One of the most common (and notably fun to read) tropes in romance novels is of the well-known playboy who after years of philandering, meets the right woman and finds himself eagerly running down the straight and narrow path to monogamy. As the character wrestles with his identity change, it makes for a great, dramatic story that is all the more enchanting. But after watching 50 Shades Freed this weekend (simultaneously a good, and terrible film), I really started to think about whether on not these kinds of stories are true, or even remotely realistic. How often do men change habits in relationships? And is it at all likely that a rabid skirt-chaser will suddenly settle down and want to have kids?
I have my doubts.
Of course, I think of the most current example of a serial bachelor turned changed man: Prince Harry. A restless royal who attended countless parties, Harry was a beloved and notorious rake whose previous relationships never ended at the altar. But suddenly he meets Ms. Markle and his entire focus changes – I mean, did you all see his body language during the wedding? Besotted doesn’t even begin to describe it! Perhaps that’s why his nuptials were so captivating and all the more a romantic fairytale – we weren’t sure he was ever going to settle down. And though their happiness and marriage won’t be subject to a complete appraisal for many years (hopefully joyfully married ones), he is, effectively, an altar-ed man.
But why is the reformed rake such a popular theme to begin with? Could it be how unlikely it is to ever change a man of this behavior? Or, as females, do we desire to be the one who can flip a rogue lover into a devoted chap? That power is exciting and enthralling, so all the more reason for it to appear more often in fantasy than in real life. And did Prince Harry change all that much anyway? We forget that he was in quite a few committed, long-term relationships before he met Markle, so I’m not sure if attributing playboy qualities on him are really all that fair.
As for myself, and frankly, anyone who cares about who they end up with, the right person does make you change a bit. Your hesitancy drops out, you make the leap, and you’re willing to do anything to make that particular person happy. So, in effect, I’m torn. People have the capacity for great change, but at the same time, it is something we all inherently struggle with. Changing ourselves is hard, and eliciting change in others tends to be even harder.
So perhaps the better question is not about the flip of the switch from bachelor pad to honeymoon, rather the degree to which someone can change. Do I think a guy who has had an endless string of one night stands going to settle down unexpectedly? No. But perhaps a man who’s been in a few, longer partnerships is more likely to find someone to go all in with. And people do change over time, even within relationships. When I met Jon, he didn’t want to get married, and so much for that vow sticking around.
While measured changes in behavior are much more realistic, realism tends to make for a duller storyline – particularly when it comes to romance novels. So while it is probably possible for a man to change once they meet the right woman, they probably won’t change all that much. Which means if you’re looking to date a scoundrel in the hopes that he’ll turn into the marrying kind, I’d keep your expectations rather low. And as for me, I’m happy to enjoy the fantasy. I think it makes for a much better ending anyway.
Do you think the storyline of the rehabilitated rake is the stuff of fiction? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!