Linda Howard: What I’ve Learned About Love

By Paulette Cohn for eHarmony

Linda Howard   Brian#66A3FF

Looking for Mr. Perfect? If so, you will want to check out what New York Times best-selling author Linda Howard has to say on the subject of love and romance. In fact, Howard wrote a novel she titled Mr. Perfect, and it was her first romantic comedy that was also a suspense because there was a murder to be solved.

“I loved reading the men who write suspense like Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter and Robert Crais,” says the Alabama-born author. “But no matter what I was writing, I always wanted the relationship in there, too, so I did my own and put the relationship in. To me that’s as much a part of the book as the plot or the narrative and the dialogue. The relationship. The people.”

Howard’s current novel, the just-released Shadow Woman, is so named because the heroine is someone who wakes up one morning and doesn’t recognize herself in the mirror. Then she realizes two years of her memory is missing — she doesn’t remember getting the job she holds, she doesn’t remember moving into the house where she lives, but she remembers her childhood.  What happens is the story behind those missing two years — and the man who tries to help her figure it out.

“I write to entertain myself,” Howard says. “I really do and I hope the readers are entertained.  I’m not trying to teach anybody anything, I’m not trying to change anybody’s mind about anything.  It’s simple entertainment.  That’s all I want from movies, that’s all I want from books, that’s all I want from television.  That’s what it’s there for, it’s an entertainment medium.”

In addition to her novels, eHarmony spoke to Howard, who met her Mr. Perfect — husband Gary F. Howington while working at a trucking company — about what writing about love and living in a long-term, loving relationship has taught her about the topic.

eH: What has writing about love taught you about love?

LH: That it changes. When you get married — actually it’s not so much writing about love, it’s life. When you get married, you’re just in that fever and, I think, a lot of people when love changes to something more settled and to them not as exciting, they think, “Well, I’m not in love anymore. I love this person but I’m not in love,” and then they do something stupid and get divorced.  What they don’t realize is that love changes as it matures.

eH: What do you love most about your life now?

LH: The fact that it is calmer, more settled. I’m with someone I love and know. Somehow that doesn’t sound exciting but it’s very comforting. I know I can be myself.  I don’t have to worry about jumping up and brushing my teeth and putting on makeup because he has seen me this way for many years now.

eH: How long have you been together?

LH: Gosh, we got married 38 years ago.

eH: Wow.  Congratulations! So do you think it’s more important to be loved or to love?

LH: That’s 50/50.  I don’t think it will work as well if it’s not an even match. But let me say I think that should be an average that sometimes you will need more love than you can give and sometimes it’s the other way, you need to give more love than you can get. Sometimes the other person’s needs are greater than yours and you have to love them enough to give them that when they need it.

eH: Some mothers advise their daughters to find a man who loves you more than you love him, so he won’t stray… 

LH: Oh, well now, I took care of that right at the get-go. I told him that if he ever cheated on me not to worry about a divorce. He gave me the most peculiar look and I said, “I can’t devote my life to making you miserable if I’m not right there.”

eH: What is the hardest thing about love?

LH: It’s work.  It’s compromising — and compromise is hard because people are hardwired to think, “This is what I want, I deserve it and I’m going to get it regardless.” It shouldn’t be that way. Some people can never quite turn loose of that. Occasionally, you have to — and I’m no exception. Sometimes I have to remind myself I am not the queen of the universe. At other times, I am the queen of the universe.

eH: Is that when you make No. 1 on the New York Times or USA Today’s bestseller list?

LH: You know, that really has nothing to do it because we were already married before I ever sold my first book. To my family, I’m just Linda.  None of the other stuff — that’s in the periphery — that’s not part of their vision of me.

eH: When would you say was the first time you really found love?

LH: I assume you’re talking romantic love?

eH: Yes, but is there something else?

LH: Well, the funny thing is I always knew I loved my family, even when I was just a little kid, and I remember my first crush when I was 10 years old –  I won’t say that wasn’t love  — it felt like love. It felt the same as every other crush that I had when I was a teenager, and it felt the same as it did when I fell in love when I was mature and got married. And then there’s the love you have for kids and pets — the heart makes room for it all.

eH: So if it felt the same, how did you know that Gary was the one?  How does someone know if someone is the one?

LH: We just clicked. We could spend hours talking to each other and I would rather spend my time with him than with anyone else, even if we weren’t doing anything important because we just enjoyed each other’s company so much.

eH: What does love mean to you now versus in the past?

LH: It still means the same thing. It’s still sometimes the other person comes first with a caring — let’s say cherishing. It’s taking care of each other. It’s a united front in times of trouble.

eH: What do you think one needs in a partner to make the relationship successful?

LH: Respect, honesty, respect, chemistry. I read once that body chemistry is so important because it gives you clues as to how well you’re going to combine with another person — that when you kiss someone if you don’t enjoy how they taste, then chemically they are all wrong for you. And I have to say the first time I kissed my husband, it was good!

eH: What advice would you give those struggling with self-love?

LH: I don’t understand not liking yourself. I understand doing something that in retrospect you wish you hadn’t done, you regretted, but the worst mistake is the one you don’t learn from, that you keep repeating. Once you’ve done something, you can recognize that it’s wrong, but don’t keep beating yourself up over it. Just make sure you don’t do that same thing again and go forward.

eH: What advice do you have for women who are looking for love?

LH: Respect yourself, because I see a lot of women who don’t respect themselves enough, who give up too much of themselves to get a boyfriend because they feel like they just can’t live on their own. You should be comfortable with yourself; you should enjoy your own company, you should be comfortable being alone and, I think, men respond to that.  There was a period in my life when I was just not interested in dating — just leave me alone, I’m through with this — and I have never before in my life been so swamped with men. It was like their radar went off!

Learn more about Howard’s new book!

Image courtesy: Brian Velenchenko

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