Making the changes I did was because it didn’t work in that particular story. But bad relationships are very real and people stay in them for all sorts of reasons. How my parents have stayed together for almost 36 years astounds me. It is the greatest mystery I will never solve. There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t dissect their relationship in my head and compare it to me and my husbands calm and drama-free marriage.
But which would make a better story? My parents and their soap opera marriage with hair pulling or my rather calm marriage? I say my parents. I’m happy in my marriage but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to spend 200 pages with us. We hardly ever fight, never curse or belittle one another, and never throw things at each other than the TV remote. Ours is a quiet love with lots of nerd jokes. We’re the cutesy romantic comedy. And while that’s fun sometimes, nothing gets the juices flowing like passionate embraces and face slaps.
Maybe I’m biased. I’ll admit, my favorite movie couples are often tragic, doomed, and overly passionate. I don’t often like happy endings. I prefer when a lover dies in a painful way, or sacrifices themselves to save their lover, or something huge makes them part. These tragic affairs have inspired me over and over again. I’ve written countless poems and stories based on these sad loves. The thoughts of what could have been and the forever longing haunt me after the credits roll.
But my parents aren’t tragic, they’re both healthy people who have no idea how to communicate with each other. Somehow they’ve managed to stay married in a society where the divorce rate for heterosexuals is high. Their relationship is a rocky one that is always up and down. Looking from the outside in, it makes no logical sense for them to stay together. There is something that pulls each one to the other, an unexplained force that defies logic, reason, and anything else. There have been many times I hoped for them to part but not any longer. They have their happy moments as they get older.
It’s these quiet little moments I can peek into that also inspire me. Because despite all the bad, there are secrets of good. Maybe one day their passion will burn a little slower and calmer but I doubt it.
Look inside your character’s romantic relationship. Why do you like it so much? Is it similar to a relationship in your own life? If so, does it work for the story? If it isn’t, maybe it’s time to examine it and either change it up or get rid of it.
You as the writer, have the privilege of knowing the whole story with your characters. But as people, we may not get the whole story in other people’s relationships. Before you judge someone for staying in a bad relationship, realize you don’t have all the facts.
It’s not always easy to just get up and leave when you’re at the mercy of love.