Monday, December 6, 2010

What is love, anyway?

I'll be 22 in the spring. Don't worry, this is NOT a post about me complaining about my relationship status. Related thoughts, though, just can't help occurring when you're a twenty-something-year-old female with female friends. Topics like marriage (ahhhhhhhhhh) just seem to inevitably crop up. The scary thing is, some of my friends want to get married around 25. Allowing a year for the engagement, that gives us less than three years to meet someone, get to know them, realize you want to spend forever with them, AND convince them/find out that they feel the same way about you.

I get tired just thinking about it.

The truth is, I have so little experience in the romance department that I have no freaking clue what I'm doing or what to do. This past week I've made some pretty big self-discoveries regarding what kind of guys I fall for, what I'm looking for relationship-wise, the difference between a casual crush of mine and a serious one, and so on. But I still feel like I'm, I dunno, Lewis & Clark or someone like them, plunging down an utterly unknown river, swollen with spring runoff, with only a flimsy low-grade plastic paddle in my hand to fend off alligators and loose logs.

Usually when I need help I often look towards books first, but lately that's just been frustrating, because books always seem to, well, romanticize romance. Somehow, some way, things work out, usually with this big, swoony scene at the end where the guy confesses his love to the girl or the girl admits to the guy that he was right about her, and they kiss and everyone's happy, the end. And how about all those books that have enviously smooth "getting to know you" romantic progressions, eh? The first encounter goes well, the love interest continues to approach the MC, there is no doubt in either of their minds that they like each other. When in real life (or my life, at least) it usually goes: initial encounter goes well, subsequent encounters are much more ambiguous (does he/she like me as just a friend, or as more than one? or do I not even cross his/her mind at all?), until eventually you are suffocated by a plague of uncertainty and confusion.

Where is the doubt in YA romances? Where is the ambiguity of interactions? Why is there a sad lack of examples that could give me any sort of insight into the way "real" romances progress, at least in my opinion?

I know, I know, I know that in telling a story--whether it be entirely fictional or your own real-life tale--one tends to emphasize the good points and deemphasize the bad. And as a reader we are also relatively passive observers with the benefit of an outsider's perspective to the very things that so confuse us when we're actually participating in them. You know how in movies there might be this big misunderstanding scene where neither character says what they truly mean to one another, only they don't know that, so they both think that what the other is saying is how they're really feeling, and then they turn away and the camera shows them making a miserable face at how much it just killed them to lie to the other person like that? Yeah. We're the audience, so we get the benefit of this camera view and get to see the true feelings that the other character doesn't see.

I want to be that "me" audience member for my own life. Maybe then I'd be able to figure some things out.

Or maybe I simply watch too many of those kinds of movies.

I used to be more worried that I'd end up alone. Now, I'm not so worried about that, but I do wonder often what it is I should look for in whoever I end up with. How will I know when I have found the right one? If the one that I can see myself with forever has some serious flaws that usually break relationships, how much should I excuse them for those? I hope I don't settle for anyone less than the one who is right for me--note that I say "right for me" and not "perfect"--but I worry that I may not recognize him when I find him.

It's also becoming clearer and clearer to me that I don't want to waste time with relationships that I don't think have a chance of lasting. It may sound harsh, or too cynical, but I believe that I can tell pretty early on in my acquaintance with someone whether or not I feel like a hypothetical relationship between the two of us has a possibility of lasting. That's one of the big things I realized last week: that I may be attracted to a number of people, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to date them. I'd rather be contentedly single than be in a casual relationship for the sake of, I dunno, having something to do on the weekends or whatnot. I'm not actively looking for The One, nor am I unhappy that I'm not with him yet. I approach things very pragmatically, but believe deep down that eventually, sooner or later, but most likely later, and maybe even a lot later, I will find him. I've watched too many Disney movies and read too many romances to not believe in the idea that maybe, just maybe, I will find someone who likes all of me, who can challenge me intellectually, and who can inspire me to try to make each day the best I've ever lived.

It seems that so many authors and bloggers I know are either happily married or otherwise in wonderful relationships that seemed to have had fairy-tale beginnings, or courtships, or whatever. Can I ask you if that was really how it went, though? Did you have moments of doubt and uncertainty as to whether or not your partner was the right person for you? How did you know that he/she was The One? Who initiated the relationship? Did your own love story unfold like a standard YA romance, or did it have its tough moments, stuff that never gets told in the stories? Are the romances you write into your stories reflective of your real-life experiences, or are they more wish fulfillment? Where, I guess, does the inspiration for those fictional romances come from?

I wanted to save these questions for closer to Valentine's Day, maybe even make a feature out of it (who knows? I could still do it?) but they have been weighing me down for quite some time now so I thought I'd just put it out here.

Peace, love, and happiness, as always.


  1. I love the questions you asked in this post. I just turned 28, and am starting to figure out that I have to be happy with me by myself, before I can be happy with me with someone else.

