Ask Dr. Debra
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Dear Dr. Debra,
I love to read romance novels, but my husband
thinks it's a waste of time. He says that I'm setting myself up to
be disappointed with real life. Of course he doesn't think his books
are a waste of time. He likes to read mysteries, thrillers and
science fiction. But I really think he's afraid I'm comparing him to
the heroes on the covers of my romance novels. He definitely doesn't
look like he belongs on the outside of a book.
A frustrated wife
Reading a good romance novel is never a waste of
time. Reading a bad one however.... :)
You write that you "think" he's afraid you're
comparing him to the heroes in romance novels. Have you ever asked
him? It's important not to assume how someone else feels. Always
ask. When you do talk to him about this topic, make sure you use the
word "concern" instead of "afraid." Men usually deny being "afraid"
of something. Even if he denies any concerns, it's still good for
you to reassure him of your attraction to and appreciation for him.
According to the statistics provided by Romance
Writers of America (RWA)®, romance accounts for 52 percent of all
books sold. That means romance novels must be striking a chord with
a lot of readers. You just need to convince him of why this genre
interests you. Have you thought of turning him into a romance fan?
You might try challenging him to read a few
romances. When I introduce men to romance novels, I choose the
subgenre that most closely relates to the type of reading he already
enjoys. For men who like science fiction, I'll recommend a
paranormal romance or a science-fiction romance. Susan Grant,
Catherine Asaro and the writing team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
are favorite choices. For thrillers, try giving him a romantic
suspense such as one by Lisa Jackson, Suzanne Forster or Meryl
Sawyer. In return, agree to read a few of the books he chooses.
By reading each other's type of literature, you
learn more about each other. A book you both have read is an
interesting topic of discussion. When you read his science-fiction
novel, you have a whole new host of questions that can help you
understand him better. Why did he like that particular
book/hero/plot/subject? What did he learn? What did it make him
think? You can debate the merits of a particular plot point or say
how you'd make different choices if you were that hero or heroine.
And in reading your romances, he learns more about you. You'll be
able to discuss with him why this particular book was so important
The heroines in romances are good role models.
They are women who are facing challenges, both inside themselves as
well as in their business/work lives and/or family lives. They
change and grow, overcoming the obstacles to their goals and to a
loving relationship. They are women to admire. Hopefully they
motivate you to change and grow as well.
It's true that most heroes in romance novels are
idealized versions of "real" men. Whatever hard edge or dark past he
might have, he is (or he becomes) a good man. He is intrigued by the
heroine, treats her well, pays attention to her and works to really
get to know her. Even though he's idealized, a hero still provides
important role modeling for what a woman wants in a mate. I'm sure
your husband has qualities you find "heroic." And I'm sure when you
were dating, you told him how wonderful you thought he was. When was
the last time you told him he's your hero?
In your day-to-day life, it's easy to forget how
importance romance is to keeping the passion alive in your
relationship. Reading a romance can be a reminder of those feelings
you had when you were falling in love. That's always a good memory
to share with him.
The next time you are reading a romance, and you
see something in the book that reminds you of your husband, no
matter how old the memory, mention it to him. Say, "Honey, I was
reading this romance, and the hero did ______. It reminded me of
when we were dating and you did ______. It was something I really
liked about you." Do not imply that he's a jerk for not doing it
since then. Criticism will not motivate him in any positive
direction. Just snuggle up to him and smile. You might even read the
paragraph or page out loud to him. With enough positive feedback and
good memories, he'll start engaging in more "heroic" behavior.
If you can't get him to read a complete romance,
try a few pages. The sex scenes are a good place to start. Tell him
you'd love to act out a sex scene with him. Then pick one that will
stimulate (not intimidate) him. As foreplay, try reading the scene
to him, or ask him to read one with you. You read the part in her
point of view. He reads the hero's point of view. Then recreate the
scene in real life. Afterwards, let him know how turned on you were
by the experience and how you appreciate him trying something new.
He might request future reads, or perhaps even go out and find his
I'm sure from this experience he'll discover a
whole new appreciation for your choice of reading material.
Feel free to
me with your questions.
Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who
specializes in relationships and communication techniques.
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