Many writers struggle to create a realistic romantic relationship between two characters, especially if they’ve never been in one. Here’s the thing – if you really don’t know anything, then ask someone who is in a relationship, like your parents, an older sibling. Even your grandparents, because they’ve been married for who knows how long at this point?
The first thing to keep in mind is that not every relationship is perfect. Because faults make characters real, faults make relationships real, too. Things don’t work out. Take Tony and Jessica, for example. Jessica thought that Tony was picking up the pizza tonight, and Tony thought that Jessica was doing it. But he has a doctor’s appointment, so Jessica has to run out and grab the pizza, which is now cold, so they’re a little peeved at each other. Little things like this make a relationship seem real – little things that go wrong.
But not everything has to go horribly. Tony takes Jessica out for coffee every Thursday morning, and she picks up his library books from hold on Tuesday evening. They like to cuddle while watching their favorite movies, and they’re excellent caretakers when the other gets sick. Like in real life, any good relationship is based on people who care about each other. They want to protect each other and are there to listen to each other when something goes wrong. For realism, make sure to keep the relationship upbeat, even when things do go wrong.
There are exceptions to this rule. If your main or supporting characters are supposed to be in a relationship that is not supposed to work for plot purposes, then by all means go ahead. These types of relationships can be either or both physically and psychologically damaging, depending on the situation. Please be careful with these, as it is easy to write them incorrectly. If possible, respectfully talk to people who have been in these types of relationships so that you can get a better understanding of them.
On the other hand, be careful not to make everything perfect. Nothing is ever perfect, especially in books, because it’s boring. The best thing to do, in my mind, is to give your characters a lesson that your readers can then learn from. If Tony and Jessica break up at the start of the book, follow Tony as he tries to get them back together. If they are in a rocky relationship that seems doomed, follow Jessica as she tries to piece them back together. They don’t have to turn out perfectly. Tony may not get them back together. In fact, he might meet Sarah, who turns out to be better for them. Maybe Jessica can’t fix their relationship, and goes to her mother, who she hasn’t spoken to in years, for help.
Again, your relationship doesn’t need to be flawless, but it should teach your characters and then, your reader, something quite valuable. All the single ladies and gentlemen (and those who are together with someone they value very much!), I wish you a very wonderful Valentine’s Day. Love is love is love is love, so keep the people you love close.