  2. This is such a great post! I've been very lucky with respects to relationships since I've been with my boyfriend nearly 3 years and I *know* that he's gonna be the one with whom I turn into a book-hoarding cat-owning crazy lady :P
    It was a rather fairy-tale-esque beginning since we got to know each other during high school and after several months of being daft shy buggers I finally asked him out by writing it on my hand cos I was too nervous to say it.
    Only one of my female friends has been in a relationship longer than I have and she will probably marry her boyfriend at some point in the future as well.
    I don't think there should be a rush to find a man and settle down because like you said it takes time to get to know someone well enough to be sure that you want to spend a good portion of your life with them. Hurrying things only leads to break-ups when the disparities between the couple come to light.
    Again, Wonderful post Steph :)

  3. In books, it's so easy to identify the designated love interest for the protagonist, and rare for the ambiguity you speak of to crop up. There might be roadblocks along the way, but the audience knows that they'll end up together in the end in most cases.

    I guess real life is just uncertain in that respect. Circumstances can change in the blink of an eye and you could meet your future husband in a fluke incident that might not have happened in a million different scenarios. But when you read, you know the author has it already planned out...a very large amount of YA I've been reading lately seems to be bordering on wish-fulfillment, but I'm curious as to whether other people can actually identify with those 'perfect' romances. On a side note, I'm really enjoying your posts about love and happiness and life in general.

  4. Well, I'm 23 and my relationship has lasted over three years.

    When Tony and I met for the first time, I was wasted. I had just come out of a frat party, and decided to check out a mutual friend's house party. Upon walking in the house I gave Tony a drunken hug. Then told my friend I thought he might be gay. Then of course, proceeded to flirt shameless with Tony. I did that whole eye-contact and look away thing, which FYI WORKED. He facebooked me, we talked about coffee, hung out a bit more, and have been dating ever since.

    Did I ever think we'd end up together for a long time? Nope. I'd been going through my hook-ups stage prior to Tony. I think I kissed like 12 different boys that year and figured he'd just be another notch on my post.

    Clearly, that's not how things turned out, as you can see by the whole dating for 3 years thing.

    But yeah, I think it's a little odd if you go into relationships/hook-ups expecting marriage/ soul mates.

    Also, I think what really helps Tony and I stay together is that he was a huge reader growing up, so he gets my whole need to go to every sale EVER. Plus he can put together my shelves.

  5. oh me & my husband went through a lot of drama before we ended up together and there were PLENTY of times when I doubted if we even belonged together. It does take A LOT of work to make a relationship work and you have to WANT it to work (both of you). My story isn't in any of the books I read, haha. Hoping you find your special someone and that it sticks =)

  6. What a wonderful, insightful post!

    I met my husband in a strange, unconventional way. My friends went to a concert in like, 2000 and met he and his friend there. You know, back when ICQ and AIM were the coolest things EVAR. My friend was over at my house one day on AIM, talking so some random dude. She had explained that she met him at a concert and he was OMGSOCOOL. So then he and I started talking. All the time. On IM, on the phone, whatever. Just as friends. He was just someone cool and fun and smart to talk to, but we had never met in person. He eventually moved 7 hours away and we lived our own lives for awhile, but still keeping in touch.

    Eventually, he moved a little closer (but still 300 miles away) We decided "hey, why not meet up?" I had seen pictures of him and thought he was cute and I was already enchanted with his personality. So then we met up somewhere in the middle and it was all over. I knew we were meant to be together because I've never, EVER had chemistry like that with anyone else.

    Five months later, we were living together and two years after that, we were engaged. It's definitely the craziest, most impulsive thing I've ever done... but it was so worth it. We've been married for over a year, we have a home, we have two cats, and I am even more crazy about him than I've ever been before.

    Cliche, but true. Sometimes people have to take some completely uncharacteristic chances to find
    The One.

  7. Aw, love this post, because I am seriously wondering the same thing! It does seem like every other blogger/writer is happily married and in a relationship, by this June all of the First Novels Club will be married--except me. So I know how you feel. But, like you, I still have hope and figure I had to sort through and accomplish some other things first. But I have my fingers crossed for my own happy ending.

  8. Oh good, another 20s book blogger who isn't married!! I swear, I was beginning to think I was the only one. I think I'm somewhat in the same place as you... although sometimes I feel totally depressed about the whole thing, I generally I think that whatever happens, happens. And it's more likely that you'll find someone when you're sitting back and being happy on your own, than if you're actively pursuing someone and feeling like you need to be with someone. Love is this weird, scary, messy thing, and I don't think it could ever be perfect. I'd love to experience that, but, like you, I would rather wait for someone with potential for forever, rather than just someone to spend time with for now. Very interesting thoughts, and I look forward to seeing what people have to say! =)

  9. i guess we will know it when it happens, its kind of hard to know what somthing is or what somthing is like if we have never had it before, i mean there are a lot of different types of love, the type of love you share with your first may be nothing like the kind of love that you will feel with your husband/wife, i dont know what the truth is, i wish i did i wish we could all walk in to a shop and pick our one true love the way we pick out our groceries, not all of us bloggers are in a happy nest, some of us are wondering whats the point? some of us are wondering through with out even reaizing it, i guess you/we have these questions because the time of year, with the holidays there are so many posts about happy families and yada, the holidays always make me feel lonley maybe they are having the same effect on you. . . sorry for the babble

  10. Love this post Steph! We totally had this conversation over IHop so I don't have much to share.

    I think we talked about this but I don't remember..but I didn't always know that he was THE ONE. There have been doubts in the beginning and even in the middle because of certain things. I think it's easier sometimes when you KNOW to gloss over those times. I told you that I hated my bf when I first met him..I was into his friend. He just started being friends..I don't know who initiated it. I mean, he did like me before I even thought about him but he wasn't pushy. I only knew from other ppl telling m e.

