Thursday, January 25, 2007

Romance Novels Can Provide Opportunities for Learning about Adult Loving Relationships

Many of my fellow writers continue to remind me that the primary purpose of a romance novel is to entertain. “It’s an opportunity for escape,” they say. Nonetheless, as a lifetime educator with many years of experience as a psychologist specializing in marriage and couples counseling, I argue that romance novels also can provide opportunities for learning about adult loving relationships.

In my self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships, for example, in the chapter on Relationship Skills and wrote, “My clinical and personal experiences repeatedly have indicated to me that there are three distinct stages of adult loving relationships: (1) the Establishment Stage-- when two individuals are initiating, beginning and starting their relationship; (2) the Maintenance Stage-- when they are continuing, developing, enriching, strengthening and extending their relationship; and (3) the Ending Stage-- when they are reducing, diminishing, transforming and bringing closure to their relationship. I also have found that most people have ‘good’ skills in establishing and beginning adult loving relationships, ‘mediocre’ skills in maintaining and continuing adult loving relationships, and ‘poor’ skills in ending and bringing closure to adult loving relationships.”

In my recently published contemporary romance novel, Fear of Feeling Loved, Marcia and Jack struggle with establishing and enhancing their relationship, and in doing so demonstrate some very good and not-so-good Establishment Stage and Maintenance Stage relationship skills. Likewise, in my previous contemporary romance novel, My Sweetpe: Seven Years and Seven Days, Sheila and Troy struggle with the ending of their marriage and divorce, and in the process demonstrate some very good and not-so-good Ending-Stage relationship skills.

I’m curious about two things: (1) how does what I say about the three stages of stages of relationship skills fit with your experience? And, (2) do you learn about relationships (and yourself) in the process of reading romance novels?



Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Hmm, I don't think I personally have learned about relationships from romance novels, but I have put my own view of relationships into my fiction. Relationships are very unique and have many layers as do individuals. So the more complex a character, the more interesting!

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog (I think through Kelly Parra, but not sure)... and I love it! This post is great, I've linked to it in my post for today, I hope you don't mind!
I'll be back often!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Kelly,
Great point(s). I also think most good novels are an extension of the author's "being" (and yes, the more complex the more intriguing). In view of my background, I suspect I focus on relationship issues more than the typical romance writer. One thing is for sure though -- none of the relationship issues in any of my romance novels ever reflects any of the issues with which I struggled in my personal life. (And if you believe that...)
Thanks again,

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Nienke,
I just checked out your blog... nice! I'm going to post a Comment on it too. Nonetheless, I'm delighted that you found my blog... and what a compliment -- you linked mine to yours... Wow! Thank you.
Please know that you have an open invitation to come back any time, and after seeing your blog I hope you'll offer Comments on mine (you have a lot to offer!).
'til next time, thanks!