The word “normal” can go either way. If you’re talking about blood pressure, eye sight, or the size of your newborn’s head, “normal” is a good thing. If you’re talking about academics, talent, or marriage, “normal” seems less than desirable.
Many couples beat themselves up and stress themselves out trying to keep their marriage from slipping into “normal.” (See the movie, “This is 40.”)
What is it that causes us to think “normal” is not good enough when it comes to marriage?
- Our expectations. We all come into marriage with expectations that are admirable, but not always realistic. For me, the idea of my spouse sharing all my interests, meeting all my needs, and doing it all while wearing the latest see-through creation from Victoria Secrets came quickly crashing to the ground like the Hindenburg.
- Comparing our marriage to others. We tend to compare our marriage to marriages we think are better than ours. The problem is no one readily shows you the bad things that are going on in their marriage, so you don’t really have an accurate comparison to start with.
- Books on marriage. There are mountains of good and helpful books out there on marriage, but if you’re not careful you can come away from them feeling your marriage is not good enough…even if you have a pretty good marriage.
- Media. In the media, a “normal” marriage is often portrayed as dull at best or goofy at worse. No one wants that, so you start believing your marriage needs to be sizzling and exciting most of the time. Setting the bar this high will certainly leave you feeling your marriage is not good enough.
A normal marriage can be a good marriage. Just because there may be some things in your marriage that aren’t as you would like doesn’t mean you have to throw everything out. You just need to learn to make “normal” work for you. How?
- Be honest about your current “normal.” There is not one standard of “normal” to which marriages are measured. The dictionary tells us that “normal” is a standard or pattern that’s been established. Every marriage has it’s own standards and patterns. In other words, every marriage has it’s own “normal.” You and your spouse take an honest, nonjudgemental look at your “normal” by looking at things like: the way you talk, solve problems, have fun, raise kids, have sex, pay bills, etc.
- Rate each of these things. Use the following scale to rate various areas of your marriage: 1 = hate it. 2 = frustrated with it. 3 = it’s kind of ok. 4 = love it.
- Celebrate the things you love about your marriage. Not everything in your marriage needs to be “fixed.” Some things already work well for both of you and you should celebrate those things.
- Each of you pick one thing from your #3 list. Do not start with a difficult, drop-a-nuke issue. Ease out of the gate with something that’s kind of ok, but you would like to tweak a little bit.
- Determine one small, incremental change you can put in place to make that #3 issue better. Notice, this is a change that you will make. Trying to get our spouse to change doesn’t get us any points. It only frustrates them and you.
- Set out to make that one little change in yourself and your marriage. None of this makes any difference if you don’t actually do something with it. So roll up your sleeves and tweak that one little thing for the better.
Normal can be good enough in marriage. In fact, it can be very good. So learn to make the best of your “normal” marriage. (After all, it’s better than making the worst of it.)
Tell us…What’s on part of “normal” you’ve learned to embrace in your marriage? What’s one part of normal you’re still trying to warm up to?
Copyright © 2014 Bret Legg