Deadly Myth of “Happily–Ever–After”

by Nancy Koerner

I was recently invited to a romance writers’ meeting by a woman who recommended it might be a good place to do some valuable networking. So, in anticipation, I spent considerable time on the internet researching this particular genre. According to the RWA (Romance Writers of America) a romance novel is defined by two elements: 1) A Central Love Story — In a romance novel, the main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the relationship conflict is the main focus of the story, and 2) An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending — Romance novels are based on the idea of an innate emotional justice—the notion that good people in the world are rewarded and evil people are punished. In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

Emotional justice? Unconditional love? And what planet are we on? As the author of Belize Survivor (my own true story of domestic violence in a toxic relationship) my perspective couldn’t be further from this premise. Yes, there is love. There is always love – I believe it is in the passionate nature of a woman to “burn.” Yes, my story has conflict. Every story must have conflict. And, of course, there is an ending. But it’s not necessarily tidy and picture-perfect. Mine is a story of womanly triumph countered with a heavy dose of reality – not the happily-ever-shining-knight-on-a-noble-steed fairy tale that has, in truth, been largely detrimental to women in the first place.

I respectfully salute the dedicated romance writers who provide endless escape for loveless women needing to live vicarious lives. But remember, they are fantasies. As a survivor and advocate against domestic violence, I would emphasize that profoundly-perfect endings can propagate a deadly myth. Sometimes, salvation comes from the heroine knowing when to give up the fairytale.

If you are in an abusive relationship, get out now. Not next year, not next month, not next week. Do it before you invest anything more in an unworkable fairy tale. It could save your life.

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