Common Myths of Romance Novels

Jane Eyre book cover

I like romance novels. At least some of them. Hey, one of my favorite novels ever is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Lately, romance novels have taken a beating from some Christian writers and speakers and, in many cases, rightly so. It’s a very bad idea to base expectations about relationships and marriage on happily-ever-after fiction. You see, falling in love isn’t the same as staying in love or making a commitment or fostering a long-term marriage. And romance novels are mostly about that falling-in-love stuff.

I think we can read romance novels (of the PG/PG-13 kind; I’m not talking 50 Shades here), as long as we filter through them and don’t pull comparisons to real life. Don’t expect your husband to be as lovey-dovey as the heroine of the romance novel or your sex scenes to be quite so seamless as they are on the page.

The real danger, though, is the underlying themes that we may accept hook, line, and sinker without even realizing. Think of theme as the lesson or moral of the story. For instance, the theme of Red Riding Hood? Be careful with strangers. The theme of The Wizard of Oz? “There’s no place like home.”

But some themes are myths, especially in romance novels. Let’s take a look at a few:

The Time Traveler's Wife book cover

Love conquers all. So what if the guy you love is a time traveler and bounces in and out of your life at various ages? So what if your love interest is a vampire who desperately wants to suck your blood dry? These are minor challenges in the face of Invincible Love! So say most romance novels. Sure, there may be 200-300 pages of figuring out how to make it work, but they always do. Somehow or other, their love makes all of the obstacles surmountable.

The thing is, I believe this one to an extent — in that active love, practiced by both spouses as described in Scripture — can indeed conquer obstacles. But romance and “chemistry” can’t. In the real world, you need someone who shares godly values with you and who will put elbow-grease effort into your relationship.

Real love happens at first sight. One of the hackneyed exchanges in romance novels is a single person asking an attached person: “How do you know when you’re in love?” And the wiser, more experienced person answers, “When you meet that right person, you just know.”

Balderdash! Real chemistry happens at first sight. Real love takes time and care to develop. Sure, you want to have chemistry with your spouse, but if you no longer feel your tongue hanging and your toes curling at the sight of your beloved, no worries. In a long, successful marriage, you will likely have at least once that you wonder, Why did I marry this person? Did I mistake stomach butterflies for true love? Those rushing feelings of being in love can energize you to work on a relationship with someone, but nobody knows for sure that someone is perfect for them on first sight. You have to work for perfect . . . or at least amazing.

Wuthering Heights book cover

(Romantic) Love makes bad people good. You know this one: Good girl meets bad boy. Because of her overwhelming love, bad boy leaves his bad life and embraces a new life — full of light and love and laughter. *cue music* Romance novels often assert that people can change — practically overnight — for the sake of romantic love. They will happily leave behind their wayward ways and fulfill all of their potential because of the love of a good woman.

Now let’s poll all of the women who married men with severe addictions. Did those scenarios all work out . . . easily? As much as we love a good conversion story (yay, Apostle Paul!), changing your character takes a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of commitment. Few people overcome their inner demons in the time it takes to court a mate. I’m not saying that people don’t change; they do. But don’t count on your romantic love to suddenly yank someone out of a nasty mess. What really changes people is their own determination to turn over a new leaf, the support of others around, and God’s working in their life. Romantic love can inspire, but it’s not enough.

Great sex is key to falling in love. It’s practically a given these days that a fictional couple will have sex, and then decide that they are truly meant to be. Perhaps they suspected, but the way their bodies melded together was so perfect in their lovemaking that it sealed their destiny. *swoon*

Blah, blah, blah. Give me a couple who’s willing to work on their marital intimacy, and I’ll give you a couple with a successful sex life. I don’t care if their first time functioned like a Rube Goldberg machine. I’ve known plenty of couples who had fabulous sex with someone, and the marriage didn’t work. But a working marriage — with two committed, understanding, desiring-to-honor-God spouses — will eventually produce fabulous sex. Romance novels, and our society as a whole frankly, has the cart before the horse.

The Mountain Between Us book cover

Romance novel from a Christian author

So can you read romance novels?

