You Can Keep Your “Normal” Relationship

Monday, Nov. 1st 2010 1:32 PM

Remember high school – when everyone just wanted to be normal, to have a normal life, a normal family, a normal house, a normal body and normal clothes? Do you really want to continue that experience for the rest of your life? It’s frustrating and exhausting trying to be like the majority. Life is so much sweeter (and so much easier) when you decide to be yourself – a beautiful mix of “normal” and “weird” that isn’t quite like anyone else’s combination. And so are relationships. So, are you willing to let your relationships be as unique, quirky and special as you are? Or are you still chasing “normal”?

On a recent episode of Oprah’s show, she polled her audience about what they considered “normal” in relationships. One couple shared a secret they’d been keeping for years: they slept in separate bedrooms. Why? They were able to get a better night’s sleep as a result of this arrangement. While this couple considered themselves so outside the realm of “normal” that they tried to prevent their children from telling neighbors that Mommy and Daddy had different bedrooms, neither of them felt it was a problem in their relationship. Neither felt physically neglected or concerned that their marriage lacked intimacy.

Oprah opened the issue up to Dr. Phil, who noted that sleeping together is one of the few things we do with our mates that we do not do with other people. Dr. Phil seemed to believe that the couple should work their way back into the same bed. But what does Dr. Phil, or anyone other than the two people in that relationship, know about how their marriage works? Dr. Phil’s recommendation, which neglects to recognize the uniqueness of every relationship, and the ingenuity couples employ to achieve balance and to accommodate each other’s preferences and needs, does this couple a disservice.

Granted, the beautiful experience of sleeping alongside that special person is important to many of us, myself included. It is comforting and unifying. There is much to be said for feeling vulnerable enough around a person to sleep next to him or her and feel safe. But there is also much to be said about the willingness and the ability to approach bedtime (or any other aspect of your relationship) with ingenuity, to compromise “normal” and trust that your relationship is strong enough to be different and still be successful. Sleeping in the same bed does not make or break a relationship, and it is not something every single couple requires from a relationship to feel a sense of intimacy. Before we label something as unorthodox or unhealthy, it’s important to remember that no two people are the same, and therefore, neither are any two relationships.

There are a host of other relationship attributes we consider “normal.” Normal couples – meaning the majority – sleep in the same bed, have sex on at least a semi-regular basis (define it as you wish), get married, share a home, have children, say “I love you” often, agree to be monogamous (whether or not they fulfill that agreement), hold hands, spend holidays together … the list goes on and on. But not every couple does those things, or has any desire to do those things. And skipping any or all of them does not mean two people don’t enjoy their relationship and love one another just as much as people who do; it just means that they love differently.

I have a friend who takes what he and his wife call a “sabbatical” each year. For one week, they live separate lives, then come back together, no questions asked. They’ve been together for more than 10 years and get along better than most couples I’ve met. I know of another couple that enjoys socializing so much they don’t like traveling as a solo couple. They even took a few friends along on their honeymoon. Yet, their loved ones say it is one of the strongest, happiest marriages they have seen. Authors Kenya K. and her husband have no permanent home. They travel from city to city as they wish, with their three children, and set up a home wherever they are. These couples make their relationships work for them, even if their strategies wouldn’t work for anyone else.

From the outside looking in, there are probably things about my relationship (and yours, too, I bet) that seem abnormal, maybe even problematic. For example, when my mate and I are having one of our “getting on each other’s nerves days,” it’s not uncommon for her to say something like, “Do you want to fight me?” My answer varies. To others, our way of talking to each other might seem hostile. In reality, these are the moments when the mood is actually lightened. Is that normal? I don’t know. I don’t care. It’s how we roll.

What’s so great about “normal” anyway? Lots of “normal” couples fight constantly behind closed doors, have physical altercations, get divorced and do all sorts of other things that aren’t any fun for anyone.

