Approximately 17 out of 1,000 women divorce (Time Magazine, May 2017), which is a drop from 23 per 1,000 in the height of the 1980’s, when nearly 50% of marriages reportedly ended in divorce. The continuous decline in divorces is good news, especially since the marriage rate is on the rise (32 per 1,000 women).
Since divorce still plays a prevalent role in the lives of individuals and families, the questions for many are:
What is to be expected in a marriage?
What is “normal” in a marriage?
How do we know when a marriage is beyond repair and a divorce is in order?
How do any of us know if not only we are “normal”, but the relationship we’re in is also within the range of normal?
The question of “normal” makes me think of my son. He was born with a rare disorder called Moebius Syndrome that has caused the nerves in his face to be paralyzed. He cannot move his eyes side-to-side, his speech is very difficult to understand, and he cannot move his face to create any facial expression (no smiles, frowns, or anything).
Recently, he and I had a discussion about how he may be able to start driving in two years. I told him that I would like to refer him to a special program that can provide driving assessments and training to people with disabilities. For him, I think this could be especially useful because of the way he uses his eyes and how it effects his motor skills.
As he listened to me quietly, I realized that all the things about him that I described are his version of normal. He has never known anything but the way his eyes work and how he perceives and functions in the world. He has obviously learned how to adapt to the abilities he has because he’s an avid reader and has an active life; but, his motor skills make his 8th grade handwriting look like a preschooler’s, and he is rather uncoordinated.
I can describe to him how the way his eyes work is not like mine and how he may need extra help or specialized devices to assist him to do what others can; but, it’s so hard to know what another means when they say “this is normal” or “the way you do things is not like everyone else.”
The same is true of marriage. One couple’s version (or one spouse’s) of what is a good marriage, or a bad marriage is their own opinion and is defined within the context of their relationship and how it affects their life.
Let’s be real, every marriage has good and bad moments. We are living in Lala Land if we believe that the beauty and perfection of a wedding continues year after year into a marriage. The wedding is kind of like a big Broadway production we each get our turn to produce. There’s music, costumes, lines read, dancing, and a whole lot of lovely fanfare to please the crowd.
The beautiful moments of marriage only persist because the couple continues to work at the marriage like it’s their primary full time job.
Every marriage is going to have arguments, moments when one or both spouses is frustrated and annoyed with the other, and moments when we wonder if we were crazy for ever getting married.
The decision to actually give up and divorce will depend on what each couple or individual determines is beyond repair. If they make it to the point of throwing in the towel, obviously one or both has decided their marriage is not normal- at least not what they want.
If you’re in the midst of evaluating your marriage to determine whether or not it’s over, here are a few points for you to consider:
If you’re asking yourself these questions, there’s obviously some exploration to do on this matter. That doesn’t mean that your marriage is past the point of no return, you may simply need to start asking yourself why you feel that the relationship might be in trouble and what you would like to see from it.
I remember when I first started to recognize my dissatisfaction in my marriage. I remember thinking “does it get any better than this? Is the best I can expect the next (however many) years of my life to be?”
I attempted to pacify my feelings by assuring myself that feeling lonely, disrespected, and frustrated with a marriage was “normal” because it seemed that every other married person I knew routinely grumbled about the shortcomings of their spouse.
I told myself that it was to be expected for romance, fun, friendship, and the other wonderful qualities of a relationship to fade like a flower in the sun once real life adult issues such as kids, jobs, a mortgage, and bills rinse away the sparkle.
I assumed that what I had was “normal;” but, that made me very sad to imagine the rest of my life would be spent toiling alone taking care of everyone else but me with no one really caring about or feeling connected to me.
Could it be better?
Was this normal?
Even though I feared this could be the best I could ever expect, I took a gamble for myself and my children on the chance that the answer was:
“Yes, it can be better!”
“No, this is not normal! You can have better! You deserve better! You deserve to be happy!”
Normal was what I decided it needed to be for me. I didn’t want my everyday “normal” to include sitting in the same room with a husband who didn’t acknowledge my presence and made me feel like a stranger in my own home. I didn’t want my “normal” to include crying myself to sleep most nights or only having contact from my spouse if he wanted to use my body for sex. I didn’t want my “normal” to include giving every last drop of myself to another who could care less about me and would not give of himself to me in return.
I didn’t care if my “better” included a partner. My “better” had to allow me to feel alive and human again. My “better” required that I would be respected and treated with dignity. Even if the only person who loved me was me, my “better” life would allow me to be loved completely!
You will have to define what normal is to you and what your expectations are for yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. You and I may not agree on what is tolerable or what is desirable in a relationship, and that’s okay!
In the end, it is you that will have to live your life.
Live the life you deserve and surround yourself with those deserving of your love.
My wish for you is that your normal, your best, and your reality will be one and the same!