Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Romance Stuff #2 - No Co-depenency Allowed!

I love romance, but sometimes I get a little concerned by the messages in romance novels, especially secular romances. So for my writing, and for this Valiant Hearts Series in particular, my goal is that the romances I depict will be excellent, healthy examples and not have even a hint of co-dependency.

 If you aren’t familiar with the term, co-dependency is when you don’t properly distinguish the boundaries between your life and responsibilities and the lives and responsibilities of others around you. This can be especially tricky in a marriage, in which two lives in many ways become one. But in order for a marriage to be healthy, it must be made of two strong, mature, and independent people who are able to stand on their own feet. When they choose to join their lives, they voluntarily become interdependent, but hopefully not co-dependent. Co-dependency leads to all sorts of unhealthy issues like addictions, lies, control, manipulation, mistreatment, and even flat out abuse.

Here is some seemingly romantic but co-dependent thinking to watch out for.

Fatal Attraction – If you fall in love so hard that you cannot possibly live without that man, yikes! I know that feeling. That, “I might as well just jump off a cliff if I can’t be with you,” feeling. It’s romantic, it’s sexy, and it’s HORRIBLY UNHEALTHY! Often these people believe they have found their “soulmate,” which by the way, is not a Christian concept. I’m all for passionate feelings, great connections, even instant attractions, but then you must take time to see if the relationship can actually work. Sometimes those instant attractions happen because the person triggers some old wound in our hearts, which can turn out awful. Other times the person might be a good fit in some ways, but all wrong in other ways, and if so, we need to be able to let them go. The goal should be to seek God for the relationship that will best fulfill HIS purposes for you and the man (or woman--if any males are reading this) you marry. While those feelings can seem awesome, especially in the beginning, in the end it is friendship, spiritual connection, and common goals that will hold a marriage together.

Defined by a Man – If you do not feel like a complete and valuable person on your own, you might be looking for trouble. A woman (or man, although I would say that's less likely for this one) should not feel like she has to get married in order to fulfill a valuable role in society or in God’s kingdom. She should not enter marriage feeling like a half of a person. She should not hold off deciding her goals for life (career, geographic location, ministry, etc…) until she meets a man. Instead, she should seek out God’s plan for her life, pursue it, and then be open to finding a man who will complement her, connect with her, understand her, and provide a positive partner for life. I know that some women really just want to be wives and mothers, which is a lovely calling, but it can be a little dangerous too, because it can put your life on hold and make you desperate to find a husband. If that’s you, pursue a related career such as nursing, childcare, teaching, interior design, or the culinary arts until if and when God brings the right man into your life.

Need to Please  – If you are so desperate to find a man and please a man that you will change your beliefs, goals, and/or opinions for him, watch out! Healthy adults don’t let others tell them what to think or make decisions for them. Likewise, healthy people don’t want to control those around them. If you are so desperate to find a man that you let him change who you are, you are likely to end up with the wrong kind of man who will take advantage of that. And once the initial romance has worn off, you will likely grow either angry and resentful or lost and depressed because you have given up your true self. If you have unhealthy attitudes or tendencies, yes, those might need to change, but for your own good, not just for a man. Of course it is great to be kind and encouraging, to take wise counsel and ask others for input, to be cooperative and pleasant. But be true to yourself! The goal is to find the right fit for you, not to please everyone who comes along.

Savior Complex – One of the hallmarks of co-dependency is the need to save or rescue someone. To some women (and men) it can seem sexy or romantic to find a broken, wounded person and try to fix them up. To rescue someone from addiction or depression or financial trouble. And you know what, chances are you will have to continue rescuing them for the rest of your life. Our God is a God of second chances. He is a God who redeems and heals and saves us from ourselves. God might call you to marry a man (or woman) whose past is less than ideal, but he will not call you to fix or rescue that man. Step back and let God do His job. Then see where things might go from there.

I hope with all my being that my Valiant Heart heroines will inspire my readers to be strong and independent women who will seek out healthy, positive relationships.

What other co-dependent or otherwise unhealthy relationship habits would you add to this list? Can you think of books that perpetuate these sorts of ideas?


  1. I think I have two major issues with some Romances at the moment. The first being when the characters are totally occupied with the physical attractiveness of the other and all they can do is think about kissing, or his/her wonderful lips. Surely they've got other things to to think about? Most of us do!

    The other is rape-- I know its controversial, but another reviewer also bought this up the other day, that a lot of historical romances (gladly yours don't seem to be amongst them) seem to depict men summarily raping women without any kind of punishment or consequence as if this was just something that was 'normal' and commonplace in the past.
    I know such things happen- but I do sometime wonder if it is really necessary- especially if it seems to be used only as a device to crank up the tension and create drama.
    And is it really a reflection of reality. I mean surely women- especially women of the wealthy or aristcratic classes had some degree of protection? Isn't it just another way of presenting women as helpless victims or sex objects?

  2. I could definitely never treat rape lightly. It takes serious therapy and/or inner healing from God and a whole lot of time to overcome that. I have a character in my contemporary who suffered some mild abuse as a child, and as a young adult is finally coming to find freedom from it.

    Now if I were writing adult books it might be interesting to look at an arranged marriage missing the attraction and how they might overcome that obstacle and mistakes they might make along the way, but I'll be focusing on YA for quite some time.

    I do include the physical, though. A major theme in YA is the awakening of sexuality (I don't mean having sex, just a girl becoming aware of her changing body and desires.) Especially since I'm dealing with strong independent young women in this series, I think that physical attraction will be needed to catch their attention. It is a part of how God made us and a part of why we long for marriage.

    1. Yes I agree, that does happen its a natural part of growing up. It could almost be said that the common use of such content as that above, unless its done for the purpose of exploring its consequences or showing things as they were is 'trivialising' rape- and the depiction of it as something that people could get away with- well is it sending out good messages?
      I'm not a writer of fiction- but I almst wonder whether it could be more constuctive or empowering to depict women in the past as having had some degree of protection and recourse to law against potential abusers rather than just helpless victims of inequality. It did happen- women could and did bring legal action against men for rape, and one of the last instances of trial by combat concerned it.
      Just a thought again....