New column: Advice on love, sex, and romance novels! With A. C. Rose
My friends and my husband think I have a “fiction problem.” They say I prefer fiction over real life, and that I always have my nose in a romance book or erotic love story instead of improving my life. They think I need a 12 Steps program because I buy so many books. But I just love getting lost in fictional worlds. It helps relieve my stress. What’s so wrong with that?
– Fictionally Challenged
Dear Fictionally Challenged,
Girlfriend, we are all addicted to fiction! Yeah, it can be like a narcotic that makes us feel so alive that we just can’t get enough. But much of so-called “reality,” these day, is fiction, including what we read in the news and see on TV. So you might as well choose your own fiction. It’s the healthier choice.
I think reading romantic fiction helps us keep our sanity. Raising children can get boring–believe me, I’ve been there. Striving to keep your family well, working hard to make ends meet, dealing with the inevitable challenges of married life — even when you totally love your mate–are not easy tasks. Good fictional characters and well put together story might in fact keep you from drinking too much or overeating to stuff down stressful feelings. Damn, it can save you!
Now, just like Friday night drinks with the girls or irresistible chocolate cake that melts in your mouth and makes you want more, you have to know your limits and have the self-awareness to know if you slip into that tricky place where fictional characters and books are your only reality, because that, obviously, would be delusional. Right?
A temporary binge, or an all-niter trying to finish that book you can’t put down, are all fine. We’ve all been there. But if you have a book hangover that won’t go away, or you make fictional boyfriends more important than your actual mate on a permanent basis, you will need to call Dr. Flynn! Fast!
To lose sight of the shore while your are immersed in a good book can be a good thing. Life can be hard and reading is a way to escape from life’s many stressful challenges for a nice block of time. And it can inspire you love life. Sales figures and studies have shown that romance can add to a woman’s happiness.
Men have sports that take them into another world. Kids have activities that can transport them into their own universe. We have Christian Grey and the Red Room.
Frankly, sometimes we need something other than the old in-and-out to help us feel turned on. And there is also nothing wrong with fantasizing about fictional characters if that helps spice up your own bedroom play (or self-love play if you do not have a partner).
Just to be sure, I checked in with Alexis Conason, Psy.D., a New York-based licensed psychologist and sex therapist to see what she has to say about fiction addiction.
“The benefits of romances is they can be fun and entertaining to read, encourage fantasy, and encourage explorations of new sexual activities in a safe way,” said Dr. Conason. “These may be activities that you do or don’t want to try in real life, or may not have the opportunity to try in real life.”
“Do romances create false expectations of men? Perhaps. But no more so than Disney, Jerry Maguire (since when do we need someone else to complete us?), or just about any romantic comedy ever made. If you are someone who left Mr. and Mrs. Smith feeling despondent that you are not married to Brad Pitt or left Harry Potter looking for your magic wand, then yes, you may want to exercise caution when reading erotic romances. However, for most people, erotic romance novels are fiction and can be used as wonderfully sexually stimulating tools for fantasy.”
So there you have it. If fiction makes you happy and you can bring the inspiration back to hubby, it’s totally healthy. If you are having trouble communicating or loving your mate, or having normal conversations with friends, then you may want to take some reality breaks from fiction to make sure you are not losing it completely.