Prevalent opinion seems to be that a story has to have a Happily Ever After in order to be a romance. After all, without a happy ending isn’t it just a drama or tragedy? The whole idea of a romance is an escape into a world of sweet nothings and eternal bliss, right? Under this thought process, these comics, and other bittersweet stories, aren’t really romances.
After much thought, I’m not sure I believe this opinion entirely. Perhaps what makes romance special is not the happy ending, but its ability to bring an emotional catharsis to readers. It plays on some of our most private thoughts and desires, and helps us work through the emotional and social ramifications of relationships. Romance is sometimes denigrated as being ‘fluffy’, but our partnerships and sexual relationships form a large part of our identities – hardly fluffy stuff, if you ask me.
Sometimes, these emotions and relationships are not perfectly happy; sometimes love is not forever. That doesn’t mean anything has gone wrong, it just means everything has its course and time to end. Young lovers grow, change and perhaps are eventually better suited for other partners. Stresses in life can leave couples unable to connect in a way that is still beneficial to each other. Beliefs and values can shift and lead to amicable separation.
These things happen, and I think it is just as important to work through these emotions and celebrate them. A love that doesn’t last forever can still be as wonderfully impactful on our lives, and I am a fan of honoring all the romances who make us who we are – even the romances long past. Sometimes ‘messing up’ one romance leaves you a much better person and better partner in the long run.
This is not to say I don’t want my happy endings! I love happy endings, and nothing gives me greater joy than carving out a little bit of perpetual bliss for my characters. However, I’m open to occasionally reading and writing romances that don’t end with happily ever after. If the ending helps the characters grow and reach their happiest potential (even if that ultimately is with a different person), then I’m ok with a bit of bitter-sweetness.
This article was originally posted to Dirty Discourse.