    Mine isn't fairytale. We've gone through a lot..deaths, lying, communication issues, etc. etc.

    I know you will find someone AMAZING because you are awesome. I can say this because we've actually hung out :P

  11. Wow - what an interesting post! As a 23 y/o married blogger let me tell you - there is doubt through the whole thing. Even once married, there are fights and there are times when you thin "was this really the right thing?".

    I remember the doubts while dating, but I can remember the reconciliations and the reasons why we lasted even more. I am with you though - I never went for the casual dating. I figured if it wasn't going to last , why waste me time? But that is just my personality. I have plenty of friends who dated and had fun, so I wouldn't ever knock people doing it!

  12. I got married a month after I turned 20. We were both young, stupid, and had a lot of growing up to do still. Now it is almost 11 years later and while we have had difficult times we have grown together and things are good.

    When we first met I was completely uninterested, and he was persistent. I liked him, but only wanted to be friends. But after several months his persistence won out and suddenly we were dating... and then married.

    He was not the person I had imagined I would someday marry, he is the opposite of everyone I had dated till that point. But it worked well, and I am happy he didn't give up ;)

  13. So I'm probably categorized in the "older" YA group (but not by much!).. I am 29 yrs old and yes, I am single! It never really bothered me before, but lately it's becoming rare that I meet people who are still single. I try not to let it bother me because everyone has their own agenda, their own plan. When someone says "I want to be married when I am 25" - they don't know what the hell they're talking about! lol! It doesn't work that way. Seriously. Life is full of surprises & I just keep telling myself, for whatever reason - I wasn't meant to find "him" and be married in my 20's. I have faith it will happen some day though.

    As for the comment mentioned about wasting time on the wrong relationships. I definitely "wasted" a few years on those - however, they also taught me what I DON'T want in a relationship & without them I wouldn't know any better. So yes - they are wasted years, but they had a purpose.

  14. Hey Steph!

    I have been with my guy for almost four years, and we are getting married in January. The first time we met, he gave me attitude, I gave it right back, and then he asked me out. The thing I really loved most about him in the beginning was that he never left me in doubt that he was serious about me. He doesn't even recall this, but I dated a lot in my early-mid 20s, and I can tell you that when a guy wants a relationship with you and is ready to put the effort into it, you WILL know. It's not that my fiance hasn't ever annoyed me about something, but he has always been there for me and has done what he says he was going to do. That's not to say that it's always been perfect - we hit a rough patch two years in, something my friends generally call the 'flight or fight' point in relationships - it's when you've been with someone for around two years, have a OSM or OMG moment over how long it's been, that this is it, etc., and then decide if you are all in or out. We both decided that we were all in, and six months later, he proposed.

    Initial attraction is oh-so-important. However, once the 'new' wears off, there better be something there, or it's not it. It's always been there for us, and I am so happy to spend the rest of my life with him. As my father says, it's the person you can sit beside at the end of the day and not have to say a word :) I also want to say that love may not be a choice, but having a relationship is - you have to count and consider that person's wants and needs as important as your own; otherwise, it's a no-go. Commitment is huge, and I always thought I would stay single when I was your age, and be happy doing so. However, life IS what happens while you are busy making plans. I love that life proved me wrong.

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

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  16. I love this post. Do you know the quote “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain”? I think that's how my husband sees it.

    I read so many romances full if GRAND GESTURES (it deserves the all caps) and swooning and unresolved sexual tension that sometimes I'm like "Dude, why don't you romance me more?" But, hello, it's really not realistic. He rolls his eyes a lot and says, "You read too many books. I have work to do, I can't just sit here and stare meaningfully into your eyes." Hahaha!

    In real life, love is all about doubt and compromise and questioning yourself again and again.

    I think REAL romance books are out there, but they're few and far between. Yup, it has definitely "turned my brain."

  17. First, an apology. This went long. :)

    I met my soul mate when I was 17. It was a complete accident. I certainly wasn't looking for a relationship, let alone love at first sight. It was initiated by him asking me for a light for his cigarette.

    I married him when I was 21 (would have been earlier but we were in different countries.)

    Those initial few months when I was 17? There was no doubt because we didn't allow any doubt. I know a LOT of people who overthink. I know a lot of people who overhink and then sabotage. We did not have time to overthink. We had 2 months before he'd have to fly back to Ireland. So we just talked endlessly and held hands and kissed and spent time being in love.