As I said, I read romance novels — although I tend toward romantic comedies where things don’t always go right and that’s funny — but I don’t swallow these themes. I’m careful about what I read and how I read. I make sure that my Christian world view informs the way I see novels, not the other way around.

After all, we’re generally okay with our daughters seeing Disney princess movies, but at some point, we expect them to grow up and realize that their future hubby won’t be riding up on a horse or on a magic carpet singing love songs. We know that fiction is a pretend world. It may be entertaining, delightful, and perhaps realistic about some aspects of life, but it isn’t a manual for how to get or be married.

If someone wrote my marriage as a novel, you would fall asleep by page 12. Because much of making my marriage work is the small, seemingly mundane stuff of basic courtesy, carrying out household tasks together, honoring each other in how we spend time and money, hugs and pecks, and tickling and giggling with our children. Who wants to read that? (Although our sex scenes might be steamy . . .)

So my marriage isn’t like a romance novel. I’m fine with that. (After all, things didn’t end so well for Romeo and Juliet.)

Do you read romance novels? What are your standards for what you read? What other themes have you seen in romance novels (or TV or movies) that you believe are myths?

38 thoughts on “Common Myths of Romance Novels

  1. Anonymous

    For all the flack porn gets (and rightfully so) romance novels and chick flicks are just as dangerous. For every man out there lusting after a woman visual body there is a woman out there lusting after a man who would make her feel like the charachter in her romance novel. Feminist society won’t let women be judged or told they are sinful in doing so but I believe modern women sopping this stuff up and then being uncontent in their marriage is just as harmful as the porn men are reading.

    1. J

      See, I don’t really buy the argument the all romance novels (and there is a wide range) are equal with porn in their danger. Yes, erotica is. But a lighthearted romance? Isn’t that like a husband seeing a pretty, sexy woman in a movie (who doesn’t undress)? We don’t want to set those things up as idols or lust after them, but can we be discerning about it?

      Thanks for your comment.

    2. Anonymous

      J,
      All I know is women initiate 75% of the divorces in this country and the overwhelming reason is “I’m not happy”. Why aren’t they happy? My guess is what they are putting in their head and heart. What they are putting in is feeding a sense of entitlement and also setting up a very unreasonable sense of masculinity and romance. Also the masculinity is sanitized in a lot of areas and ramped up in others and leads to the same effect with men who watch too much porn and can’t get it up anymore for their wife. So I will stick to my theory that it is just as harmful as porn…

    3. Megan

      I was always slightly annoyed at this comparison as well as it just seemed in my mind not nearly as damaging although I understand the parallels of creating unrealistic expectations. Anonymous I would be interested in the source of your figures as it has been my overwhelming experience that the men are the ones divorcing and giving that reason (like I said personal experience, not a study so perhaps I’m in a minority circle).

      I’ve always been slightly confused as to why we even have to have these discussions in the first place though, reminding women that romantic novels are fiction. What other genre do we have to do that with? I don’t see so many articles reminding us that sci-fi novels are fiction or crime mystery novels are fiction and therefore we should not expect these things to occur in real life. It perplexes me. As an avid book reader since I was very very young I never remember struggling with expectations. In fact, my husband is far more romantic then I ever dreamed a man could be. I remember as a teenager in some conservative circles having a lot of Sunday School lessons on the evils of Janette Oke books and being so surprised. Different girls talked about giving up the books because they knew that if they kept reading them they would begin fantasizing about a perfect man just like the ones in the books. I remember at 13 thinking it sounded terribly silly because of COURSE they were JUST BOOKS. Anyhoo sorry for the rambling. It’s something I’ve thought about a time or two and I enjoyed your article, J. Thanks for being a bit more balanced. 🙂 Ultimately I find them to be like eating sugar. Apparently it’s not for everyone and too much is not good for you but a little now and then isn’t gonna kill you either.

    4. J

      That’s interesting, Megan. Because when some of my Christian friends got super-upset about Harry Potter “because we’re teaching our kids to believe in wizards,” I would say “Um, hello…Gandalf” (Lord of the Rings, by Christian J.R.R. Tolkien). Of course, this can be taken too far in any genre, but like you I think we need to be wise in choosing what we read without throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

      Now, that said, if a wife’s reading of romance novels is creating a big problem in her marriage (and I’d say this about a lot of activities), then it’s reasonable for her to stop it. Choose the marriage over the novels.

