Angela Ruth Strong
I’d just sold my first book, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, when my first husband left me. I had to write the romance novel as my own marriage fell apart. After that, I didn’t want to write romances anymore. They seemed like fairytales. I didn’t feel lovable. There didn’t seem to be any healthy single men in the world anyway. And I had trouble believing happily ever after could exist.
After I met Mr. Strong, and love changed my life, I wanted to write romance again, but I wanted to write the kind that educates women on healthy relationships. I am now sharing what I’ve learned about marriage in a fun and entertaining way so my readers can make better decisions than I’d once made.
While healing from my own heartbreak, I read about the seven heart issues that destroy relationships: selfishness, pride, anger, jealousy, laziness, fear, and the evil heart. Author Leslie Vernick compares heart issues to a bottle of water that looks clear until it’s shaken, and that’s when the sediment on the bottom rises up and makes everything icky. In the same way, when our lives our shaken up, the ickyness in our hearts arise even though we’d appeared pure in heart before. I decided to write characters dealing with specific heart issues.
In my latest romantic comedy, Husband Auditions, I wrote a lazy (but lovable) hero named Kai. You don’t see many lazy heroes in Christian fiction, but you do see them in real life. And I know many women struggle with loving a man who won’t put in the effort to love her back.
So I countered Kai’s laziness with Meri’s fear. While Kai doesn’t want to get married because it will take too much work on his part, Meri is afraid of never getting married. So what happens when they fall in love?
The lesson they both learn through Husband Auditions will pertain to anyone no matter what kind of heart issue you deal with. And the lesson is this: Don’t choose bad love over no love at all.
In a healthy relationship, we can’t take shortcuts. We can’t step into the other person’s darkness just to be together. We have to value ourselves and value them enough to want what’s best for them. So we choose to step into the light, inviting the other person to join us and knowing that if they don’t (and we lose that relationship), we are still worth loving.
The flip side is true, as well. When someone sets a boundary with us, we shouldn’t take that as rejection and walk away. We value them enough to acknowledge our flaws, learn from our mistakes, and work toward reconciliation.
In my life, that looked like my first husband having multiple affairs then saying, “The only way I see our marriage working is if we move to a new town.” I wanted to keep my marriage, and I didn’t mind moving, but I didn’t think a move could be what saved us. Had we moved, I would have been isolated from support, and his adulterous past would have been kept a secret. It would have been stepping into darkness. So I responded, “I’m only moving if God tells me to move.” Which was not the answer he wanted to hear.
Later I thought, I could have saved my marriage if I’d moved. But what kind of marriage would I have been saving? Would that have been the healthiest thing for either of us? Would it have lasted, or would it have been laying sod over toxic waste?
No. I stayed in the light. I was willing to work on our relationship, but I wasn’t willing to do his work for him.
This is a hard lesson to learn. And it hurts on both sides. But hurt is different from harm. It’s like the chemotherapy I went through last year. It hurt, but it killed the breast cancer that would have harmed me.
So, whether you are currently in a struggling relationship or looking for the right person to commit to, my advice comes from the words of Jesus in The Message translation of Matthew 19:12 that I also quoted in Husband Auditions. If you are capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.
Husband Auditions is not your typical rom-com. Yes, it’s romantic, and yes, it’s funny. But some readers hated the ending. I’m okay with that though because I know it’s exactly what other readers needed.
And perhaps it’s not a romance at all. Perhaps it’s a love story where God is the hero. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll write you all a sequel.