By Stacey Rose, LCSW, PhD
Couples who walk through my office door long to know what is “normal”. They ask, “How often do normal couples have sex? How often do normal couples fight and how long does it take to resolve it? Do most normal couples have joint bank accounts? Do normal couples with children go out by themselves?” This is a mere sample of the barrage of questions I receive when people compare themselves to others. People want to know they fit into the norm. There is not just one way of being married. What works for one couple might lead another couple to divorce; the key is to find what works best for you and your partner.
Ann and Joe have been married for seven years and have two young children. After Joe’s complaints had begun to wear on Ann, they sought out therapy. Joe felt they “should” be having sex at least twice a week. He expressed feeling as if this was “normal”. Ann felt that after being at work all day and then picking the kids up from day care, the last thing on her mind was sex. Once Joe realized that for each couple the “rules” were different, he was able to be more understanding. Joe readjusted and was able to appreciate the times he and Ann did connect sexually and that if they could get together a second time in the week, that was a bonus. This leads to what I believe are the Four Essentials in a “Secure and Happy” Marriage.
- Time Alone. This means every couple with children absolutely need reliable baby-sitters! At least two that you trust. It could be a family member, a friend, a neighbor or local college student. Without this, there is no couple time and without that, there is no connection, sex, etc.
- Low Stress Level. In other words, get help! This could mean getting a cleaning service on a regular basis or paying a neighbor to shovel snow. Whatever helps, just do it! The more you delegate out the daily tasks of living, the more you free yourself up to take a walk, a bath, work out or have lunch with a friend.
- Commitment. All marriages that are long lasting and successful must have a strong sense of commitment by both partners. Couples who do not have this sense of commitment and ability to honor the commitment they made at their wedding will often struggle.
- Willingness. Success at anything in life requires willingness. A willingness to be flexible, to learn how to do something differently, to stretch to try hard and to be open.
If you have these four essentials in your marriage, you can feel confident that you are “normal”. If you don’t, take a look at which ones you can begin to apply and/or acquire today. I don’t know that “normal” is always the goal. Instead, I believe that Secure and Happy are more important than fitting into a norm. By the way, did you know, given the statistics on divorce, that it looks like divorce is becoming the norm? Who wants to fit into that?