    5. Anonymous

      Megan,
      Those figures are from the US government Dept of Labor & Statistics…sorry don’t have time to search for the link but the 2010 # was 72% of women are the ones filing for divorce and the majority of them are no fault..in other words no one was beating or cheating…they just weren’t happy.

      Pornography is also fiction. Erotica is fiction. It’s all a story. It’s all “entertainment”. There are many men that could watch pornography and not want the woman on the screen over their wife, does that make it okay just as you don’t want the man in the book over your husband? The minute we think I wish my spouse was like that or I wish I was married to him we’ve committed the same sin as lusting after a woman…we’ve been unloyal to our spouse. Are there those of us that can do it…yes but I think you’ll also find out how subtly our minds and hearts can be tricked into being discontented over a period of time if even not at that moment of reading…it’s the combined effect even for those of us that can “handle it” in the moment. Romance is porn for women…because sex isn’t the end game for us. It’s the heart. It’s the emotional affair vs. the physical. We don’t think of it as being sinful or dirty like porn, but if it causes us to desire someone other than our spouse even if the someone is a fictional charachter we are guilty of the same sin. We give ourselves a pass because it doesn’t turn our stomach the way porn does but if asked my husband would much rather I look at a naked man than long for someone in my heart…even if the someone is “fictional”…those are the hardest ones to beat. He can’t beat him up, scare him off, call the cops on him, shame him….He also knows a naked man doesn’t have the same effect on me as the the perfect man in my heart and mind that can meet my needs/desires at anytime because he doesn’t have responisiblities, limitations of time & money, actual needs of his own (he doesn’t have to react to me)…think it’s safe all you want just remember about the time cheap romance novels became available to the everyday woman the divorce rate has been jumping every since.

    6. Anonymous

      You can google it. I comes right up…most from women friendly sites (read man hating sites) if you have any question of the authenticity of the numbers.

    7. Jennifer

      Anonymous,
      I tend to agree with you on this but I think it’s much bigger than just romance novels. About a year or so ago the church I was going to did a women’s bible study and the study like most included a video each time and in the video these women would discuss the topic at hand and one thing they talked about really struck me on the “decline” in our society. A lot of it goes back to the feminist movement, I am only 27 so I was raised post feminist movement the ideals are literally all I have ever known and I never ever thought that some of them may not be biblical or good for my marriage, family or life in general. But they were dead on they talked about 1) With the high divorce rate many boys grow up without their Dad in the home and sometimes not at all, so when they grow up they have no idea what it takes to be a Father, Husband or even a man and the turn key result we get these men that we all call lazy or dead beat that can’t hold a job, run out on their kids, treat their wives or girlfriends like crap. 2) Since we’ve been raised with the ideals of the movement women will sometimes take the “masculine” role in relationships, their the ones who handle everything (finances, big decisions, ect) Some are even the bread winners and some Dads are stay at home Dads to support their wifes career. Now I am not downing anyone in any of these situations BUT I can say a lot of my husbands “ego” is wrapped up in providing and taking care of his family, there was a time when he was out of work and I was the only one working and it was literally probably the worse time in our relationship (for many reasons)and I believe a lot of it was because he felt like he had failed and he wasn’t doing his job, ect. Right now I stay at home and I do handle everything else like the finances, ect, we make all decisions together but I am the one that usually takes care of it thereafter, and I actually think this is something we need to work on, sometimes I see that it bothers my husband that he really doesn’t know where we are on our finances except how much he brings in. I am not saying the feminist movement and ideals are all bad but I do think with any of it we have to be very careful. Also Megan it may be easier to just read a book for you than someone who doesn’t read all the time, everyone is different in their struggles. Just like some things some women struggle with I have thought to myself “really?” because it isn’t a struggle at all for me, but I understand that for many it is and I should respect that and help anyway I can. I think as with anything people need to be very careful in what they allow into their minds.

