In her post Why Smart Women Read Romance Novels, Anne Browning Walker makes the point that the romance genre gets a bad rap it definitely doesn’t deserve. Wondering why it’s so smart to read romance novels? Read on.
Romance reminds us to question our own expectations.
No, not everyone’s life story ends up looking like a romance novel. But love can come from the places we least expect. Books like The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie illustrate the magic that can happen when we leave behind our expectations about people and circumstances and give them a chance. That can make all the difference in your love life or in your perspective on work, friendship, or diversity.
Romance novels remind us of the ways love helps us grow.
Every romance teaches us something–about ourselves, about the world around us, and about the personalities that catch us off guard and take our breath away. Sometimes the lessons we learn from love are beautiful, and sometimes they’re more painful than anything we’ve ever experienced. In both cases, our own romances and the romances we read give us a perspective on our own growth that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Novels teach us empathy.
Reading fiction and exploring new worlds with our imagination makes you a more empathetic human being. When you’re reading a romance novel or being told a story, your sensory cortex lights up just like it would if you were experiencing the events of the story firsthand. You imagine what it’s like to be standing in that person’s shoes, feeling that person’s exhilaration. Or love. Or fear. You gain perspective and understanding from people you’ve never met.
Romance novels relieve stress.
For decades, medical professionals have been documenting the importance of keeping stress under control. So while reading a romance novel might seem like a guilty pleasure (or to some, a waste of time), it can be therapeutic in the right doses. The world’s most successful disengage from their responsibilities so they can recharge their batteries. In other words, curling up with a feel-good book and a cup of tea might be the best thing you can do for your health this evening, so go ahead and indulge.
Reading fiction helps you stay sharp longer.
Studies have shown that those who read on a regular basis later in life tend to stay shop longer. Readers have a 32% slower mental decline in old age than those who don’t read regularly, and they show fewer symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reading fiction can treat many mental health issues.
Depression, mild alcohol abuse, communication issues, anxiety, and even eating disorders can be improved through bibliotherapy–the use of literature to support good mental health. Maybe this is why readers stay sharp longer and often relate to others better.
Romance novels aren’t what they used to be.
If the thought of a romance novel makes you think of a scantily-clad woman on the cover of a Harlequin romance novel, you need to re-think your romances (or pick up a more contemporary book). Today’s romances offer a depth and perspective, along with more well-developed heroines (like Ronda!) that actually have a personality of their own. Hello, modern woman! The stereotypical alluring heroine of 30 years ago doesn’t have anything on today’s romantic fiction.
So if you’ve been on the fence about ordering Two Weeks in Spain, maybe you should just look at it as an investment in your brain function, mental health, and understanding of the world around you. It’s cheaper than the alternatives, and it’s a feel-good guilty pleasure you won’t have to feel guilty about.