Translating Romantic Reading to Real Life:
What Women Really Want

by Staci Stallings (a 2001 Write Byte)

Not long ago, inspirational romance author Staci Stallings contacted our own Linda Hurst to talk about her own ideas on romance. Although you may not agree with the total picture she paints of the romance industry, her beliefs about romance are certainly something to think about.

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Why do romance books sell mostly to women? The answer, of course, is that women are more captivated by romance. Not that men don't benefit from relationships, it's just that many of them do not understand the importance of romance in a long-term relationship. And so, craving romance, women turn to the pages of Harlequin or Silhouette to fill the void. Because of this, romance is often equated with the sex portrayed in these novels. This is simply not the case, and the more we buy into this myth, the farther we drift from being able to clearly recognize real romance. We being to think that the feelings of safety and companionship must end in a hot, under-the-covers tete-a-tete for it to be considered "romantic." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ask what's missing in most marriages today, and the women in them will tell you, "the romance." For the un-romantic among us, "the romance" that these women are talking about has nothing to do with clothes dropping next to hot bodies. What's been neglected is the real romance that people who are newly in love do automatically, but fall away from once the "realities" of marriage and relationship maintenance take over.

In writing inspirational romances, it wasn't long until I ran into the question of the anticipated bedroom scene. Being Christian myself and having seen the consequences of traveling down both the paths of chastity and promiscuity, I knew I didn't want to promote anything that would degrade the spirits of either my characters or my readers. Thus I knew that any pre-wedding bedroom scenes were not an option for me. So, what was left?That was the big question, and it forced me to look at what feels romantic to me sans the bedroom scenes. That's when I discovered the four most romantic gestures that occur between a couple and how important they are to women. It is through these gestures that we feel acknowledged, heard, and ultimately loved.

The first of these is simply holding hands. This gesture tells a woman that she has an ally in this world that she's not in this alone. It is the precursor to a warm body lying next to hers at night, and for a married woman, it can literally be a precursor to a warm body next to hers at night. This act exudes safety, and therefore is romantic in-and-of itself. I witnessed the awesome message of this simple gesture at my own wedding when my parents, 28-years-married, walked up to light their side of the unity candle hand-in-hand. It wasn't planned. It was just their natural way of communicating they were there for each other no matter what.

A second truly romantic gesture is that of hugging or holding each other. I'm sure you've seen them: those people who are newly in love. They are in each other's arms at every opportunity. Their hugs are often not intense, "I want you right now" types. More often they are simply, "I'm really glad you're here and I want to be close to you" gestures. The feeling of being protected while simultaneously protecting is as primal as the need for food and shelter. Notice, for example, what happens when a father hugs a child's mother. Instantly the child runs to them and burrows between them. It is not an effort to separate the hug, it is an effort to become a part of the hug, to be fully accepted by another person that you love.

Another romantic act is that of touching of the face or hair of another. Mothers with small children will stroke the child's hair as they are falling asleep, and when one person strokes another's hair or face, it evokes the security in these earliest exchanges with another human being.

Finally, the act of talking gets a lot of publicity in today's world. The ways "Mars" and "Venus" communicate or fail to communicate has been picked apart to the marrow inside the bone. However, one thing I think that all this understanding has missed is how close really talking with each other can make both partners feel. Anyone who's ever been married knows how easy it is to get caught up in the six word sentences, repeated every night and called communication. "How was your day?" "Fine." "You get that account closed out?" "Yeah." You know this conversation. If you've ever been married, you've probably had this conversation. However, this isn't the kind of talking I mean. What I mean is getting under the surface of life to what's going on in a person's spirit.

Those newly in love know how incredible it can feel to open up to another person and let them see into your soul and then believe you are accepted for who you really are rather than for the mask you show the outside world. Not only that, but we all know someone we would like to get to know better, someone we could spend hours with and never tire of asking them questions about who they are and how they got to this place. That, I think, is the point. When we are first in love, we want to find out everything about the other person. We want to find out what they love, and what they hate, who they love, and who they hate. At some point, however, we begin to think we know everything about the other person, and we stop askingand listening. This is the beginning of the death of romance. So, if you really want to feel close again, shut off the television, put down the book (even if it is a romance), forget the laundry and the dishes for the night.Sit down, put your arm around your mate, and talk. Get to know each other again.I guarantee you both will feel the romance return. It doesn't take a myriad of candles, flowers, and candy. It takes two people who want to spend time together and get to know one another better. That's true romance.

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