    8. Megan

      J — I totally agree, I get very tired of the ranting against one type of fantasy while praising another. Consistency please!! I also heartily concur, if romance novels are ruining your marriage they need to go. However I think if they are then there is more you need to do then just not read romance novels. Seems like there is a heart/attitude change needed? Or maybe I’m needing one. 🙂 Seems like it is evidence of a deeper problem.

      Anonymous — I still think I ultimately disagree. I just can’t make the blanket statement that romance novels are as detrimental and harmful as pornography. It just doesn’t feel to me to be on the same playing field at all having witnessed the hurt and destruction porn can cause. In all my Janette Oke or Grace Livingston Hill books I’ve never sat and thought “oh I wish my husband were more like him” or expected my husband TO be like the man in the book. Unless I’m missing the point entirely as to what the problem is.

      Jennifer — I agree with you we should be careful what we allow in our minds. I think the point I’d like to make is this is one of those gray areas where God leads everyone a different way…what may be okay for one person may not be for another. Let’s not make blanket statements and assumptions. Whereas pornography is categorically ALWAYS wrong I don’t think you can put romance novels there.

    9. Anonymous

      Jennifer,
      I think you’ll find much of the decline of the modern family goes to the feminist movement. There are guys like you describe, but there are a great many of those that are put in their place by the church and their wives. You may not believe it but women control the church and the family these days and are the leaders…backwards from the way God intended it to be. My own husband tried leading me for over a decade, which led to a constant fight…because my husband being the alpha male he is would love as Christ loved the church but would not let me step all over him and I was reinforced by my church and family (to be clear my husband was/is the most generous, sacrificial leader, tender and loving man out there)…I’m honestly not sure why he stuck around. It was not pretty. But most men aren’t true alpha males and will just settle for peace. We ask men to switch their masculinity off & on like a light switch and it doesn’t work like that. CS Lewis wrote, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
      Men honestly can’t “stand up” and lead..or man up. Most are pushed back down by the church or scared to death of divorce laws. Women are HUGELY favored in both divorce, alimony and child support. We’ve truly gelded our men and then ask them why they aren’t men. It’s actually taught in a great many churches and christian internet blogs these days that a gentle & tender & loving husband in the patriachary system is abusive to his wife…the world has gone crazy.

    10. Anonymous

      Megan,
      I understand your disagreement, and yes blanket statements are almost always wrongs because there are exceptions…but I will tell you I know of no divorces due to pornography (struggles yes, divorces no) but I know of many divorces because of dissatisfied women (not content, unhappy)…and yes the issue goes deeper than just romance novels but they do play a large part as does most modern entertainment and even church teaching (God wants me to be “happy”).

    11. Another anonymous

      Anonymous…just because a woman files a “no fault” divorce does not mean that she got divorced for frivolous reasons. It often just means that she does not have the money or want to engage in the battle that an “at fault” divorce would entail. For example, my husband is friendly with a man that admits that he did not make love with his wife for several years because he “didn’t feel like it.” He’s morbidly obese, and she is closer to a healthy weight. He also refuses to work a “real job,” but instead bounces from one get-rich-quick scheme to another–my husband and I seriously can not figure out where he gets any money to live on. The wife on the other hand, was working a full time job to support the family. Now she was not an angel in the marriage either…but I think I’ve presented clear evidence that the husband was being unfaithful to his wedding vows. And yet she filed for a no-fault divorce, so you would look down on her for leaving the marriage because she was “unhappy.” Ummm….I don’t think so!

      And I do know of women who struggled greatly because of their husband’s porn addictions, which then led to divorce. You may too, and may just not have heard about the porn. I also know women who let romance novels and half naked pictures of men influence them into being unhappy with their husbands, leading to the demise of their marriages. It definitely goes both ways.

      And I would advise you that you might not be so “anonymous” as you think you are…you are parrotting quite well the words of a male blogger I’ve read that I do suspect you are his wife.

