So 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:
Guy and Girl meet. They don’t hit it off.
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.
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.
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?
If romance novels and sports games both teach us that all the juice lies in not knowing how things are going to turn out, why not embrace the uncertainty?
But maybe uncertainty kills you.
Other people can savor that sense of not being sure where this is going to lead, but you hate it.
Other people can adopt a “wait and see” approach, but you want it nailed down.
So let me help you out.
I can predict with a high level of confidence that you’ll find a man to marry, if you haven’t already found one.
Statistics show that only 7% of women make it to their mid-sixties without ever having been married.
Knowing that there will be a happy ending for you, can you relax and enjoy the dance?
Can you step into uncertainty, trusting in the destination even if you don’t know the route?
Then here’s what I want you to do.
When you meet a man you like, don’t fast-forward to the good parts.
Treat every obstacle as a new and interesting twist in your story.
Enjoy a little discomfort. Imagine what a good story this would make.
And don’t spoil the ending by telling him he had you at hello.
That’s like telling him his team is going to win even before the kick off. It takes all the pleasure and suspense out of the experience.
Why not build that suspense, and really enjoy the experience as it unfolds?. Don’t wait till the end of your story before you start enjoying the journey.