    In between then and seeing each other again, there were doubts. Totally. Four years apart? Heck yeah there were doubts.

    But the minute I saw his face in the airport after 4 years? Love at first sight all over again. No doubts. Not even one. So count me as a lucky one. I have always trusted my gut, though, and rarely complicate simple things.

    As for marriage: Ugh. I hate that false definition of "how we're supposed to do things." I never bought it. (And the one about having kids 3 years after marriage? BLEHHHHH. Hate that too.)

    I will tell you what my mother told me on my wedding day. (She has a knack for timing.) "Amy, this will be the hardest work you will ever do."

    She was 100% right. This has been (approaching 19th anniversary) THE hardest work I have ever done. Ever. It broke our hearts and was hell on wheels for years in there, no doubt about it. And I had my doubts then, too. And some days I wanted to pitch him or myself over a cliff. And yet, neither of us EVER looked at another person romantically. I think we knew under all the pain during some of those years that we were, and always would be, soul mates. Even if we were throwing the pottery at (okay not *at* but *near*) each other. (My specialty was mugs.)

    But now? We are still madly--maybe even sickly--in love and it was all worth it. All that hard work. We were married 11 years and saw a lot of the world together before we had kids. (That was 10 years of nosy jerks pressuring us about having kids and telling us what we "should" do, which was annoying as hell. MYOBTYVM.) We are approaching 24 years together next summer.

    The key? Having a lot of stuff in common (music, movies, etc.) and a sharing a common and great sense of humor. (In marriage, or any long term relationship, never lose your sense of humor.)

    As for everything relationship-related being great in all YA books, I know you just won VERA DIETZ, but that explores this subject a bit and illustrates a really imperfect relationship, both from an adult perspective and a YA one.

    One last thing. Because of this love story fairytale thing I have, many people I know have turned to me for advice over the last 20 years. I always remind them that I was making myself happy, not looking for love, and pursuing things that kept me busy and learning when I accidentally came across Mr. King. He was doing the same. Your first comment from geekyreads on this blog has a lot of truth in it.
    No one else will make you happy. And the right person will be attracted to you because you are independently being happy.

    Unless you meet a controlling jerk who doesn't have a clue how to be happy...been there. I don't recommend it.

    1. You have no idea how much I fangirled when I realized that you were actually THE A.S. King. Thank you for posting this comment,and writing Vera Dietz, both things have inspired me.

  18. Ugh. You know, at 15 I thought I wanted to get married at around 25 too. For some reason (maybe because you're a quarter of century old?) it seems like a good age to get married. Well, now I'm 27 and not in any relationship, so who knows when I'll get married - or even if I'll get married at all (yeah, I'm an optimist, all right). Some of my friends are already married, and most in a serious, long relationship by now. This sucks, big time.

  19. Love (finding it, recognizing it, keeping it) takes up so much space in our brains, it's ridiculous. I once read a quote from John Mayer (my man!) that went something like, "I can't wait to fall in love so I can stop obsessing about it -- and move on with my life. There are so many other things I want to do." That's a serious paraphrase there, but that's the jist of it.

    As I've written about (probably too much!) on my blog before, I went through a pretty rough patch with relationships and boyfriends... and though I was happy being single, too, I finally decided I was ready to look for "the real thing" and went online!

    That was an interesting experience in and of itself, but it's also how I met my boyfriend -- a like-minded guy with whom things actually progressed naturally. There was an initial attraction, for sure, but it was more about getting to know one another and figuring out if we were on the same page about things. I'd dated for long enough to know what I was looking for in a relationship -- someone intelligent, kind, patient, family-oriented, etc. -- and could see him ticking off those boxes. Plus, you know -- he's hot. :) It worked out well and easily... for the first time in my life. In the past? Not so much. I'd literally had to talk boys into dating me, and I can see now how terrible and useless that was.

    Love in books isn't always realistic -- I'm definitely with you there. And I'm not qualified to give big ol' love advice, but I'll say this: I didn't think I'd ever say the cliche old, "You'll know when you know" about The One, but I do believe that you know when something feels right and when it doesn't. As long as you're honest with yourself (and that can be hard), you'll know when something is right. And the uncertainty, anxiety, etc.? It sucks, but it's part of the story.

    No matter the situation, there's always going to be some romanticism going on! All relationships are imperfect, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to convince themselves and you. Being in love isn't easy -- it's scary and makes you vulnerable, in addition to about a million other things. It's tough -- all relationships are tough -- but I do believe it's worth it.

    I just wrote you a book -- sorry about that! Can you tell I'm a writer? :)


  20. Believe me, I know how it feels to be the one without a boyfriend. That was my life until my early thirties. For the most part, my boyfriend-less state was by choice. I traveled and did things I wanted to. I know now that I was too selfish for a long-term relationship. I echo geekyread's sentiments: you have to be happy with yourself before you can be in a relationship.

    Dating was my main hobby for the year or so before I met my husband, and it was a real learning experience. If I have a piece of advice to offer, it's this: don't waste time on relationships that aren't going anywhere, but don't discount people too quickly either. My husband was very, very shy when we first met. Obviously, if you feel no attraction/chemistry, don't bother with a second date. But if you feel something there, and it's not exactly perfect from the start-don't discount it!
    In our case, the first date was good, but the second date was great.