  2. Maria

    I actually don’t read romance anymore. I realized it fed unrealistic expectations that were hindering the intimacy in my marriage. I will, however, read books that have a little bit of romance, (I read the Left Behind Series and enjoyed it; it had a couple of romances in it but mainly was about the action and suspense). I laughed when I read your myths because they are spot on. I definitely have found myself wondering why my (very much amazing husband) was not like the men in the books! LOL! Good post! 🙂

    1. J

      I also prefer romance as a subplot. My favorite genre is likely mystery, and romance is sometimes included but it isn’t main stage.

      Thanks, Maria!

  3. Amy

    Well said, J! I do read romance (as you know from my blog) and sometimes I am on the line of what I should read probably (still trying to figure that out sometimes). However, to balance that out, I continue to stay active in my church by serving, participating in a Women’s Bible Study where I am a small group leader and my husband and I lead a couple’s small group. My husband and I have gone through a lot of marriage studies which have strenghtened our marriage spiritually and emotionally. Blogs such as this one have helped us out in our intimate life, but reading romance novels has also brought back that “new love” feeling at times. We have been married for 14 years and when I read some romance novels I am reminded that my husband is my true hero. I have gotten to know many romance authors online and have recently met some in person so I get to experience what they go through as writers and how they build their stories, plots, etc. It makes it all a little more realistic for me. Plus, to be honest, I have also gotten some ideas on how to spice up my husband and my sex life and he has been very willing. Even to the point of reading some things that I ask him to read becasue of what I want to try, etc. We are very open with each other so we talk about new things and have boundaries, are they things God would approve of, etc.

    Now, I am not sure how I would react to romance novels if I wasn’t already in a stable marriage that has had its up and downs and been so close with God. I think they are very tricky with young women especially. I will be watching my daughter closely as she grows up and staying in touch with what she reads while doing my best to show her God’s love and what He wants for her.

    1. J

      That’s an interesting point, because I think reading romance novels can cause greater problems when you’re dissatisfied with your marital relationship. When things aren’t going well, you can find yourself comparing to other friends, the ways things used to be, the romance novel in your hand, and anything else. And yeah, that could be dangerous.

      But I love your statement that “my husband is my true hero.” That’s exactly the way it should be! 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    I read romance novels and know that they’re fiction. They entertain me. I’ve avoided the 50 Shades books. Yuck! I read factual information about that lifestyle and can’t imagine anyone wanting to be treated that way or treating someone you love like that.
    I also read my Bible and several marriage blogs. My husband and I are reading a couples devotional together in the evenings. Like Amy, I have gotten a few ideas from the novels to try out which my husband loved.
    Thanks for your blog!

    1. J

      Thank you for your comment! I also can’t imagine that lifestyle. Erotic passages in novels are quite disturbing to me, especially those that seem to be about how kinky the author can get. *shudder*

  5. Lefty

    Whether the parallel between romance novels and porn is perfect or not, the husband who is struggling desperately with porn is likely going to see a connection between the two and may use that to rationalize his own bad behavior. Or worse, he may resent having to work so hard to keep his mind clean, and failing often, while his wife gets to read those books, or watch those shows. These are thinking errors on his part, of course, and he is responsible for his actions, but wives should think carefully about whether they are helping or hurting his struggle.

    I think the wife, together with her husband, needs to ask two questions on this topic. First, am I truly guarding my heart (Proverbs 4:23)? It is great to see this blog post and many of the comments explain how to do this. Just as important is the second question. Is my freedom causing my husband to stumble (1 Cor 8:9, 10:23)? Because really, he needs all the help he can get. 🙂

    Thanks

  6. Anonymous

    I’d like to respond to the earlier commenters who said that romance novels can lead to dissatisfaction or and unrealistic idea about men and love. I love to read….anything and everything. As far as romance, I really only read old stuff like pride and prejudice or Emma. However, I have found that rather than feeling dissatisfied with my husband or confused about why he’s not as romantic or masculine as the characters while reading one of these books, they instead cause me to take more notice of the masculine and romantic parts of him. I guess it sort of causes me to feel a romantic feeling, and instead of pointing that towards some perfect, unattainable man I’ll never meet, I instead turn it towards my husband and take out those romantic feelings on him 😉 I think romance novels can help awaken certain parts of me that maybe go to sleep when I’m so busy with work and church and cleaning and cooking, and instead cause me to remember that I am a romantic person (to a certain extent) and act on those feelings with my husband. So long story short, I think wholesome romance causes me to engage with my husband in more romantic ways that help satisfy me, as opposed to leading to the demise of my marriage.

