What Marriage Has Taught Me About Writing Romance #AmWriting #MondayBlogs spencermichaelsbooks.com/blog

Married to my Work

How can you write about something you’ve never experienced? About something you don’t know?

How can a Priest counsel on marriage? That’s another debate for another day.

I have had the honor and privilege to be married to my partner in crime for the past 40 years. Drum roll please! Every day was pure bliss and happiness and….BULLSHIT!

No one who stays married (and there aren’t many nowadays that do) has ever said it was a bed of roses. Marriage is hard work and it takes a lot more than romantic overtures to keep it going. It is a partnership of souls. It is a continual respect for your partner’s vocations and your partner’s respect for yours.

Marriage involves a selfless unconditional love that doesn’t always mean you do what you want, but what we want. You head not where you are going but where we are going.

That doesn’t happen overnight and sadly, most couples never get there. They come to the fork in the road, and as Yogi Berra said, “Take it.”

Romance is still the key after 40 years. Not in the sexual sense, but in the spiritual sense. It can mean unbuttoning those pesky collar buttons so that she doesn’t have to do it before ironing my shirt. It can be having a rose on the table at supper. It can be a pat on the shoulder or a hug. It can be a gift when there is nothing special to celebrate except having made it through another day.

These subtleties are what the romance writer needs to illustrate when bringing the characters together. The writer then needs to ask himself, what makes these characters want to stay together? Can they endure the trials before them or will they just buckle under the pressures of life to become another statistic of failure. The author should consider those little things that are so easily dismissed as unimportant when building character relationships. People are easily attracted to one another, but what is it that keeps the relationship going and develop long after the honeymoon period?

Does the experience of marriage help to answer these questions…you betcha! And if, for you, it doesn’t then you better “buy her a rose, call her from work, open a door for her, what would it hurt. Show her you love her by the look in your eyes. These are the little things she needs the most in her life.” I do love me some Luther…

Spencer’s Two Cents: It’s funny reading this, really. I guess I never realized just how lucky I was and unlikely in this age to have two parents stay married for my whole childhood. What’s really funny is that it’s quite easy for me to remember times when Mom and Dad fought…seems like it happened a lot. But to think more deeply about the subject, I remember the subtleties too. There were always moments when Mom would be on the verge of tears and Dad would hug her so long it frustrated her. “Don’t,” she would say, “just let me be upset!” That kind of exchange is so funny to me. But anyway, Dad also illustrated something unique about long-term relationships. Taking small chunks of your time to do something for someone else (unbuttoning the collar, putting the toilet seat down, etc.) is really emblematic of the small sacrifices couples make for each other without even realizing it. When we begin to internalize the needs and wants of our partner and subconsciously seek to meet those needs, that’s when you know that the me is becoming a we. There’s an interesting book by Jonathan Haidt called The Happiness Hypothesis that speaks to the difference between Passionate Love (honeymoon phase) and Companionate Love (old folks like Mom and Dad). I can truly say that I see life-long companionship in my parents and it’s something I aspire to in the future.

Happy Valentine’s Day Y’all.

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