Everything I Need to Know: Husbandly Questions

AdviceIt’s time once again when the email queries of those seeking advice are answered by the power of Greyskull and the wisdom of romance novels.

Dear Smart Bitch Sarah:

I’m sure you’re going to bust my ass for this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. You promised not to reveal identities so I’m holding you to it.

My wife reads a ton of romance novels. She loves them. I’ve got no problem with that, but my question is this: how is a real life man supposed to measure up to all the sexy men and incredible sex in these novels? How can I compete with that?

Worried Husband

Dear Worried:

First, look in your pants. Look specifically at your trouser snake. Is it made of paper? No? Then you’re already ahead of the game.

You are not the first male to wonder if he measures up to the throbbing, turgid passions and the outlandishly rich and sultry heroes of romance novels. I can’t answer the unspoken question that I’m reading between the lines here, which is that you sound concerned that your wife is getting something out of these romance novels that she isn’t getting from you. I don’t know enough about your marriage to answer that. But I can demystify romance novels a little bit, since I’m assuming you haven’t read one.

First, romances are about relationships, conflict, emotions, and sex. Sometimes there’s a lot of sex. Sometimes the conflict and the relationship is based on sex. Sometimes there’s barely any sex and all the kissing is without tongue. So your wife is probably not looking in a romance novel for sexual action that you aren’t providing, because the sexual action might be very tame indeed.

I can’t tell you why all women read romances, but I can tell you why I read them: I like knowing there’s a happy ending, that I’ll be invited to empathize with the protagonists knowing that no matter how bad it gets for them, it’ll all turn out ok in the end. That’s pretty powerful reading for today’s average female. For me, it’s a wonderful break away from all the things I worry about.

It’s not always about the sexy men. To be honest, some romance heroes are fun to read about but would be candidates for an asskicking in real life. I’m going out on a limb to presume that you and your wife are relatively happy with one another, and that there’s not a larger issue working here, but I don’t think any woman who reads romance wishes her husband were the Greek billionaire with the overbearing mother and the moody, taciturn personality. Unless you are a Greek billionaire with an overbearing mother.

While the sex in a romance novel is most often outstanding, wall banging, bed pounding excellence, it’s also like that in movies and on tv most of the time. Realistic sex that’s sometimes silly, funny, goofy or passionate or awkward or emotional or mind numbing is an experience that books can’t really replicate.

You might want to ask your wife to recommend a novel she thinks you might like, if you like fiction. Romance novels aren’t that mysterious or scary. They’re awesome. Asking your wife to recommend one for you might really make her day.

But bottom line: do you tell your wife you love her, and that you care about her? Do you treat her as if she is valuable to you? Do you appreciate what she does for your life? And does she do the same for you?

That’s better than any romance novel. If all that is true, even most of the time, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Unless your trouser snake is made of paper, in which case, dude. Do not play rock/paper/scissors with her. Ever.


General Bitching...

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  1. 1

    Well, as I sit here waiting for the kids to wake up… (aren’t they supposed to be pouncing on ME on Christmas morning????)  I’ve gotta say, that was a fantabulous thing to read.

    Well said, Sarah.

    And Worried Husband, take it from another woman who just loves her romances…I love them, but I love my guy even more.  I wouldn’t trade him for all the heroes in Romanceland, and that’s a lot of heroes.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays…and daggone it, why aren’t those kids awake????

  2. 2

    Fantastic answer.  If he’s looking for suggestions, he might enjoy romance novels by Jen Crusie or Susan Elizabeth Philips.  Guys I know who read them seem to relate well to their heroes, and feel less “threatened” by them.

    And if he’s read Lois McMaster Bujold, he’ll know a truly romantic hero can be 4’11” and have fragile bones.  You don’t have to be a hunk to be a hero.

  3. 3
    darlynne says:

    Sarah, that answer should be posted everywhere, on all vertical surfaces and the backs of business cards. You have nailed it again and the world is a better place this morning.

  4. 4
    nyxalinth says:

    Women have a similar issue, when guys look at porn. We wonder sometimes how we measure up to the big-boobed bimbo with the incredible skills who is willing to do anyone, anywhere, anytime.  So turnabout, blah blah.

    Aside from my snarkiness, your answer is very well put, and it applies both ways.  Fortunately, my boobs and other bits are not made of paper, either :D

  5. 5
    Leah says:

    I generally skim through the sex scenes in romance novels—they all seem the same to me.  Like other posters, I like the thrills of the plot, and the HEA.  Many of those heroes are just too tortured to make good spouses; I can’t imagine any of them taking out the trash or giving the kids a bath, because they’d be so caught up in their past traumas.  The one thing they do, however, that I kind of like, is that they devote themselves entirely to the heroine.  Now if my husband did that every day, it would be completely annoying—and I did once dump a guy who came on way too strong.  But every few months, it would be nice to be treated like an object of adoration—time alone, time in conversation, time off from daily chores, time to feel like a woman again, and not just mommy/maid/laundress.  That’s the kind of thing that gets you, the husband, some awesome returns!

    spam word:  seem 93—yes it does seem like he’s been on call 93 days in a row.

  6. 6
    Venus Vaughn says:

    Great answer, and if I may add my two cents (as if you could stop me) I don’t read romance for the sex, I read it for the connection.

