Earlier this week I read a post about how reading Christian romance novels can be harmful to us both spiritually and relationally. The idea is that it sets up “unrealistic expectations” in our minds for how our husbands should be treating us and sows seeds of discontentment. Because of this, the author of this post believes no woman should read romance novels. I respectfully disagree…sort of.
As someone who is married to a man who is better than any romance hero (as I mention in my dedication to my own Christian-themed romance novella, BELIEVE IN ME), I can honestly say I don’t struggle with this issue of comparing my husband to the romance heroes, except in such a way where he always come out on top. Now, I’m not a big fan of romance novels – even Christian ones – because they only scratch the surface (if that) of what real, true, lasting love and commitment is. That’s their main flaw, in my mind. Granted, in a book of that size, it’s hard to cover all that. It’s much easier to just put in the same old boy sees girl, boy fights with girl, girl decides she can’t live without boy for some inexplicable reason, and then they get married and go to bed with each other (in the Christian books, anyway) formula. But that’s not what real love is about.
Real love isn’t about feelings. It’s not about wearing seductive clothing to get a boy to notice you (I never have, and I won’t ever let my girls). Romance novels aren’t our problem, really. Our problem is we’ve forgotten that real love is about sacrificing our desires for the sake of another. Putting someone else above ourselves.
Romance novels may play a part in our incorrect view of love in certain situations, but really anything can be misused and abused. I find it interesting that the woman who wrote the original post says her book of choice is the Bible, yet she seems to forget that some of the most amazing love stories ever written are contained therein (Ruth and Boaz, and the entire book of the somewhat archaically pornographic [if highly allegorical] Song of Solomon, etc.). I mean, if my husband wasn’t saying a million sweet things a day to me like he does now, then I could certainly hope he might say something like Solomon said to his bride in 6:7, “As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks” (HCSB). And, in that case, I could certainly twist the holy intent of that beautiful passage to feed my own discontentment (people twist the Word to fit their own agendas all the time in proof texting).
My point is, I don’t think we can blame romance novels for that (and certainly not Christian ones). I think we should probably all steer clear of mainstream romance – and most definitely erotica. Those “stories” (and I use that term loosely) are so far skewed from God’s truth you can’t usually find ANYTHING really good or helpful about them. But still. The problem’s not usually with the BOOK (“Everything is permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial,” 1 Corinthians 6:12, AMP). The problem is usually something in US.
Honestly, for most women who find themselves dissatisfied in their own marriages because of something they read about a male character in a book, I would suggest not that they are not in the right place spiritually – although this sort of thinking can soon lead down the road to discontentment, which is a sin. No, I simply think they are not getting their needs met – some need or other…and it may very well be something their husbands are not providing for them. That could open up a topic for discussion – a dialogue in which they could express (in a non-confrontational, non-blaming way) what they need their husbands to do for them that’s not happening at the moment. We all need things from other people from time to time – especially in the husband-wife relationship.
Then again, as I mentioned before, it could just be something within US that needs to be set before God and repented of. For example, I recently became interested in watching When Calls the Heart on Netflix. And I found myself (after 8.5 years of marital bliss and 3 years of solidly happy dating before that) pining away for the excitement and joy of “first falling in love” – that stage that is now long past for me. In the middle of those “woe is me” feelings, I heard that still, small voice whisper, “What about the strong relationship you currently have with your husband, who loves you more than life itself and would do anything for you?” And I immediately answered, “Oh yeah. Right. I should be thrilled with what I have (I am). So, who cares if I may never experience ‘young, new love’ again?” The love my husband and I share is, honestly, WAY better than that.
So, in some ways, I think these sweet romantic stories can actually be GOOD for us. They can open our eyes to our OWN flaws and sins, if we let them. And they can actually point us back to righteous ways of thinking.
That being said, I am a firm believer in abstaining from something – anything – that might cause another believer to stumble. So, if I find that my continued interest in Christian romance causes problems for another believer, I may well have to stop reading and talking about them. I just hope it doesn’t come to that.