After the Ball- The Other Side of RomanceIt doesn't always work out so well...
We love the ball scenes in our romances. I don't mean necessarily the waltzing-whirling-gorgeous gowns type where the heroes actually seem to know how to be really romancey and romantic. Contemporary novels have such moonlight and roses scenes too. They're wonderful. They're the scenes that arouse our pheromones and make us feel bonded to these really wonderful guys, that makes us feel they are soooo perfect...
Oh, but you know what comes next. We are talking romances here, aren't we? If we haven't reached The End yet, we know something has to go wrong. We know the romance is built on conflict, and at least until the major conflict is resolved, the story can't come to an end.
In a fictional romance, the conflict does reach resolution.. And just as the story can't end before that's resolved, if the writer makes the mistake of resolving the main conflicts before the end, or conducts a major love scene in such a way that the story feels like the love scene has resolved the conflict between the lovers, the story's over, whether she's reached The End or not.
Romance fiction, although it's often maligned as being unrealistic, actually does capture the essence of the male/female bonding pretty accurately. I think it's interesting that some recent studies are showing things romance readers have known all along, and all of them lead to conflict in the bonding process.
It's no big surprise to any romance reader that men and women are hard-wired differently. Men have only 4 to 6 receptors in the brain that home in on facial and body language, and accurately interpret it. Women on the other hand have 14 to 16 to do that job. So it's no wonder women think their partners "should have known" what they were feeling, while the partner missed the signals entirely.
We also know, though, that this doesn't make the guy stupid. He has other hard wires his partner doesn't understand, or in many cases even recognize.
Another study of interest recently showed that when a very attractive single male flirts with an attached woman, she (of course) feels flattered, but that her response toward her mate is to become more attentive. On the other hand, when a single, attractive female flirts with an attached male, he's not only flattered, he acts less positively toward his mate. This is a little harder to interpret, but I think it does point to a less monogamous orientation in a male than a female. And maybe it says something about the basis for female jealousy. Maybe we know it doesn't take much sometimes to set a guy to wandering. Maybe it says there's less alignment between sex and commitment in the male and we instinctively know it. Or maybe it just says guys will let a little flirting go to their heads.
Be that what it might be, it still spells conflict. In real life, relationship conflict occurs and recurs throughout life, changing with age and experience, always calling for work on resolution. In fiction, the conflict can be all resolved when the story reaches its end. I think a wise story doesn't give the impression the relation will be solid and without conflict for the remainder of the couple's Happily Ever After life. Rather, it should give the impression that they have achieved the goal for this story, the commitment to a bonded life together. Their story, as made public, spand from the point where the problem began and continues through to the resolution of that problem. But their lives go on. They are changed people because of their experience, but they remain people who will continue to lead lives in which conflict will surface.
So there. See? Romance really is realistic fiction after all. But then, we knew it all along, didn't we?
Be sure to check out my blog at In Search of Heroes today, which continues on the subject of Why Guys Don't GEt It- And Women Don't, Either.