What Romance Novels Can Teach You about Real Relationships

What Romance Novels Can Teach You About Real RelationshipsSo I’m no expert on romance novels marketed to women.

(You probably could have guessed that, right?)

But I have read a few because it’s related to work I do.

For me, the most fascinating part has nothing to do with the budding romance that inevitably swings into full bloom by the end of the book.

Rather, I’m fascinated by the way the same plot plays out over and over again.

That plot structure gives us an important clue about common problems in real life relationships.

Here’s my understanding of what happens in a typical romance:

Part 1.
Guy and Girl meet. They don’t hit it off.

Part 2.
Guy and Girl are forced to interact with each other because of a goal that requires their cooperation, like winning a competition or surviving the zombie apocalypse.

Part 3.
Guy and Girl start to build chemistry, but every time they take a baby step closer and let their guard down, something happens to drive them apart again.

Part 4.
Guy and Girl get together. The end.

This isn’t a thriller or a suspense novel. You know they’re going to get together by the end. The only surprise is how they’re going to do it.

And yet romances are completely riveting nonetheless.

In the movie version of this common plot structure you’re sitting on the edge of your seat as the Guy and Girl almost make it to that first kiss. Only to be interrupted by someone shouting, “Zombie attack!” (or something similar).

Your emotional investment gets higher each time their passion for each other is thwarted. You can’t rest until they get together and live happily ever after.

Now, that’s not usually how I’m feeling.

As a guy, I know how the plot is going to end. So I can enjoy the storyline, but I don’t get so caught up in it.

The tables are turned when it’s sports, though.

Ever been in a living room where all the men are sitting at the edge of their seats screaming at the TV while the women are hanging out in the kitchen, only occasionally glancing in to see how the game is unfolding?

Men are riveted when they have no clue who is going to win. The best games are when their team is ahead, then behind, then ahead again. Guys live for those moments when they think their team is going to lose, only for a risky play in the last few seconds to win the game.

Notice a pattern here?

We know that it’s not as satisfying for a man when his team doesn’t have to fight to win. An easy win is no win at all.

We know that a chick flick where the guy and girl meet each other, fall in love on the spot, then live happily ever after for the next two hours wouldn’t hold many people’s attention.


We become more emotionally invested when we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

The longer you can sustain that unbearable tension of not knowing whether the ending you want is the ending you’re going to get, the more emotionally fulfilling the climax is.

So why rush that stage when you’re dating?

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This Is What Guys Really Care About

This Is What Guys Really Care AboutWhat does your guy value more than passion? Do you know?

The answer may surprise you.

Passion is pretty powerful. Men and women alike feel drawn to it. All of us want a life filled with passionate moments. But there are things that matter to us even more than passion.

So what would a guy pick over a passionate, sordid fling? Brace yourself. Your guy would rather have . . . a solid “bromance” than a relationship based on raw passion and little else.

A bromance is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s an intimate friendship between two guys who feel like they can really rely on each other. It’s like they’re a couple, minus the physical intimacy.

Recently, some researchers were curious about how seriously men take bromances. Do these male-to-male platonic connections really compete with the connection men feel with their girlfriends? The answer is no—because there is NO competition.

Bromance wins, hands down. Given the choice between a fiery fling and time with a bro, most guys will pick the bro.

That’s because men’s emotional needs are more complex than you might think. Said another way, guys deeply value what they get from a solid platonic friendship.

There’s an important word in that last paragraph. Typical.

The typical romantic relationship doesn’t meet the needs men really care about. But here’s the good news. You’re not a typical woman, and you’re not trying to create a typical relationship with him.

You don’t have to compete with the bros in your guy’s life. You just have to create the same kind of open, safe space that he feels with his male friends. And that’s not as hard as it sounds. After all, you’re probably looking for the same things from him!

If you want a romance that beats the pants off of any bromance, there are three key ingredients. When these three things are a part of your romantic connection, you’re set up for a relationship BOTH of you will find magical.

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The Art of Avoiding Creeps & Encouraging Good Guys

The Art of Avoiding Creeps & Encouraging Good GuysMia had a unique problem.

“The only guys who talk to me are the creepy ones,” she told me. “I try to end it pretty quick, but it’s getting frustrating. What am I, a creep magnet?”

“What’s a creep, exactly?” I asked her.

She gave me a look. “You know. A weirdo. Someone who approaches me somewhere completely inappropriate, like a convenience store, and then won’t leave me alone even when I brush him off.”

I nodded.

“The first thing you need to know is that it’s not you. You’re not sending any subliminal signals that only creeps can decode.”

“Seriously?” Mia sighed in relief.


I’m often struck by how easy it is to take other people’s behavior personally. You might think that you did something to make someone act a certain way, when really it had nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Here’s an example. A man sees a woman sitting alone at a café table, reading. She’s pretty, she’s not wearing a ring, and she seems sad. He gathers up his courage and walks past her table. “Looks like an interesting book there,” he remarks.

She snaps the book shut. “Not interested,” she says curtly as she gathers up her things. She’s out the door before he’s had the chance to blink.

What happened?

In his mind, he just failed. There must be something so wrong with him that a normal, otherwise friendly woman would reject him out of hand.

But maybe how she responded had more to do with her than him. Maybe she’d just lost her job. Maybe she’d already been approached by two other guys that morning and she’d had enough. Maybe she was in no mood for company. Who knows?

What we do know is that men and women don’t always know what’s going through each other’s minds. They make assumptions. And sometimes, those assumptions are wrong.

“The next thing you need to know,” I told Mia, “is something about what it’s like to be a man.”

Although men and women are equals in most areas of life, gender roles are alive and kicking in dating. Men are still supposed to make the first move. That’s their job.

It’s tough. Guys who put themselves out there must get used to rejection. It comes with the territory. Some men do better than others. They can read a woman’s signals and sense whether she’s open to being approached.

But not all men can.

Some men can’t read women at all. Because they’re not sure why some women say yes and other women say no, they approach every woman they can. They treat it as a numbers game.

Think of these guys as spammers. They strike up conversations anywhere, anytime, in the hope they’ll get a bite. They don’t just target women like Mia. As long as a woman is female, she’s fair game.

So what do you do when you get targeted by a spammer?

And how do you distinguish between him and a genuinely good guy hoping to make a connection?

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How to Have All the Romance and None of the Regret

how to live without regretsDo you have any relationship regrets? Things you said or did you wish you could take back? Things you didn’t do that you wish you had?

You might think, “Well sure, James. Most of us do.” And you’d be right…as long as you take into account a surprising statistic.

On average, women are roughly two times more likely to have romantic regrets than men.[i] (In contrast, men tend to have more work-related regrets.)

And what’s really fascinating is that the longest lasting, most powerful romantic regrets are not about mistakes. They’re about missed opportunities.

Which means you’re more likely to kick yourself for NOT flirting with the cute guy at Starbucks than for making a fool of yourself if you do.

It’s all about risk. Short-term risks, like embarrassment at a failed flirting attempt, carry more weight in the moment than long-term risks, like regret. Fear of failure can be a powerful motivator.

But I tend to agree with Lucille Ball who famously said, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”

At the end of the day or the end of the decade, wouldn’t you rather look back and know you were daring enough to go for it? Even if you don’t always succeed, wouldn’t it be better to regret the things you tried and failed than to regret the things you were too afraid to try?

If so, then you’re ready for a crash course in regret-free romance. Below is a three-step plan to help you carpe that diem.

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