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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 to you.

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 own scenes.

I'm sure from this experience he'll discover a whole new appreciation for your choice of reading material.

Dr. Debra

Feel free to write me with your questions.

Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular contributor, or click here to view the archives.





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