When Romance Mirrors Your Own Romance

Children-dressed-up-as-bride-and-groom-252x300A few years ago, my husband gave me an anniversary card that looked something like the picture on the left. “Look!,” he wrote inside. “They found one of our wedding pictures!” It was a joke, of course. I mean, we weren’t nineBut we were both nineteen, which even in 1989 was really young. I am pretty sure people thought we were crazy, and when I look back, there may have been something to that. My mom was completely horrified. She’d married at the ripe old age of twenty-three, and in her mind, getting married meant that you immediately dropped out of college and started having babies right and left, which was not the life she pictured for her honor student daughter. It doesn’t have to mean that. In my case, it did mean that I switched universities (ending up at one that was likely better suited to me anyway), but my husband and I both graduated a year early and didn’t have children right away. With time and perspective though, I can see exactly why my mom was worried. As I went on in life and discovered others who married young, I found that I was the exception rather than the rule. Most people either got married because they were expecting, or married with the intention of both partners remaining in school only to have one drop out to support the other. It’s not that getting married very young is an impossible road, but it creates some unique obstacles that older couples don’t necessarily have to face.

A few years ago I read a very interesting article (which of course I couldn’t find for the life of me when I wrote this piece) that spoke to the challenges of marrying young. It was actually written in sort of a blue state/red state context, and addressed marriage differences and why divorce rates were lower in blue states. The article phrased the dichotomy in a way that stuck with me: “Adults creating families vs. families creating adults.” Do you grow up, meet someone, and build a family together, or meet someone, build a family together, and then grow up? It’s the challenge of an early marriage in a nutshell. My husband and I are in our forties, now addressing some of the issues that a lot of people addressed in their twenties. I love my husband, and we’re still married as we approach our 25th anniversary. But would I advise my daughters (20 and 22) to make a similar choice? Probably not, and they haven’t.

Why do I bring this up? Well, partly it’s because I am at a stage where I am talking and thinking a lot about my marriage and my choices. But it’s also because the heroine of the book I’m reading is eighteen. Granted, she is eighteen in 1812, which is a lot different than being eighteen in 1988 or 2014. It takes us longer to grow up now because life is complicated in ways that it wasn’t 200 years ago. But still, she’s eighteen. The hero thinks she’s young, and she is. And because I married young, because I’ve walked down that road, I know what is ahead of her better than most. I believe that young love is real, because I’ve lived it. But I also understand the intricacies and nuances of what’s ahead. It’s a little harder for me to romanticize it.

It made me wonder whether we seek out romances that mirror our own love story, or avoid them because they are too real. On one hand, if it has worked for you, you know it can work. Linda Hurst, who used to co-write Pandora’s Box with me years ago, was a firm defender of love at first sight romances. She fell head over heels crazy in love with her husband in a moment and knew that it was real and could work outside a romance novel. I’ve also defended young love over the years because I’ve lived young love. Periodically I’ve seen someone say (on our message boards) that you can’t possibly be in love with someone you met at fifteen. Yes, I personally know otherwise. But I am not exactly sure that I seek out romances where couples face the problems I faced.

Do any of us? If your spouse is in the military and suffering from PTSD, do you enjoy military romances? Or do you think they downplay the struggles? If you’re raising step-children, do you enjoy reading about step-families in romance? Or is it all just too real? If we didn’t need desire fantasies, we probably wouldn’t read books with bizarre will stipulations, secret babies, or shapeshifting wolves.

Where do you stand? Do you like romances that remind you of your own romance? Or do you just think, “I can get that at home” and seek out something completely different?

 

 

17 thoughts on “When Romance Mirrors Your Own Romance

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  3. Thank you all for sharing your stories – of young (and not so young) love, and how it impacts your reading journey.

  4. My husband and I married young, I was just shy of my 17th birthday and he had just turned 19. I was pregnant. My parents made sure I knew we didn’t “have” to do anything but we were blithely and naively very happy about the whole thing – having a baby and getting married, all of it. It’ll be forty years in 2015. While there were certainly bumps in the road, some things smoothed the way like supportive families, living in a place where jobs are available and well paying, etc.

    The only time when I remember real life impacting my reading life was in the nineties, during a spectacularly bad time of life and love, when I couldn’t read romance at all. I didn’t believe in love, I didn’t believe in HEAs that ended the day of the wedding, I didn’t want to read happy happy joy joy when I was so unhappy. Although it felt like forever at the time, things improved and I started reading again after about two years. As to particular storylines, it doesn’t seem to matter.