    1. J

      Yes, sometimes reading about love can make you look past the laundry piles and think, “Hey, if I put down this book, I can have some real lovin’!” 😉

  7. Greg

    I have nothing against romance (something I’d love to know first-hand) but high school English classes forced me to read all the wrong stories with corrupt morals and not-so-surprisingly unhappy endings such as: “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”, and “The Great Gatsby”. Thankfully, one book I was obligated to read actually conveyed a good moral: “Romeo and Juliet”; they did the right thing and got married before they made love.

    Honestly, outside of Scripture itself (obviously THE best source), I’ve been reminded of truth, morality, responsibility (and yes, even some occasional small-scale romance) from just watching an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” more than most any romance story…with one exception: I loved the very plausible and heartfelt story of “Anne of Green Gables” (1985 TV movie w/Megan Follows, but keep a box of Kleenexes handy–it’s a tear-jerker).

    1. J

      Wow, I feel terrible now that I loved Tess of the d’Urbervilles. (But I like tragic novels–Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, etc.) I thought many of the classic novels I read showed how poor moral choices led to bad consequences. But it’s been a while…

      My favorite romances are often the light-hearted ones in which the couple finally gets to kiss just before the closing credits. Or the ones in which people fight for their marriage. I’m not crazy about Leave It to Be Beaver, but I was a Donna Reed Show fan. Same principles, of course.

      Thanks, Greg!

    2. Greg

      Why you read Tess of the d’Urberville’s is something only you know, and between you and the Lord. I can’t (nor shouldn’t, nor do I want to) judge you when I simply don’t know your heart and what (if any) sin you may or may not struggle with (Romans 14; and please don’t hear me implying anything–it was just my take on the book).

      I can only judge my own motives (1 Corinthians 11:31), and I’ve found I have to be completely honest with myself before the Lord about why I want to watch/read/listen to something. As a personal real-life example: Why do I _really_ want to watch those episodes of Buck Rogers with Princess Ardala? Well, because of what she’s wearing; so I intentionally avoid them. I’ve found that it’s the only way to keep my heart in the right place; otherwise it’s just way too easy to make excuses for things, and I never want to go back there.

  8. Anonymous

    J,
    I’m new to the CMBA blogs. I “stumbled” upon Mission:Wife and Mission:Husband which led me to here. I have been reading for several days and my eyes are bloodshot. I couldn’t really find what I was searching for the other day when I came across MW, nor have I seen any blogs (so far) about the issue. It has been 3 years, next month, since my wife and I have had any physical contact nor have I heard the words “I love you” come from her lips for probably close to 2 years. I have prayed, fasted, sought counseling for my self but she will not participate. One thing she keeps bringing up is that “I don’t listen to her”. I DO listen though. I just can’t spit back out word for word what she said 2 weeks or months ago. She will ask “what did I tell you last time we talked?” (which is often months apart that we have TALKS). My mind goes blank or I might remember pieces of it. It is kind of like when someone walks up and says what does such and such chapter and verse say in the Bible. You know you know it, but how does it start? Then they say the first few words and off you go. Except she doesn’t give the firs few words and I’m busted, again. I’ve asked several guys if they struggle with the same or similar issue and most if not all have said yes. Back to my search the other day…I was looking for some third party (expert) or study, SOMETHING to show her that it is not personal…it is not just me with her. Do you know other guys who are “suffering” from my same disease? Am I really that bad as a husband? Do you know any of the bloggers or another source that covers this issue? I mean, I know a lady who told me she calls her husband the Forgetful Professor. Obviously this is not the only thing (I don’t think… she will not actually tell me the problem…says she already has and I should know). I just wanted to give you a flavor for what I’m in the midst of and see if you could throw me a lifeline.

