Happy Valentine’s Day! February is the official month of love, so what better time of the year for writers to think about romance? Love is one of my favorite themes, and when I think about the best romantic stories I’ve ever written, I often find hints of the real romance I’ve been living with my boyfriend over the last eight years. I’ve learned many lessons about love in my personal life, and I like to think they’ve made me both a better writer and a better person!

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are three lessons I learned from being in love that have served as inspiration for my romantic fiction. I hope they’ll inspire you too! Enjoy!

1) The greatest romance is with your best friend.

I know some guys still have a hard time believing this, so let me clear something up right now: there is no such thing as the “friend zone”! Trust me: this is coming from a woman who’s never dated a guy she didn’t consider a friend first. Just saying.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you should always establish a friendship with someone before you start dating them. I’m just saying that when you do fall in love, it should be with someone you consider a true companion: someone who makes you laugh, who makes you feel safe, and who will always be there for you no matter what.

In other words, your best friend.

Me when my boyfriend is playing PC games while I’m writing
Illustration from the comic “Soppy” by Philippa Rice

I had the good fortune of falling in love with a man I already loved and trusted as a friend. This took a lot of pressure off the beginning of our relationship, and it’s only gotten better ever since! It’s no wonder so many of my fictional couples start out as close friends; it’s worked out so well in my real life!

2) True love isn’t in extravagant gifts and declarations; it’s in everyday words and gestures.

Any woman who grew up watching Disney princess movies from the 20th century probably reached adulthood with unrealistic expectations of men. After all, Disney princes are valiant heroes who give magic kisses and go to incredible lengths to rescue the women they love. Real-life guys can hardly compare, right?

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my current relationship, it’s that the so-called true love in fairy tales is very different from true love in real life.

Love is in the little things
Illustrations by Puuung

I know beyond a doubt that my boyfriend loves me, but not because he showers me with gifts or writes me poetry that would rival Shakespeare’s. I can see it in the little things: the way he looks at me, the way he smiles at the sight of me when he comes home from work, the way he tells me I’m beautiful even when I’m wearing sweats and my hair is a mess, the way he knows exactly what to say or do to make me laugh.

In turn, I do my best to show him how much I love him in the same way: I compliment him every day, I constantly remind him how proud of him I am, and I do whatever I can to cheer him up when he has a bad day. Love is a two-way street!

Drawing inspiration from personal experience, I often add the same details to the relationships between my characters. True love means making each other happy, and in the long run, isn’t that much easier with small everyday gestures than with grand declarations of love?

3) You deserve someone who loves you just the way you are.

There are too many stories out there about girls who change everything about themselves just to please their guys, like Twilight or Grease or The Little Mermaid. Personally, I prefer the kind of story where the guy falls for the girl because she’s already everything he needs and vice versa.

The Difference between Love and Lust
Illustration by Karina Farek for CollegeHumor

I like to think my boyfriend and I found each other at the right time in our lives. I was in college and constantly feeling lonely and frustrated because I couldn’t seem to fit in with my classmates, while he wasn’t exactly at the highest point in his life either.

The initial connection we had and the relationship that followed have since found their way into some of the best romantic stories I’ve ever written. My favorite of these was about two young people who, despite being fine enough on their own, completed each other and made each other stronger. I didn’t have to look far for the inspiration behind that one!

There’s no better feeling than having someone who always supports your dreams and loves you just the way you are (besides your parents, of course). So if you love writing about love, I highly recommend experiencing it yourself. With a true romance in your life, you’ll never run out of inspiration!

What about you? What lessons have you learned about love in your lifetime? How have they inspired your writing?

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