    Good luck!

  21. I'm definitely not one to give out relationship advice. Twice married, once divorced & now single mum. Do not EVER take relationship advice fro me :))

    Hope that you find the man of your dreams and have a fairytale romance when the time is right :)

  22. Your first paragraph resonates a lot with my group of friends also. I have one friend who for some reason, is obsessed with the idea of being married. I believe it'll happen if and when it happens for me. I'm in no rush, not even close. We tend to have such strict outlines for when things should occur in our lives. Everyone is different and things happen at different times for different people. I'm 21 and right now and I'm focusing on me. I don't need someone to make me feel happy or complete like a lot of the girls I know who always need to have a boyfriend present.

    I think relationships are beyond complicated in general. It really isn't just black or white, wrong or right. There are a lot of grey areas in between. I tend to be sort of cynical lol but I really don't believe in THE ONE you know? I don't think there's one person out there who is everything you've ever wanted. From my experience, there are things you'll love about a person but there are also things you'll dislike about them as well.
    There are a lot of people in the world that I feel we'd be compatible with. We tend to romanticize this perfect relationship that just doesn't exist. There is no perfect person, I believe. In reality, relationships are hard and they take a lot of work and effort. I wish they were more like a romantic comedy haha but from what I've seen and such luck. :(

  23. Personally, just based on my own and my friends' experiences, I say: be a romantic. Do NOT "settle" or compromise because you're feeling a ticking clock or any other reason than that you're crazy about a guy despite any flaws he might have.

    (We all have flaws, and it's good to recognize them, but don't ignore someone's flaws just because you think you won't find anyone better, so you *have* to settle for him. Commit to him anyway only if his flaws genuinely don't matter to you when compared to how wonderful he is otherwise.)

    Everyone I know who "settled" when they got married in their 20s (often thinking, well, I'm never going to meet anyone better, and he is a nice guy, so...) has ended up in a messy and painful divorce by their late 30s. *Every single one*. That might just be the circle of women I know personally, rather than a statistic for the general population, but it is pretty convincing for me.

    End of advice rant! :)

  24. I won't put my name here, because it's not fair to my partner. I met him when I was twenty, and I decided he was the one. (I hadn't dated much, and I was just thrilled to find a good-looking, smart, compassionate man with similar spiritual ideas and interests.) However, we lived far apart, which didn't help, and although we eventually ended up in the same place, there were so many breakups and clashes and lots of moments of doubt along the way. Once the bloom was off the rose, as they say, I wondered what in the hell I was actually doing (and I know he wondered the same!). But we decided again and again to hang in there, because the love was there and worth investing in.

    In fact, we're currently reading The Five Love Languages, a book you might like, to help work on the communication/appreciation between us. The author discusses the phase of being in love vs. everything after--when the real work begins. Romance is great, but what do you do when he leaves his hair all over the sink, etc.?

    Basically, relationships take work. Lots of work. Even the easiest relationships need constant nurturing and reevaluating; you're talking about taking two individuals with different ways of thinking, different habits, different formative experiences, often different values and goals, and asking them to function as a unit. The only healthy way for that to happen involves lots of compromise and lots of stretching yourself (without losing yourself).

    Don't forget, too, that we as a society put a lot of pressure on people--especially women--to be in a relationship. We make it seem like a person has failed if she's alone, because the highest goal in life is getting married (and having kids). Any and all personal accomplishments pale next to that, which is just silly--and unhealthy to boot. I wish we taught people that living your full potential was the best gift you could give anyone else.

    I think now, in my thirties, that if my relationship were to end, I could accept being alone and even enjoy it in a lot of ways. There are so many things I want to do for myself! I couldn't have imagined that before, though; I thought I had to have someone. If I ever do write romance, I'll make sure to make it clear that it's only one part of the character's life.

    You're doing great where you are, Steph, and you've got a lot of time to figure out who the right one is (and that may change as you grow!)--and even if you want to be with someone. Don't let anyone tell you how you need to be, especially not romantic fantasies in literature. They're escapist for a reason: They're not the whole story. In the end, you and your worth are what matter.

  25. LOVED reading this. I totally know what you mean about YA romance and book/movie romance in general. It just isn't realistic. Which is why I don't like it. It just sets people up for disappointment and confusion. So yeah I'm just about as clueless as you in the relationship department. In fact probably more than you because I've never even had a boyfriend. I'm definitely like "How do I know he's the one???" Especially now that my older sister (who is only 19 I might add) has found "her one" and is going to be getting married. I mean how does she know??? Maybe I should be asking her this advice... But anyway great post. Hopefully I'll learn more about this kind of stuff as I grow older. And learning from others doesn't hurt either. :)

  26. This is a beautiful post with very very relevant questions. Some of which you yourself know the answers to and here lies your solution.

    I doubt that anyone can say that this is Mr. Right right away. It will grow on you both eventually - romance aside, the companionship and friendship will make you realize that this is the one.

