’t working.  As day jobs go, it definitely doesn’t suck.  But I have learned that bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it and then we’re left to pick up the pieces and deal with all the ensuing emotions.

To me, especially when writing romance (which, I do), the two main characters have broken places*.  It’s not that they couldn’t get past what’s dug in deep or that they’re incapable of healthy relationships.  It’s that, just like in real life, we sometimes make bad choices when it comes to who we date and those bad choices can often be seen through a filter of our experiences.  I know people can grow into their thirties, forties, fifties or older before finding what makes them choose people who are wrong for them.

In romance, to me, it’s about coming upon this person who is actually a perfect fit.  Not perfect.  Perfect is dull.  But perfect for the character.  And then it comes down to this push-pull that they’re just right because of how they not only soothe, but embrace, the broken places except the character isn’t ready yet because they need to grow.  Need to arc, if you will.

Jennifer Crusie wrote, in her essay Dating Death: Love and Sex in Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

“I love you because” is conditional love, based on what the object does for the lover; the “You complete me” statement that sounds good but is really a threat: “Complete me or lose me, it’s all about me.” Mature love, goes beyond that and says that it doesn’t matter whether the object is wonderful or not, the love is just there, like the air we breathe.

In romance, our characters push past the lust and infatuation and all the reasons this person is wrong (which are sometimes also the reasons that person is right) and come out the other side in a mature, healthy relationship.  And then they get the happily-ever-after.  It’s because they examine the broken places, they find a way to heal or embrace them, they stop doing what isn’t working.  And it’s not because love heals all wounds, it’s because real love makes you want to be a better you.

More on this topic:

*Broken places is a term I personally use.  It’s not clinical in any way.  It comes from many conversations I had with a friend about how our broken places make us who we are.  They make us grow and become better at being ourselves.

“…because real love makes you want to be a better you.” ~ Click to Tweet

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Elizabeth April 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm EDT

Great observations! Thanks for sharing your expertise on this. I often worry that I’m so wrapped up in plot that I don’t work in the romance angle in a believable, healthy way. For my current project, I think I’ll have to do a revision pass of the entire novel with only the love component in mind. The way we feel about people is so tricky and has so much to do with how we feel about ourselves and what we think we want that you really have to know your characters inside and out to make it make sense in the story. Thanks for another great post!

Lori
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April 9, 2011 at 7:34 pm EDT

It’s scary when you think about how many passes we really need to make to a manuscript to make those several-thousand-words a manageable entity.

Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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