This could become a mini-series of articles from the World Wide Web, I can see.
As authors, we’re always looking for fresh approaches to relationship issues with our characters. Well, go to the people doing the research to find out what is really going on. Or at least in response to that researcher’s questions. It ALWAYS comes down to what is asked and how! I learned that as a doctoral student.
For example, the typical romance book sets us misunderstandings, misperceptions, and just plain misses when describing how characters’ relationships are, like tectonic plates, slipping around all over the planet.
In this article, “5 Relationship Signs You Might Misread” by Caroline Stanley, (http://yahoo.match.com/y/article.aspx?articleid=9492&TrackingID=526103&BannerID=1483956
) I see so many possibilities for plot lines. Let me summarize the article and then how I’d use the elements.
Sign #1: You’re not as physically affectionate as you used to be with each other.
Sign #2: Your date drops the “L” word early on in your relationship.
Sign #3: Your sweetie stops getting spruced up for date night.
Sign #4: Your date wants to go literally everywhere with you.
Sign #5: Your partner stops offering to pick up the tab on dates.
Often in relationships the behavior is interpreted differently by the parties involved. That accounts for much of the drama in romantic relationships as well as in romance books. How many times have you heard, “Communicate!”?
So you think not being physically affectionate (sign #1) means the party is over, the thrill is gone, time to move on. When that could signal that the dust of the lust part of the relationship has settled, and now the real deal, the forever love is beginning.
How different is that? Communication could clear it up. But rarely does.
In a book, this misunderstanding might lead to months apart as each searches for the perfect match only to find one another again and realize the love is still alive. Awww! Hugs and kisses. HEA!
Sign #2, the L word used early, makes you think you’re soul mates. Ah, but the partner, the L word user, is an impulsive sort more in love with the thought of love than the actuality.
In a book, you can see how he starts to regret his impulsiveness when a new bright and shiny object catches his eye. But, he’s declared for you, and so he has to get you to hate him so YOU break it off. What a story line that has been in book after book!
So she isn’t getting spruced up to go out (sign #3)? You think she just doesn’t care what you think of her. When in reality, she may be trusting that you know the real woman she is doesn’t wake up with full-blown make-up and hair in place. She trusts that you want who she is rather than merely the image she has projected.
Oh, I can see this one headed for disaster, too. He becomes a total slob. Is that the real him or merely payback for her relaxation of high-maintenance prep?
The miscommunication of sign #4, wanting to be with you 24/7 begins with you thinking this character really adores me and can’t bear to be separated. When in fact, this behavior could signal major insecurity or appropriate boundary issues. Perhaps jealousy clouds judgment about how much time to be together.
Imagine the scenes in a book of him accompanying her everywhere. She begins to feel suffocated. She resents that she can’t have a separate life. If they get back together, after she breaks it off, their discussion would have to include why it’s important that each person have separate interests, and time to pursue them.
Sign #5 (not picking up the tab) is an especially emotional issue with couples. Next to no time is given to discussing financial issues like debt, financial responsibilities, priorities, and the like. We are uncomfortable with that. So while one partner translate not paying the bill every time with how much value the other places on them and/or the relationship, it could mean a move was made to the next level of commitment that includes sharing financial resources. And that could be a good thing.
Can’t you see, in your book, the girl telling her girlfriends that he doesn’t care anymore or that he’s a leech or that she feels he is taking advantage of her because she earns more? Lots of fodder for drama there!
In case after case, each of these would have resulted in a different outcome if only the partners communicated their concerns, questions, and observations and discussed the meaning. But then, where would the story be?