Don’t believe in Hollywood hype - love isn’t all you need

Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral
Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral
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Yorkshire author Linda Green believes too many of us buy into the myth of romance sold to us by Hollywood. It’s why her latest novel is an antidote to chicklit.

So here’s the plot: boy meets girl, the course of true love does not run smoothly, they overcome the obstacles (often in hilarious fashion), seal their love with a kiss and stroll off into the sunset, destined to live happily ever after.

When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally

Read that one before? Or seen the film? Yes, me too. Know anyone whose life has mirrored that? No, me neither. I’m 44-years-old. I’ve been with my husband for 23 years. We have a gorgeous nine-year-old son. But if I said we’ve been blissfully loved-up for every minute of that time and have never had any difficult times, I’d be lying. That’s not to say we’re unhappy or that we don’t love each other. We do. But I believe it’s important to acknowledge that relationships are very much about getting through good times and bad.

And as a writer, it’s the bad times which particularly interest me. Relationships are hard. Very hard. Some of my friends and family have made it through similarly long relationships, others haven’t.

Along the way between us we have had to cope with the death of a child, miscarriage, infertility, death of parents, cancer, life-changing accidents, depression, redundancy, not to mention the general chaos of raising families.

To be honest, I sometimes find it incredible how many of the couples I know have stayed together, given what life has thrown at them.And the ridiculous thing is that we still don’t talk about it.

The first I knew that one of my friends’ relationship was in trouble was when she told me they were splitting up. She also revealed that almost everyone she had told so far had confided in her that they had gone through, or were currently going through, a very difficult period.

There is still a massive taboo about acknowledging that your relationship is in trouble. Couples are either together, in which case we are supposed to assume that they are blissfully happy, or they split up. The truth is there is a massive grey area in between, and the fact that this is not spoken about, means young couples starting out together have unrealistic expectations.

If your parents have never told you how tough it is to stay together for 25 years, the first time you have a row with your partner there is a tendency to think you have screwed up big time.

We take our cars in for a service once a year, we have routine maintenance work carried out on our houses to prevent minor problems becoming big ones, but still it seems as a society we are reluctant to pay the same kind of attention to what should be the most important thing in our lives - our relationships.

That is why I wanted to write a novel about a couple whose relationship was put under great strain. I decided to set the opening scene of The Marriage Mender in a relationship counselling session. I wanted to be clear that we are dealing with a couple whose relationship is in crisis. Then I wanted to take a step back in time to see how they got to that point, before seeing if their relationship could survive.

The two main characters, Alison and Chris, love each other. Couples who get together generally do. But we have got to let go of the ridiculously romantic notion that love is all you need. Instead, we should be talking about what happens when things go wrong and developing the support, strategies and skills we need to try to put things right. We need to stop believing in happily ever after and accept that not all couples are dealt a good hand. What matters is how you deal with the problems, not pretending that you never had any in the first place.

The Marriage Mender by Linda Green is published by Quercus (£6.99) Linda will be speaking about her novel and signing copies at Waterstones in Bradford on Saturday at 5pm and The Book Case in Hebden Bridge on September 11 at 7.30pm.