So let’s all just forget about normal for a minute and concentrate on structuring relationships that work for the individuals in each relationship, that take into account their unique ideas, personalities, fantasies, preferences and weirdisms. And that’s a beautiful thing. When two people make a baby, they combine their unique DNA to create a child who is unlike anyone else on this planet. A relationship is similar. Think about the beautiful and unusual process/conversations that you and your mate participated in as you were figuring out how your relationship would work, and adjusting in areas where it didn’t. If things are working, why bother trying to fix them? And if things aren’t working, your perfect solution may be as abnormal as you are – as we all are. But a word of warning, Dr. Phil may not approve.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

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14 Comments on “You Can Keep Your “Normal” Relationship”

  1. melissa Says:

    Thank you so much. I found this to be very interesting.

  2. Kay Says:

    You are absolutely spot on with this one. We are taught early on, that our uniqueness/wierdisms as you so aptly stated should be shied away from. And this is just another reminder of the necessity to critically evaluate the “experts” along with the in-the-box ideas sold to us all daily.

  3. T Says:

    Hi Mr. Love :),
    I have been enjoying your blog. Thanks for generating discussion and stimulating us to think!
    I agree that we need to define what is normal in our own relationships and not allow media images, societal/cultural influences and family/friends to define what is normal for us. Yeah, WTH is normal, anyway? I’ve been trying to figure that out for years!
    However, as a nurse practitioner, I am interested in the potential medical reasons why the couple on Oprah have decided that the only way to get a good night sleep is to sleep separately. Is one person a snorer? Does he/she stop breathing during the night? Is there sleepiness and/or fatigue during the day? I didn’t see the show so I don’t know if that was covered. If either of the two (or both) are having these problems, that signifies a medical problem – obstructive sleep apnea. This condition can cause and/or exacerbate a host of other conditions – depression, high blood pressure, heart failure, reflux/heartburn symptoms. Oh yeah, and what about restless leg syndrome….
    Oh well, just putting that out there! Have a great day and I’ll be tuning in regularly!!

  4. Sonia Says:

    Great blog! Very insightful! Words to live by in all areas of our lives. Are you being authentic or “normal.” Can mean the difference between confining your relationship to a box and crushing its wings or allowing it to blossom and soar as high as it was created to be. Looking forward to when we embrace weird as the new normal. Embracing my weird everyday and living my life like it’s golden–not normal! 🙂

  5. LaJaniese Says:

    Thank you for posting this. Very interesting and insightful.I agree that people need to do what works for them. Translation….I need to do what works for me 🙂

  6. Mardi Latch Says:

    Frank that was one pretty cool article. Right up my street!! The “sabbatical” idea is an interesting one. I really like the idea… but don’t necessarily like the inference i.e. no questions asked- infidelity. That’s not to say that this is what they do necessarily. I guess it confuses me. Because for me, infidelity opens your relationship up where you could potentially fancy someone for longer than the “sabbatical” period. It’s a risk. Horses for courses.

  7. Mike Canty Says:

    Frank, you’re a man after my own heart! I have some ideas (and made some decisions) about relationships that definitely aren’t normal and definitely don’t work for everyone. During extensive self evaluation, I discovered my desire to be normal masked a deep self loathing and lack of acceptance. Not being normal is healing.

  8. T Says:

    I agree Mike. Doing away with trying to get to “normal” and focusing on learning about and being ourselves is liberating and healing. And congrats to you for embarking on your journey of self-evaluation! If we all had the courage to do that, we would keep ourselves out of alot of trouble! 🙂

  9. Rob Beenker Says:

    Indeed, what is ‘normal?’

  10. Tantric Massage Says:

    Relationships are there to reflect our own behaviour and insecurities back at us for us to see, and make us aware of ourselves, its all learning, how do you define normal lol

  11. Melissa Says:

    I am WEIRD, I will always be WEIRD… there is no cure for me! AND I LOVE IT! Who decides normal anyway? Knowing me and my husband we’d color outside the lines just to create a NOT NORMAL picture. I love learning what other couples do that creates their peace and happiness – the less normal the better LOL! I’m going home RIGHT now to NOT be normal with my husband! Enjoyed this one!

  12. Elijah Mccosh Says:

    Okay article. I just became aware of your blog and desired to say I have really enjoyed reading your opinions. Any way I’ll be subscribing in your feed and Lets hope you post again soon.

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