What is normal?

© George Giakos/Smart MAGNA/Corbis

Take a relationship which is not working. For example he wants to control, especially money. He does not want to talk about her frustrations in the relationship or any events from his childhood or early life. His limit of intimacy is sitting next to his wife on a sofa watching TV and holding hands.

He does what is normal to him. He provides for the family. He was there for the children as they grew up. But to him it is normal to worry about money. She works but he feels responsible. He loves his work. It is the only passion in his life, and his evening out with “the boys”. He does not pay compliments when occasionally she wears a new dress or has her hair done. If he does notice, his comments will be about the cost. He does not buy her intimate clothes. He does not even know her size.

He does not touch her in a sensual way. If they make love he wants the lights off and she instigates it. The only place to make love is in the bedroom, at night. Other times and other places are unthinkable.

To him, all this behaviour is normal. Probably his parents were the same. He thinks “normal” families behave the same way. They don’t show intimacy. They don’t have sex, well rarely. He has no other role models. He watches porn, but does not admit it, and won’t watch it with her.

She is normal in her way. She is a woman with a high sex drive. She works hard at her career, and to cook, clean and keep the home tidy and functioning. She wants spontaneous touch, and sex, in different places, at different times. She thought that certain life changes would see this happen, like children leaving home, like moving to a hew home.

Nothing changed. Her idea of normal is a tactile relationship, communication, openness, honesty and sometimes having some fun, having things to look forward to, feeling loved and desired.

The reality is silence. There is everday conversation, but she tries to get him to open up and talk about emotions, feelings and sexuality. That is the silence. She can’t take much more. He does not know what to do. He closes down more each time she tells what she wants or asks him questions.

Each one thinks their behaviour is normal. It is. It does not mean that the relationship can survive.

Many couples will relate to the scenario described, to an extent varying from a small to large part. There are many “normals” which depend on many factors in life. We can make a decision to lead a “normal” life, or to step up to an exceptional life. To do that we have to open up and be willing to change.

It is recommended that such couples seek relationship coaching or counselling, preferably together. If this does not unblock the issues affecting each individual, then serious decisions may have to be made.

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