One of my guilty pleasures, that I justify under the guise of relationship research, is reading some of the varied relationship advice forums out there on the Internet.
I enjoy reading the scenarios (even if they’re made up) and considering what I would do if they were my characters. How would I make it worse? Or fix it? What would they need to do to get back on track?
I also enjoy reading the advice given by either professional advice columnists or random people who think they know how to help. Sometimes it’s good. Often it really isn’t.
One of the recurring themes I see when I venture into reader groups is complaints about characters who could solve their problems if they just sat down and had a conversation. And, as a reader myself, I can agree that that’s frustrating. There have been any number of books where I’ve wanted to reach into the pages and give each of them a little shake and say, “Hey! Go talk!”
But you know what?
It’s more common that you’d think. So many times in these online discussions, the scenario is as follows: One of them does something that makes the other one mad. They yell. One or both of them decide to give the other the silent treatment. One of them goes online saying, “What do I do? I am trying to talk but they won’t return my text/answer the phone/speak to me.”
And really at the end of the day? They could fix their problems if they’d sit down and talk to one another. So hey, maybe when that happens in books it’s more realistic than you’d like to believe!
What’s at the heart of many breakups? Bad communication.
Of course, when I look at these relationship problems through the lens of the Bible, it’s trickier. I’m reasonably certain that Jesus doesn’t want us give someone the silent treatment. Certainly, there are times to keep a bridle on ones tongue, but that’s not really what the silent treatment and the refusal to talk through a problem is. In fact, we’re instructed in the Bible not to let the sun go down on our anger — that’s the exact opposite of the silent treatment.
That said, I also think it’s realistic (and reasonable) to take a moment to step back in the midst of an argument. The key, in real life at least, is to say something along the lines of, “You know what? I am not in the headspace where we can have a productive conversation and find resolution right now. I need a few minutes.”
My husband and I have both used that (or something similar) many times in our 28 years married.
But can you imagine that in a romance novel? Yawn. How boring to have two incredibly mature and in control of their emotions people disagreeing pleasantly with one another and calmly and rationally attacking every problem. (Also, I don’t know that that can happen in a real relationship.) And this is coming from someone who really doesn’t love high angst high drama books!
So what’s my point? (It’s a good question.)
I guess it’s this: give writers some grace.
With this topic, and a whole bunch of others lately, I’ve been seeing more and more readers jumping into what I call “pile on” mode. One reader will say, “I hate when they could solve their problems by talking to each other.” And then people chime in in the comments, “Yeah! That’s the worst. It’s so lazy and awful!” or “Wow, I have never read a billionaire romance but they’re stupid and I hate them.” And people jump in “Yeah! So dumb and unrealistic! And Christians should be ashamed for thinking it could ever be otherwise.” And so on. And so forth.
Because with any of these reader preferences, there’s going to be a good reason the writer chose to go that route. And also? There are other readers out there who maybe don’t think it’s so bad. But they’ll join the pile on because of peer pressure and then suddenly, you’re missing out on fantastic books and authors are getting discouraged and going out to find new careers, depriving us of even more amazing books.
Have you ever been one to give the silent treatment? Or been on the receiving end of it? I’d also love for you to share a conflict resolution tip that you’ve found beneficial in your life and relationships!