    Blessings,

    1. Jennifer

      Anoynomus,

      I am very sorry to hear the trouble your marriage is facing, and I want to start by saying I’m praying for you. My husband is forgetful seriously forgetful he will often ask what time a party is 3 or more times the same day. Now having said that he doesn’t forget everything for some reasons some things stick and some don’t. Without knowing exactly what she thinks your missing it’s hard to give advice. All I can say is ask her if you can talk more often, see if she is willing to set a time at least once a week without any distractions to talk, communication is the key to everything else, it will bring you two closer together emotionally and that leads to the physical. I read this blog a couple days ago about communication (I can’t find the link, sorry 🙁 ) And one tip they gave when talking about a sensitive subject is to sit down together and hold their hands or something, it sends the message that you DO care and ARE listening and makes the other person who could be sharing something very vulnerable more at ease because they know they care. Try not to get frustrated (I know it’s hard) and be as gentle and calm as you can, it will also put her more at ease and make her more willing to have a constructive conversation. While you’re talking tell her that you don’t mean to forget things and tell her if there is something you have forgotten that has hurt her that you are really sorry for that and that not addressing the problem and saying “I’ve already told you” hurts you because you truly don’t know what the problem is. We as humans all forget things from time to time and maybe she tried to convey the problem in a passive way and expected you to get it and yet you didn’t even know (I have done this several times before and then been irritated that hubby didn’t pick up on it). If you attend church I also would suggest finding a Godly man to talk to, maybe a pastor or just someone that you can confide in and will give you Godly advice and maybe they have a wife that can strike up a conversation with your wife so she doesn’t feel like she is being “counseled” to. Hope this helps and above all else just keep praying, God can bring healing to your marriage.

    2. Berji's domain

      I”m no expert but I have a suggestion… ask her to repeat whatever it was that she views as the problem just one more time for you and as she is speaking, write it down/ type is as the screen saver on your computer. Then, keep a notebook handy and ask her to let you know when she has something that she wants you to remember and then whip out your notebook and pen and write it down. Date it. That way you have record of it, can refer back to it, and also, if she doesn’t warn you that it is something she wants you to remember, she can’t blame you.
      It sounds like there is a lot more going on than just not remembering (unless you have a severe case of amnesia), but this could at least (maybe) help her see that you are serious and listening to her words (and if you need clarification, her heart). (And personally I would think using an actual pen and paper if you typical are on electronics would signal that you really are serious about this.)
      I hope this helps, it is meant in kindness. My husband is not terrible at remembering, but he is not great. He does put things on his calendar though to help him remember (because if he didn’t, he would be terrible. 🙂 )

  9. Christy

    Yes I read romance novels. The one thing I stick to is making sure they are Chrisitan novels. They stay clean that way and encourage Godly relationships/choices in their pages. That way I’m not struggling to keep my thoughts out of the gutter. 🙂 I may not be normal but when I read a good Christian romance that reflects healthy marriages and intimacy it reminds me of all the good stuff in the man God gave me. Just my take on it. 🙂

  10. Debi - The Romantic Vineyard

    Anonymous,
    My heart goes out to you and all husbands who face similar situations. We recently counseled a couple who was experiencing this exact scenario. The wife had had it with her husband not being able to remember things she felt showed his level of care and involvement in their marriage and family. What the wife is missing is the fact that God hasn’t made us the same. And oftentimes our strengths provide support for our spouse’s weaknesses. You forgetting what she said isn’t a sin. It’s simply a fact. Now maybe in your history you’ve sinned greatly against her and there’s a trust breach causing this response, but if not, it’s imho a case of your wife arrogantly expecting you to be like her. I recognize this tendency because I did this to my husband. It was a year-long conflict where I thought the problem was all my husband’s until God gently spoke to my heart asking me, “Who made you the standard?” I was broken when I heard this, and by God’s grace He’s taken me on a road of change. My respect level for my husband soared to where I could trust him even though he didn’t do things the way I would. We became a team.
    I’m praying God will either break-through and help your wife see this conflict from your perspective, or that she’ll agree to go to counseling with you. We all need outside help from time to time. We sure got it during our year-long conflict. By the way, that was our 18th year. We’ve been married 34 now. 🙂
    Hope this helps a bit.
    Debi

    1. Anonymous

      Debi and Jennifer,

      Thank you so much for your responses. I felt kind of funny leaving my comment on this post since it is SO off topic but like I mentioned, I’m new to this blog thing and didn’t know where else to put it so it would be seen.

