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Romance Novels and Marriage

How does a bored wife spice up her love life? Apparently, by reading a romance novel. According to statistics reported by Romance Writers of America, the average reader of romance novels typically is between the ages of 31-52 and currently is in a romantic relationship. She doesn’t need to read about a man. She has one, lying right there next to her in bed, while she’s turning the pages of her romance novel.

And she is a voracious reader. Romance fiction outsells every other literary category by millions. In 2011, sales exceeded 1.36 billion dollars. The next highest book sales were in the religion/inspirational category and reached only $759 million dollars.

What’s the big deal?
What makes the romance novel so irresistible to the married woman? The obvious answer is the romance. Unmarried women who are dating can find excitement in growing relationships. There’s discovery and newness. Intrigue and mystery. Courting men do the dance of winning a woman where they put their best face forward and treat their love interest with extra special attention. Married men, most of them anyway, slip into a different mode of conduct. No longer needing to attract and catch a woman, they get comfortable in day-to-day activities like earning a living, maintaining a house, raising a family. They look at their wives as partners to help out, not a fair lady to fawn over.

While the married woman understands this, she misses the earlier times when her man leapt to his feet when she walked into a room. When he puffed out his chest when another suitor threatened or when his eyes would speak of his desire for her. Surprise, surprise: women are libidinous beings, too.

More than seductive
If you’ve read some of those steamy love scenes, you’d see that writers are ripping open more than just another bodice or two. Where once upon a time, intimate body parts were only hinted at—her heaving mounds of flesh—now writers zero in on exact names (which I cannot reveal here or risk being banned by library filters) complete with descriptions that would make Kim Kardashian blush (okay, so that was an exaggeration.) While men tend to be stimulated by visual images, women prefer backstory, setting, anticipation. When real life gets ho-hum or too busy with day-to-day activities, when there’s no energy or time for passion, romance novels can be a quick escape to get a woman’s heart racing again. Call it literary fore play.

Unfair comparison to real life marriage?
My husband once complained that “real men” don’t talk or act like the men in romance novels or movies and that women become disenchanted with their mates when they can’t live up to those romantic expectations. I agree to a point. But married men could learn a thing or two by reading about the type of men that can seduce their wives all over again.

As for us, we simply don’t need the drama in real life. I don’t expect sappy romance from him because, while he doesn’t realize it, he is sufficiently romantic for me. I love the way he always finds me to kiss me hello or good bye, reaches for my hand when we’re out in public, turns my hand to plant kisses on my palm. When he leaves the room for any reason, he stops to kiss the back of my neck. He probably would sweep me off my feet if it wouldn’t take out his back to lift me. There’s always plenty of love, respect, laughter, fun and steamy moments of our own—no fictional imagery necessary. But then again, maybe he did pick up a romance novel when I wasn’t looking.

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