    Almost all romances are about the getting together of the H&H;.  Their decision to love, trust, honor and cherish each other.  You hardly ever read romances about the married couple and how they keep their spark alive.  In other words, she’s not reading about anything to do with who and how you are now.  She’s reading about all the ways you could have gotten there.

    That being said, it’s the connection and caring between the H&H;that keep bringing me back.  Headboard-shaking sex is all well and good, but give me a hero who cuts the ballgame short just so he can be there when she goes to the doctor.  Give me the hero who buys a nightlight for the heroine because he knows she’s afraid of the dark.  He doesn’t try to fix her fears, he accomodates them. 

    It’s the things a hero does outside the bedroom that make what happens in the bedroom special.

  7. 7
    willaful says:

    I would add to that great advice, most women can’t compete with the heroines of that kind of romance novel either. The kind that can have 40 orgasms while hanging from the chandelier.  If she’s a reasonable woman, she is able to separate fantasy from reality and realize that some things that are very fun to read about aren’t either realistic or even necessarily desirable.

    (Hehe… “wanted27.” Me, I’m quite happy with one. ;-) )

  8. 8
    Marcy Arbitman says:

    As everyone said, GREAT answer! I have been separated from my verbally abusive husband for six years-and last year he had a massive stroke and is now in a nursing home! Can’t divorce him now-what would people say?! He knows me, but everyone at the nursing home loves him. I read (and have read for many years) romance novels for the HEA! Someone must have a HEA!!

  9. 9
    CourtneyLee says:

    I agree with everyone else. That’s a fantastic answer, Sarah. My husband loved it, too. I have gotten him to read a few romance novels: he’s hooked on JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. He likes that the vamps kick ass, blow shit up, and have fantastic sex. In his words, what’s not to love about that? He also tells me it’s pretty difficult to feel threatened by men and situations that are so obviously sprung from a fantasy, not real life.

    I especially agree with willaful in that most of us don’t measure up to romance heroines, either. Unless everyone else can have eight orgasms in one oral sex session, in which case, I’m missing out.

  10. 10
    Jen C says:

    I think the thing to remember is that romance novels are read because of the longing, more than the sex.  I know that’s why I read them- I love the paper-people sex, true, but mostly I love the longing.  Its always a lovely fantasy, but I sometimes think the sex is unrealistic (note: often it is, really).  I love my couples,  but these multi-orgasmic virgins irritate the crap out of me, and the heroes and their thousand previous lovers who never left the bed unsatisfied are silly.

    I remember really loving Faking It by Jennifer Crusie simply because the first sex of the book is, in fact, awful, and I rarely see that in romance novels*. 

    *Also because JC is brilliant

  11. 11
    Venus Vaughn says:

    Jen C – Crusie’s sex is the reason I fell for her.  It’s so awkward and odd and realisitic.  I read somewhere that she doesn’t like writing sex scenes because she thinks she’s bad at them.  I wish more authors would write sex like her.  They aren’t fantastic at sex, which is why the connection the H&H;make during it is so much better.

  12. 12
    Trix says:

    I have been separated from my verbally abusive husband for six years-and last year he had a massive stroke and is now in a nursing home! Can’t divorce him now-what would people say?!

    I’m sorry if this is a bit personal, but since you raised the subject…. Who cares what anyone else thinks? Ok, if you live in a town of 200 people and everyone would cut you dead (frankly, I’d move), but otherwise, I hope you can find a way to get your HEA in real life as well.

    (natural63 – only another 6 to go!)

  13. 13
    L Violet says:

    I do not think I’m being overly cranky when I say, How the heck do you think women feel every single flippin’ day of their lives when three-hundred twenty-year-old, overly mammaried, expensively orthodontiaed, blow job-fixated, horny girl-women thrust themselves at our loved ones from every single magazine, television screen, and movie? It takes a heap of work to stay sane, nonsuicidal, nonhomicidal, and even romantic through all those assaults.

    So cowboy up, dude. You have it easy. You’ve been living the dream…and now that someone you care about is doing a bit of dreaming, you’re nervous. Welcome to the club.

    And yes, as everybody else has said, most of us want real love, embodied in a bit of romance now and then. Sex? Nice, but it doesn’t feed the bulldog.

  14. 14
    Brenda says:

    I’ll refrain from adding to the chorus of “how do you think women feel about porn?”, and I’ll say one thing.

    Fictional and pornographic hotties of either sex may be tailored to perfection both physically and mentally, but they aren’t real. Anyone who has the slightest grasp on this idea knows that real people are way more fun because they’re real. I may not be perfect, and neither is my boyfriend, but he’s here and he’s mine. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone’s fictionalized idea of perfection, even my own.

    It’s the same thing that keeps science interesting even in the face of science fiction. Aliens who look like us and can talk to us, visiting us with technology that makes the trip short and sweet: pretty cool story. A space telescope spotting a near-Earth-sized planet orbiting a star so far away that it would take hundreds of years just to get a message to anyone who may or may not be there: mind-blowing.

  15. 15
    LDH says:

    I know I’m coming to the conversation late, but something which I’m seeing in these comments that actually seems destructive is the equation of women reading Romance to men watching porn. One of the things about her response that I think is really great is how Sarah explains that Romance novels are really NOT “chick porn”.

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