      A little more background. We will be married 29yrs next month and we have two daughters (17 and 6). Didn’t want to rush anything 🙂 I have worked in children’s ministry for 25+ years and was a Childre’s Pastor for several years. I have raised my voice at my wife at times during our talks, primarily out of frustration that she would never (meaning I don’t remember a single time) accept my side/view of the topic as valid. I’m not even saying it was a correct/right view but there was a logic to how I arrived at it. She acts like I’m weird or messed up if I see it that way. I explain to her that when she says something meaning one thing it may mean something TOTALLY different to me. We do not think or process the same. Not only are we not the same person we are male and female. Things also changed after the first daughter was born. It is like she started down another path in life though she is sure it is me that has changed. She has always said our sex life is fine though I beg and plead with her or at least feel that way. I guess it seems like asking a wife (not high desire type) if the sex life is good is kind of like asking the husband if the romance/communication department is doing well.

      Again, thanks for your prayers and helpful advice. I am standing for my marriage. Divorce IS NOT an option! I made a vow before God and her and will be true to that covenant. I am believing for VICTORY and that in the years ahead we will walk in such marital bliss that it will be as the Scriptue says…He is able to do EXCEEDING and ABUNDANTLY above all we can ask and THINK. And belive me, I can “think” some pretty good stuff. 😉 Of course these blogs help in that dept. too….

      Blessings,

    2. okanogangirl

      Hey Anonymous. I’m pretty new to this blog thing too, but wow, that is quite the situation. I’m so sorry that she is doing this. While I’m no scholar or expert, it seems to me that she is plain being selfish. There are a few Biblical reasons to not have sex, but I don’t recall “not listening” as being one of them. And what I can think of is for mutual consent for prayer and fasting. I’ve only fasted a few times in my life, but I know that to fast one must be quite serious about the issue. It’s not for the faint of heart, so it seems as if you are doing everything in your power.

      I’m not sure I have any advice for you, other than to say perhaps the steps listed in scripture for an unrepentant sinner. Not listening is NOT a reason to withhold sex. Furthermore, IF she would actually do her wifely duties, it very well might open up the lines of communication to resolve the issue.

      As a female, I am so discouraged by all the excuses women have about why they can’t/won’t/shouldn’t have sex with their husband. But with the rare exception, it all comes down to selfishness.

  11. Anonymous

    I don’t get the whole romance novels are evil thing. Isn’t the Bible the ultimate love story? And if we want to talk about steamy romance look at Song of Solomon. It’s almost as if Christians purposely avoid that book but it is still God breathed like the rest of the Bible. I just don’t understand it.

  12. forgivenwife

    I’ve had mixed feelings about this for a long time.
     
    I read romance novels for years–yes, the bodice-ripping ones filled with sex. I read them purely for escape from the humdrum realities of my life. Although they didn’t lead to my dissatisfaction in my marriage, they certainly made it easier for me to rationalize my own unhappiness as I compared my husband to the men in the novels. These books did not have a good effect on my marriage–although I thought they did, because the sex scenes would arouse me and those would be the times I would actually want to have sex with my husband. Rather than my husband arousing me, I was letting myself be turned on by fictional males who I probably wouldn’t like much in real life anyway.
     
    As my marriage began to improve, I did still read some of my favorite authors–but I found that I would skip over the sex. It occurred to me that this sounded a little like a man saying he read Playboy just for the articles. Since I’ve started working intentionally on my marriage, I haven’t had much interest in reading these books.
     
    I have one book sitting in my Kindle waiting for me to read. It’s by one of my favorite authors, and I’ve decided I’m going to read it. I like the female characters she creates, and the stories are well written. I talked with my husband about my concerns about reading the book, and I’ve asked him to pay close attention to my attitude and behavior in our marriage while I’m reading it and for a time afterward. If my fictional entertainment contributes to a real-life issue for our marriage, I’ll be done with them for good.

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