I usually use this space to talk about my writing but this was the first week of class so other than doing the third round of edits of Purrfect Holiday my upcoming Christmas short story (and looking over some covers for it) and gathering together some info for my cover release for Blood Red Roulette (in theory tomorrow), I’ve been consumed with class stuff and getting my internet restored.
It was a strange confluence of things that pose the question ‘what is a healthy relationship?’ It was one of the topics in the Queer Sci Fi comm on Facebook and I finished reading a book in a well-loved Urban Fantasy series (het) that had a romantic subplot that I feel compelled to talk about because of how unhealthy I perceived it to be.
I stand by what I said in the comm, I can’t imagine that healthy is going to change radically regardless of orientation (or maybe that’s easy for me to say being cis-gendered and hetereonormative). But seriously, is there anyone out there who doesn’t want a relationship built on love, respect, an equal give and take willingness to compromise? To me that’s what healthy looks like regardless of the people involved in the relationship.
So why then do so many romances (gay or straight) have super unhealthy relationships being held up as desirable? Het romances were really bad about that way back when and have gotten at least a bit better over the years, but I had friends who had manuscripts rejected because their male lead was ‘too nice.’ So being a nice guy was literally unwanted, something no one would want to have as their love interest.
Blink, blink. I don’t get it.
Lately I’ve seen the very unhealthy (and unequal, with one partner calling all the shots and the other living in his shadow) a lot especially in shifter fiction (because apparently all alpha males are complete dickholes and a lot of people have spent little time looking at real wolf packs) and worse, in YA fiction.
So, the book I finished the day this topic posted in the comm was a shifter UF with a strong romantic subplot where she had to decide between the kind doctor werewolf who didn’t want to be alpha, so he could care for people and the actual alpha of the pack (who works in security). This alpha (as Doc Wolf reminds her) would literally (not figuratively, he was very clear on this) kill a young man she was talking to because he might be a romantic rival. He punches out walls. He declared her his mate without asking and installed security all around her place also without asking (though that I can at least live with).
Naturally she rejects the Doc Wolf because he was ‘hold her back, make her stay in one place,’ and goes with the shouting, abusive, nasty alpha because she loves when he works himself into rages. It’s hot. It turns her on that he’s so explosively violent, forgetting for a moment that he tells her no matter where she runs he will bring her back. Let that sink in.
She doesn’t want the nicer wolf because he’ll ‘tie her down’ and goes with the one who promises to drag her back kicking and screaming if he has to because he ‘loves her so much.’
My skin crawled. My stomach twisted. Then I read this subplot WON a major award for romance. I went from sick to enraged.
Maybe it’s my experiences with men like this in my family. Maybe it’s my years of working as a doctor in battered women shelters. Maybe it’s because I have a serious addiction to ID Discovery Channel’s many true crime stories, but this is NOT romantic. This may be love but it is not a healthy love. I’ve seen this scenario play out again and again on those true crime stories either by the friends of the person involved weeping that s/he didn’t deserve to die like that (because I’ve seen it both ways, women being killed by their husband, husbands by wives and ditto with queer relationships be it lesbian or gay) or I see the person talking about how they did love the abuser (but they didn’t know why) and how lucky they are to be alive (often bearing terrible scars from the things that were done to them in the name of ‘love.’)
This sort of relationship where one partner is controlling will never be romantic or healthy to me. Jealousy is not an indicator of how much your partner loves you. To me, it’s an indicator to get the hell out of the relationship while you still can.
I guess I just don’t understand why we keep promoting such unhealthy romance, why we give it awards, why we showcase it for young teens just learning about love.
I’m not sure what I’m not getting about this. I suppose all I can do is write romances my way which will not have any of this in it. And that is what I will do.
2 thoughts on “Sunday Small Talk”
I completely agree – it would baffle me as to why the woman in that story didn’t choose the doctor. The alpha’s attitude is archaic and domineering and promoting that type of relationship isn’t good. I’ve been in a relationship, more than 20 years ago, with an aggressive type who behaved the way this alpha behaved, and my treatment undoubtedly shaped the rest of my life in unhealthy ways. In my experience, the abused person in the relationship isn’t so much in love as being so badly manipulated that they feel desperate and cling to the “alpha type” feeling that there is no other choice.
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It was strange. Honestly the doctor wasn’t that great either (he mostly wanted her because she could bear kids and most werewolf females can’t) but he was better than the alpha. I’m truly disturbed that I keep seeing this trend again and again in romances gay or straight especially in shifter fiction. And right, like your unfortunate experiences it’s disheartening that this isn’t just being promoted as normal and desirable, it’s being given awards.