You don’t need me to tell you what makes a great romance. The plot will contain obstacles to keep the lovers apart, right? Then, against incredible odds, they find their way back together, even if they have to battle across continents. And in the end, it’s sex happily ever after.
Wars in faraway lands, a family’s vehement disapproval, illnesses/injuries to a lover--are just a few devices that work beautifully to keep people apart. The harder the universe conspires against our lovers, the more we root for them to find each others arms (and sex happily ever after).
Of course, it’s not only about the sex (although, what's not to like?). But good love stories have emotional growth, too. Usually, for example, each lover has a trait that the other is lacking. A successful, buttoned-up man is entranced by the free spirit of a fun but irresponsible woman. He needs some of her looseness so he can learn to enjoy life. And she is attracted to his solid grasp of the world, as it helps to ground her, because it’s hard to always be flying around. Then they have love and sex happily ever after.
Okay, so that's how the stories go. What if, however, a romantic story doesn’t end with sex happily ever after? What if sex were, for whatever reason, totally off the table?
After almost a century of the mind as the new frontier, people now view intimacy and love in new lights. We are having conversations about our softness, our willingness to be vulnerable with one another, our need to empathize with others, and how that is satisfying, wholehearted love--no matter the age, gender or sexual preference.
What if a man falls for a woman who, he discovers, is midway through having a sex change? (See television series, Hit or Miss.) A smitten Irishman faces belittlement if his mates discover their secret. Yet, even though he’s uncertain if or how sex could happen, he’s still crazy for her.
What happens when someone falls in love with a person with the AIDS virus? Or the full blown disease? What if the object of love were partially paralyzed with no sexual function?
In my debut novel, Crimes of Redemption, two characters who have survived sexual abuse love one another, but are so scarred they struggle with letting anybody into their lives again.
Yet, whether there is physical consummation or not, all lovers have to traverse emotional deserts and mountains to find each other. Walk on the razor’s edge of vulnerability and openness with one another. It takes real courage to travel those lands, too.
In those moments when we truly open up our heart to another, are there many braver acts than that? How about ending up with wholehearted love? That truly could be forever after.
Linda Lee McDonald
I live comfortably poor in Oklahoma City, have a backyard garden in constant need of a weedeater manicure, am visited by birds every day when they bathe in my mixing bowl birdbath, and am blessed with my two rescue dogs, Jake and Roxie, who save me every day of my life.