    I am more than double your age and live in another world almost away from you so I do not know how relevant advice could be.

    It may sound like a timeless cliche but when the time is right it does happen!

  27. Girl, I know how you're feeling. I just turned 22 and a lot of people I know are married and/or have their first child already. For me, I want to be selfish for a little longer and I was telling my mom that the next guy I choose to spend time with needs to be my boyfriend. I mean I'll have guy friends,but I don't have the time and/or the energy to be in a casual relationship just for the sake of having something to do. Being in a relationship is something much more than that. That's what friendship is for.

    At any rate, YA romances are a little unrealistic when it comes to that stuff. Then again, it is a really intense age and the things you feel are so epic. I remember being so intense as a teenager like if I don't go out with this person, it would be the end of the world. When you're 22 and enjoying life and having fun, the sense of urgency is gone and at least for me, there's not that much of a rush to settle down.

  28. Great post, Steph - I've been in a relationship for 13 years, but your words brought back a lot of how I used to feel about how to 'know' if he's the 'one'. I met my first love at 16 and stayed with him for 7 years. that's about 5 years longer than I should have. The relationship was bad on both sides but I plugged away at it because I kept thinking 'what if this is as good as a relationship gets?' and figured I couldn't risk finding out. Thankfully, my ex was braver than I was and dumped me.

    When I met my now-partner (aka Mr Fantapants) at a party a few months after the break-up, I wasn't looking for love; I was looking for a nice guy to take my mind off how lonely I was. Mr F was smart, funny and sweet(in other words, far too nice to consider long term). When we started dating I told myself he was my summer fling - the nice guy who'd treat me well and get me back in good emotional shape for my quest to meet the One. Four months later we moved in together.

    So, I didn't recognise The One when he came along. Luckily, he recognised me :)

  29. Well I'm 25 and we got married last year because well... he joined the military.

    Our story is complicated. I got kicked out of school and transfered to a continuation school and that's where I met him, we were friends for a year and by the next school year, I was trying to find my way out of an abusive relationship and he helped me. But he didn't want a relationship and I wasn't sure what I wanted. This went on for about 3 months and we eventually got together but not without drama from my ex, his parents and a bunch of other people.

    To be honest, in the whole five years we were together before we got married, I did doubt. I think it's normal, especially when you're that young. I don't doubt him now, but I admit I did at some point (or several).

    I knew he was the one when I realized that no matter how bad my life got or how bad a situation was, he never left my side. He's supportive of everything everyone else says is stupid or lame (like reading too many books. He cheers with me when I get an ARC I really want or when I get an email from my favorite author. Little things like that). And he cares.

    I agree that in YA the romance is a bit rushed through. I do agree that I wish there was more of a build. But I guess in a book there probably isn't much time to drag out the beginning of the relationship, especially in paranormal's. Romance catches our attention and maybe it's done that way because the faster it gets to the relationship part, the less likely we're going to put down the book? I don't know, just a thought.

  30. awesome post.

    I must say - all these things that are lacking in a lot of YA are very commonly explored in literary adult fiction - relationships in a lot of the adult fiction i read tend to have more depth and be more complex.

    also, i know in contemp Aussie books - teen relationships stay very teen.

    i haven't read a lot of paranormal so maybe I'm assuming that particular genre is the more guilty culprit of the love without doubt thing. i also think that's why i steer away from that genre - scared of finding the same tropes :)

    another thought - teens are more optimistic and idealist than adults (in general) who are world- weary and have persepctive and life circumstance behind them to make them more realistic. so i guess teens want to read about undying and true love - it's part of a daydream and a whole living vicariously through the protag :)

    whereas adults don't buy into it the same.

    anyway, that's just my thoughts (harriedly written and so not eloquently put...)

    p.s. I was married at 19 - knew him for 20 months. I was sure - but had a few moments of WTH am i doing!? coming up on 11 years :) i think it's healthy to question yourself and search through any doubts...

  31. The funny thing is that if I chose my husband based on all of the books I personally have been reading lately...he would be an amazingly attractive vampire with wings who would love me because he needed my soul...just teasing...but...I met my husband when I was 28...and I was not was fate or whatever and I love him because he is my protector...he reads my blog and sends it off to his friends and applauds everything I do...we were at a party last Friday and about 10 people walked up to me to tell me how amazing he knows really what brings people is work and it is frustrating but ultimately it is bliss...I now think after writing this I have no clue what I am saying but sending it off anyway...

  32. Love the post :-D Funny thing was when I was your age, I so didn't want to get married. But I did know what kind of guy I wanted. I really just wanted someone that loved me enough that if I got hurt, they'd be there, that if I became old and gray - would be there, someone that just loved me for me. You know what? He was under my nose the entire time. He was my best friend who I never even considered dating until...well I did, then 6 months later, I married him. Been together now for 18 yrs and he's still my best friend.

  33. Haha, I feel like I'm totally addressing this the wrong way. I mean, you have a few years on me, Steph, but I have learned one or two things from relationships.

