Until I started writing romance, I never even considered this a question. As a romance author, and someone who has been in a very happy relationship with my hubby for almost twenty years, I’m appalled anyone asks. Because asking implies women shouldn’t have high expectations for their partners or relationships or sex.
Relationships aren’t supposed to suck. They aren’t supposed to be just okay or fine, either.
TV shows, books, and movies have long portrayed relationships and marriage as unhappy and unfulfilling. And women who enjoy sex are sluts and whores (even though men would really like us to want and enjoy sex. Which would happen a lot more often if they’d quit calling us sluts and whores.). God knows no married woman likes sex—they just pretend to enjoy it until you put the ring on their finger.
It couldn’t possibly be that they’re too exhausted from working a full-time job, and handling most of the childcare, and doing housework, to have the energy to even be interested (Not saying there aren’t partners who contribute, but those usually aren’t the ones with the relationship/sex problems, if you smell what I’m stepping in). And it definitely couldn’t be that their partner sucks in bed, or doesn’t think beyond their own (already assured, if they’re a guy) orgasm.
Sure, there are and have been exceptions in mainstream media. But what we’re taught is that relationships are difficult and cramp your style, marriage sucks, and married women hate sex.
Hold on a sec while I go fetch a shovel.
Romance novels are one of the few bastions of totally valid relationship expectations. If you want to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship with someone (or more than one someones) who respects you and works to make you happy—in bed and out—you deserve exactly that.
The thing is, if you don’t know this kind of relationship is possible, you’re not going to aspire to it. You’re going set your expectations too low and settle for the type of dysfunction you believe is normal. I know this firsthand…
My parent’s relationship is pretty much a textbook example of how not to treat each other. They live in the land of denial, dysfunction, silent treatments, and screaming fights in public.
Until I was sixteen, and met my then-boyfriend’s happily-married aunt and uncle, I assumed all relationship were that way. They showed me marriage didn’t have to be unhealthy and demeaning. That it didn’t have to be a series of battles to be won. That two people could love and respect each other, and enjoy spending time together, even after twenty years.
Still, it took many years of therapy and many screwed up relationships with men I’d chosen for the wrong reasons to figure out how to have a healthy relationship. I even turned my hubby down the first time he proposed because I couldn’t understand why I would volunteer to marry anyone. Luckily, he’s one of the good ones, and waged a helluva a campaign to woo me into becoming his wife. I’ve never regretted it for even a second.
We’ve been married almost seventeen years, and still adore each other. We work hard to make sure the other person always feels valued, supported, and fulfilled. And we still have incredibly hot sex.
I wish I had read more good romance when I was younger, because I needed a higher bar set for my early relationships. Now I hope my books set realistic expectations for my readers. I want them to demand respect and love and support—and orgasms—because we all deserve at least that from our partners.