Why romantic books could be damaging your relationship

Reading romantic fiction encourages unreal expectations of a lifelong relationship, says relationship expert

Snuggling down in bed with a romantic novel, dreaming of your very own Heathcliff, could be damaging your relationship, according to a leading psychologist.

The romantic novel, which surprisingly, accounts for almost halfthe novels sold in the UK, idealises love and sex and gives women false expectations.

‘While romance may be the wonderful foundation for a novel, it’s not a sufficiently strong foundation for running a lifelong relationship,’ says relationship expert Susan Quillaim.

Although the Mills & Boon-type stories can be enjoyable to read, they encourage unreal expectations of life.

‘A huge number of the issues we see in clinics and therapy rooms are influenced by romantic fiction,’ continues Ms Quilliam. ‘What we see is more likely to be influenced by Mills & Boon than the Family Planning Association.’

Ms Quilliam, author of The New Joy of Sex, highlighted a survey of romantic novels in which only one in ten mentions condom use. There was a correlation between the frequency of romance reading and negative attitudes towards safe sex.

‘I’m not arguing all romantic fiction is misguided, wrong or evil,’ says Miss Quilliam. ‘But if readers start to believe the story, then they store up trouble for themselves – and then they bring that trouble into our consulting rooms.

‘Sometimes the kindest and wisest thing we can do for our clients is to encourage them to put down the books – and pick up reality.’

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