    Romance novels (and YA romances) are not the basis for Real Life Shit. Maybe a few people are that lucky, but expecting it is too much. No matter how strongly I've felt towards someone, the romance is never that perfect.

    Also, since I'm speaking from pre-True Love experience (unlike a lot of the very lucky book bloggers here!) I want to say that it's okay. Honestly, I don't think anyone REALLY understands what love is like until they have it. It's one of those things that we can imagine...but understanding? It's there yet it's not. If that makes any sense.

    This was a great post. It really has me thinking. I definitely don't want to waste my time with stupid relationships, but it never hurts to date someone unexpected. You'd be surprised at where life can take you.

  34. Can I just say that I really love this post? I can relate to so many things that you said. I'm 25 and single and you're right, most blog friends are already married with kids. I do know that my standards for a relationship are pretty high, partly because of the books that I read and partly because of the great relationship my parents had (past tense because my Dad passed away a couple of years ago). You know the saying, "man of my dreams"? I used to say that isn't applicable to me and it should be "man of my fiction" instead. I'm still practical though, romance always seems better in fiction because you're right, romance is romanticized. Some of my single friends are obsessed with the idea of finding the right guy and finally settling down, I'm more laid back and think that if it's meant to be, it'll happen. Being single for the rest of my life is better than settling for someone who isn't right for me.

  35. I hear you Steph, especially as a YA reader, I read a lot of 'romanticized romance' and thought I would just recommend Happy All the Time, a beautiful book that Angie from Angieville got me on to. Really, it is such a warm and beautiful story that is more realistic yet still a pleasure to read, and I love that the beginning of the relationships are not what's important, but how the characters make it work

  36. Like I said on Twitter last night, excellent post. Ever since my brother got married over a month ago, I've been having more and more thoughts on love and it can be very frustrating especially for me who doesn't seem to be attracting the right kind of guy. People say I may be a bit intimidating hence the lack of approaches, and I wonder if I'm doing something wrong because other friends can't seem too many guys.

    But I agree with what you said:

    I'd rather be contentedly single than be in a casual relationship for the sake of, I dunno, having something to do on the weekends or whatnot.

    Sometimes I feel so impatient that I just want to meet someone and fall in love and all that, but I remember that it's a big thing and I can't just settle for anyone. Sometimes I think what makes me impatient is this loneliness I get especially when I'm with friends who have perfectly happy relationships. Or again, when I'm with my brother and his wife. It makes me wonder often when it would be my turn. But if I really, really sit down and think about it, I'm really in no hurry. I mean, I feel like it because I'm lonely, but in reality, I can still wait. And I am willing to wait because it's worth it, right?

    Our time will come, I'm pretty sure. :) And when we get there, we'll look back at these times wonder why we even fretted over this thing. :)

  37. Love isn't easy. Sometimes you will meet the person you are in love with and you might not even see it right away - this happened to me. :) I was in a relationship, thought I was in love when I met my now husband. He was in love with me from day one and I didn't believe people when they told me that. I would get so mad at him when he'd treat me like his girlfriend and we'd stop talking and then I would miss him and start talking again.

    My other relationship was iffy and when the day came that my husband said to me "I can't be friends with you because I love you too much" I spent a night literally throwing up and in a major panic attack over the thought of never seeing him again. The next morning I knew. I chose him. Because I didn't have a reaction at all about never seeing the other person again. ;)

    We met in March 1999, got married in July 2005. I am the happiest I have ever been and even doing mundane things like grocery shopping with him makes me SO happy. Who knew groceries could cause so much giggling? ;)

    I, too, loved him the day I met him. I felt that click, but I was in a different place in my life and head and was totally blind to it.

  38. This is such a great post. To someone who comes from a different culture and background, reading the bloggers' comments and stories is really fascinating. It makes me think that, even through time/space, individuals are plagued by the same doubts.

    I turned 22 a few months ago, and while I do think about love and marriage from time to time, I'm not really in a hurry to get into it. It's probably because I've seen a couple of my favorite people get emotionally hurt their ex-es, but for the most part, there's been great examples of a happy loving marriage, like my parents (Mom never hid the fact that they had trouble at the beginning of their marriage, but you'd never think of it if you see them now), and my cousin (even though some family members disapproved of her choice to marry the guy, he turned out to be great).

    Seeing those great examples sometimes makes me doubt that I'll ever get that sort of relationship. Not the "perfect", but the one where there's mutual trust and understanding. I have zero experience when it comes to guys, and it does freak me out that I don't know what love is (I've easily come to accept this). But at the same time, it's an amusing thought.

    I believe that if it's meant to happen, it'll happen. I'm not in a rush, I don't want to wait, and I do have other things I want to achieve for myself before I open up to the idea of love and marriage.

    Again, awesome post. =)

  39. What a wonderfully honest post!

    Like many of the other commenters, I found love when I wasn't looking. The guy friend I was hopelessly in like with at 16 set me up with one of his friends who I'd never met. Needless to say, that =ed awkward double date.

    I decided to hate my date, no matter what, but luckily he ignored my stubbornness.

