Is it just me, or is there a new trend in romance these days?
I’m talking about the obsessive relationship.
It’s not uncommon in paranormal romance. The whole idea behind a “mate” includes increased possessiveness and heightened protective instincts, and the guy involved is usually of the uber-alpha variety. But lately I’ve been seeing it pop up in romance and erotic romance. And then I go and read the reviews and they’re full of fangirling over the hero and how sexy it is that he loves her so much and oh god oh god oh god I want him so bad I want him to be my book boyfriend he is MINE.
This…this disturbs me.
There is nothing sexy about a relationship where the two people involved are so incredibly co-dependent they simply can’t function without one another. The possessiveness, the jealousy, the hurt and the ecstasy when they’re
reunited comes off as walking a line between co-dependent and abusive. Because it’ll only take one incident, one display of over the top anger for it to tip from unhealthy to deadly.
What bothers me most about the obsessive relationship is how that relationship becomes the sum total of the person. He or she is no longer enough on their own. When the relationship is over, both are shells of their former selves. Attempts to move on stutter, stop, stutter, and don’t ever fully engage. Not until our hero and heroine reunite. And it takes these otherwise strong, independent women and breaks them into tiny pieces.
And, let’s face it, it leads to so much angst I want to kill myself after reading. In Sylvia Day’s Reflected in You, the already fraught and tense relationship between Eva and Gideon becomes even more so. There’s much crying, and fucking, and crying while fucking, and declarations of how one can’t breathe without the other. When the inevitable blow out happens, the pair of them put on a gloss of normality that just barely covers the fatigue and heartache and crushing loneliness. Same in Katy Evans’ Real. And again in Rush by Maya Banks. There’s gotta be more, but those are just the ones I’ve read most recently.
So why do these bother me so much? Especially when I come across them so often in paranormal romance?
Within the “mating” relationship in paranormal romance, the heroine never loses her sense of self. She’ll tell her mate when it’s too much and push for space. Sometimes she’ll choose to go without, either from fear that giving in will make her a lesser person (Adria in Nalini Singh’s Tangle of Need) or that the mating bond comes without love (Elise in Lara Adrian’s Midnight Awakening). There are clear boundaries within these relationships, and neither party is afraid to tell the other when a line’s been crossed.
But from what I’ve read in contemporary romance, there are no boundaries. Anything goes, until someone breaks, and then they back up just enough to keep that shaky line in place.
Now, I know that the majority of the reading population out there is capable of telling fact from fiction, and while the obsessive relationship can make for some addicting reading (why do you think I finished those books in the first place?), I worry about the few who can’t. I worry about the young women who want a boyfriend who is dark, and closed off, damaged in so many ways, who will completely surround them with love because some story they read put that front and center and it appealed to them. And by the time they figure out that sort of relationship can suffocate the personality right out of you, it’ll be too late.
Bottom line: if you’re going to have a relationship that’s heavy on the possessive, protective, I need your love to survive end of the spectrum, the world you create around your characters needs to support it. It needs to be seen as the norm, which is why, for me, it works in a paranormal romance.