  5. Up until a couple of months ago, I would have identified with most of the romance HEA tropes. Now I am a walking talking cliche: 55 y/o woman, happily married 30 years who figures out through reading emails that her DH is in love with a childhood friend, having “loved her all my life”. Now I am reading with a whole different slant, particularly when ex-wives are tossed away as”my crazy ex”- it feels a lot more personal and not always quite fair. The concept of divorce and all that baggage looms large as I read and I almost have to force myself to read what was once a huge comfort genre for me.

  6. My husband and I were high school sweethearts who married at 19 and 21. Because we wanted to, not because we had to. I dropped out of college to have our daughter and he never went. However, we have always been gainfully employed and our natural children are both college educated professionals and our adopted children have had a harder road but are employed and good upstanding citizens. We have been married for 50 years. Would I read a romance about high school sweethearts who persevered through the trials of life and are still as much in love as they were 50 years ago? In a heartbeat!

  7. I grew up in a dysfunctional family – definitely not romance novel material! And that’s probably one of the things that drew me to romance novels in my teens. I discovered that even with all the problems in the world, you could have a HEA. And that it was worth the effort to have one! Life has so much sadness, anger, trouble, cares, etc…so romances, when done right, still help me keep a sense of balance. I rely a lot on recommendations when choosing books. I don’t have a lot of time for pleasure reading, so I don’t want to waste it. But other than that, I am open to trying different authors, topics, etc. My hubby teases me about my “I wish they were a dime” novels, but I have also introduced him to some great books – most recently Eleanor & Park.

  8. The books I’m best known for (The Weaver Takes a Wife, and the John Pickett mystery series) both pair women with men from a lower social status. I sometimes wonder if the reason I’m drawn to this motif is because it reflects my own “romance.” Granted, socio-economic differences today are not what they were during the Regency, but my father is a retired NASA engineer, while my husband’s father was illiterate, and their income levels and standard of living reflected the differences in their education. My husband was the first of his family to go to college, and he now has a degree in a highly scientific field, pulling in a six-figure salary. So I suppose you could say I’m drawn to romantic pairings where the woman recognizes potential when she sees it. ;-)

  9. I’d have to say it would depend on who’s writing the romance.

    My own journey was crazy! We married the day after graduating from university, then between law school, med school and three kids we managed to renovate a serious fixer-upper (our Dads did most of the work). The first fifteen years were challenging, but wonderful….now with one starting college and two in high school, I have to say I am looking forward to having my husband to myself…..finally!

  10. My husband and I followed a non traditional relationship path. We dated for almost a decade before getting married. Heck we had purchased and renovated a house and I had gotten my doctorate before we married. He’s back in school now, but he didn’t quit to support me, he flunked out the first time. So I can’t imagine anyone trying to write that love story. Frankly, I am rather eclectic in my love of Romance.

  11. I’m now divorced so I definitely don’t seek out romances that are similar to mine. It ended poorly and a romance without a HEA isn’t much of a romance. When I read something that reminds me of my own relationship, I’m not very optimistic for the characters.

    I also find romances with really young characters (specifically women) hard to like. At forty, it’s hard to believe in that HEA when you know how much of life those characters are going to have to get through. Love, and life, aren’t easy. I wish there were more romances featuring older characters, I could do with some inspiration!

  12. Blythe, your story about young love struck a cord with me. I got married a couple of weeks after my 21st birthday in 1995. On the day we both graduated from college no less! Everyone said it wouldn’t last, including his sister who is now a PHD and specializes in relationships! Then went with husband in tow to law school. After I got my JD, he got his MBA. We focused on our careers for a decade sans kids. We took so long, our parents had written off the idea of grandchildren. We now have a 9, 6 and 1 year old! I can’t imagine anyone would be creative enough to write this wacky story, but if someone did, I’d read it! I love reading all types of romances, but have a special fondness for alpha bad boys (whether they be contemporary or historical). Perhaps since the love of my life is the sweetest, best man and perfect father I know, there is some affinity to seeing how the other half lives. But I’m so happy I can read about it, because I wouldn’t trade my life for the world!

  13. I have a hard time believing this guy is in a position to criticize anyone else’s punctuation! (At least, I *think* that’s what he was doing…) ;-D

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