    We had our ups and downs (and even a long break-up in our early 20s b/c of my doubts), but I never felt about anyone else the way I felt about him. I could be *me* when I was with him.

    Doubts are completely normal - we were together on/off for over 10 years before we got married and I was still scared about the idea of marriage.

    Romance in books only shows the highs or the very lows, but it's the everyday stuff, like cooking dinner together or talking in bed before you fall asleep, that are the real foundation of a relationship.

    And totally cliche, but my husband is also my best friend.

  40. Steph, you sound like I did before I met the guy I married. I love how you made the distinction between right for you vs. perfect. Don’t settle for anyone who isn’t right for you. During my teen years I suffered through a series of crushes and extended hook-ups that didn’t turn into anything more than heartache. I tried to meet the “perfect” guy at parties, clubs and in class, but I never did. Then when I wasn’t looking, love found me.

    My husband and I met at 25 and almost 21 at university a couple days AFTER Valentine’s Day. He fell in love with me at first sight, and it was not a pretty sight. I was in that horrible set of clothes you only wear when doing laundry and didn’t have my contacts in. The next day he didn’t even recognize me at first, but then he asked me out. When he said he loved me I freaked out and almost broke up with him. He kept asking me to marry him at romantic moments – it became a joke. I didn’t say yes until it was a miserable day, and I still wanted to be with him. We make each other laugh and we’ve remained best friends. Plus he has gorgeous green eyes and a cool accent (he’s English.) We’ve been married 20 happy years, some in the UK and more in the USA.

    Being unlucky in love during my teen years has given me plenty of material to draw on when writing YA. My MS on submission (as u like it) is about two teens who share a love Shakespeare but in otherwise are opposites. It’s questionable whether they belong together. My WIP features an English boy and an American girl with crossed signals. Real life is bumpy and realistic fiction should be too. I have no time for schmaltzy romances, but I do believe that there is a less than perfect person out there who could be perfect for you. Don’t give up!

  41. Steph, how I love this post!

    As someone who is on the older side of the spectrum I won't repeat what many here have said but I think sometimes love is not only about knowing what you want but what you DONT want in a partner. Sure, you'll feel it in your bones when you meet the right person but it won't be in the highly romanticized way it's portrayed in many books and movies. You'll just know!

  42. Ohh! I'm sorry I missed this post when you had it. Hmm... I'm not even CLOSE to being married, or engaged, or anything even remotely like that, but having been with my boyfriend for the past 18 months, I think I can talk a little bit about my relationship.

    I can safely say I'm in love. It's not always magical, it's not always fairy-tale-ish, and you definitely see this exaggeration in Hollywood, media in general, and yes, most definitely in books. In fact, it's very hard to find a book that accurately describes it--I feel most, like you say, romanticize things. Which - okay! Maybe I'm coming into this from a perspective of a long-term relationship whereas we most often see things in the beginning, and yes, there is a great difference there.

    My boyfriend and I were in the same junior class in HS and we had assigned seating right next to each other. I was coming out of a LONG LONG LONG, and horribly emotionally draining, crush (ages 14-15) at the time, with a guy who, he destroyed my self-esteem. And it was really my doing, but he didn't help. This after another horrible quasi-relationship with someone else, and this first guy was a piece of work, let me tell you that.

    So I was not in a good place where guys were involved. I felt overlooked by the other sex, and when not overlooked, cheapened by whatever signal I was giving out. And then J came along... and I don't know. I never thought it would last this long. Maybe it was imprinting the negative aspects of the past.

    Anyway, the beginning was awesome, but it wasn't all tingly and magical. If you ever want to have this conversation with me, Steph, feel free to email. It's a bit too private to be posting on the internet, but we share some of the same points of view and I think my experience has been pretty realistic so far because I tend to look at things a bit less "omgluv!!" than most people do at 17. (Or 16, when we started going out.)

    I can't tell you how many problems we've had and how it's a true testament of our relationship -- and more than that, our COMMITMENT to it, which is what really matters when the honey moon phase is over -- that we've overcome them. He empowers me. He listens to me. He gets me.

    But it wasn't always like this, and the butterflies came later on in the relationship. Like, 3 or 4 months in. I don't know, one of my besties has this thing where she only feels sparks with guys she trusts and has been with for a while -- I think it's the same with me.

    IMO? Love, at its core, is the feeling of peace you have when you're the right person. When you stop having to pretend to be someone you're not and you're cherished for it. This is something I think we can only achieve after the initial infatuation period is over. Also, love doesn't mean you don't fight or ever have problems. I'm going through a KILLER time right now with J, and just because we had some great times during the honeymoon period and stuff, doesn't mean we're immune to them.

    Also, passion takes work. Things aren't the same at 18 months in comparison to, say, 1 month. And I'll bet it will be way different six months or six years from now. Don't let anyone convince you it doesn't take grueling work. We're having problems because we let ourselves go during a stressful time and building things up again will take major toil.

    Falling in love is easy; staying in love is hard. ;)

    I'll wrap this up right about now! Sorry for the massive comment!



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