Romance or crime?

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Over the last month or so, I have watched way too many Christmas romance movies. My husband really likes them, so we have watched just about every one that has come on TV, or at least it feels that way. These movies tend to be very formulaic, as described in this satirical post that I saw on Facebook.

That’s fine. Readers/movie watchers enjoy particular tropes, so they are used over and over again. I am seriously considering writing a Christmas book where the female protagonist goes back to the small-town-with-the-Christmas-spirit and the old flame she left behind when she was eighteen to pursue her dream job, only to discover that he is a jerk and the townspeople are petty and small-minded, that the town would be better off if it was bulldozed by the big developer, and that she had the Christmas spirit all along!

But we watched one movie that really bothered me. Several things happened:

  • The man who was the romantic interest employed high-pressure tactics to try to talk the female protagonist into participating in something that she made very clear she did not want to be a part of.
  • When she continued to refuse, he signed her up anyway and publicized that she was doing it.
  • He gave her and her young daughter unexpected presents and attention.
  • He arranged things so that the protagonist’s child care worker could not take care of her daughter one day, and then volunteered to care for the girl. When she objected, he pointed out that the daughter liked him and therefore he would be a good babysitter. She agreed to let him have her daughter for the day.

All kinds of red flags!

Now, this is a holiday romance, so everything turns out just fine. No harm comes to the daughter, the protagonist decides she is in love with the romantic interest, she does the performance he signed her up for, a lovely Christmas is had by all, and they live happily ever after.

But in real life, these are red flags of someone with an abusive personality who may be grooming the daughter for sexual abuse. Ignoring the mother’s clear “no” answers and manipulating her, giving gifts and attention, and inserting himself into a position to be alone with the daughter in a position of trust are all warning signs.

Sexual predators can be very subtle. Know the signs and talk to your kids about inappropriate behaviours. Encourage them to talk to you if they feel uncomfortable about someone or if adults (even close friends and relatives) tell them to keep a secret, show them pornography, tell inappropriate jokes, etc. Then get the person out of your life.

This happened to us once. It was scary, it made us feel like we were being paranoid, and it was difficult to have nothing more to do with the person in question, someone who had been very generous to our family and had developed a close relationship with my husband and son.

We can’t always predict who the predators are. They will appear friendly and charming. But if we know the signs, sometimes we can identify the danger before it strikes.

On TV and in books, there is often a strong male lead who tells the female protagonist how she needs to change her life in order to be happy. She resists, but he is right, and when she finally gives in and does what he tells her to, they live happily ever after. That is fantasy, escapism. In real life you are the one who is best positioned to make the decisions that will make you happy. As much as we would like to live in a book where we know we will live happily ever after, we need to be in charge of our own lives and not let someone else dictate our choices.

So enjoy your romance movies and books, but don’t live your life like one.



  1. Venette Schafer says:

    That was a very good article!! There sometimes is a very fine line between is it romance or us it abuse. You did a great job explaining the difference between fiction and reality. Thank you.

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