Yet what is love? I pray thee sain.
It is a sunshine mixed with rain;
It is a tooth-ache, or like pain;
It is a game where none hath gain;
The lass saith no, and would full fain:
And this is love, as I hear sain.
Yet what is love? I pray thee say.
It is a yea, it is a nay,
A pretty kind of sporting fray;
It is a thing will soon away;
Then take the vantage while you may:
And this is love, as I hear say.
— Sir Walter Raleigh
The spirited debate on love--functional, dysfunctional, ethical, selfish and otherwise--that the Grey's Anatomy finale inspired in our comments section got me pondering the subject that dramatists, poets, etc. have pondered for centuries. Does true love require pain? Madness? The rejection of all else? Or is it something far more rational and practical and orderly?
Seeing that I'm an aspiring romance novelist, my take on the subject may surprise. But I don't believe in perfect love. I don't believe "true" love is willing to flout all laws, conventions and morals to be with the loved object. I believe what a lot of people celebrate as true love is really just redirected narcissismism.
I do believe in soul mates. I do believe there is a right person out there for everyone. But I also know that keeping a marriage together takes work and effort and sacrifice, and that a person who behaves wrongly toward others in the name of "love" will eventually behave wrongly in spite of love.
So how does a girl write romance without all the angst? Very carefully. Romance novels require confusion and obstacles and arguments and missed cues and mixed messages. But I hope that my characters have a kindness toward each other and an understanding of each other that transcends the drama. I hope they behave better because of their relationship, not worse. I hope to never write a book in which readers can't picture my characters having a happy, contented, fulfilling life together after the action is finished. I'd like my eventual readers to be able to close the book and picture my characters as an old man and woman sitting alone in a room, not saying anything but happy to be near one another. That to me is true love.