Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What Makes a Relationship Normal?

Why would you want to know whether your relationship is “normal?”

Relationship expert and matchmaker Samantha Daniels asks the question and it deserves a better answer than she offers.

Obviously, if you are asking whether your relationship is normal, you are probably not very happy with it. You are on the verge of saying that you are miserable and want to know whether there is anything better out there.

If you ask the question, you are, at a minimum, saying that your relationship is draining your energy. It is requiring a great deal of hard work, punctuated with few rewards.

Daniels is wrong, however, to say that all relationships are difficult. While it is true that all relationships require some work, they do not all contain the same degree of difficulty.

Relationships do not have to be difficult. Some people get along well without very much storm and stress. 

Perhaps it’s no longer the norm in a culture that values drama over harmony, but still, relationships do not have to be difficult. For many people today, however, difficult is the best they can do. All things considered it would be more of surprising if their relationships did not feel like a slog.

Considering the way they have been brought up, the lessons they have learned, and our culture’s accepted relationship wisdom, easy and harmonious relationships can only be acquired with a lot of work. 

The culture has made it so.

The culture tells young people to postpone getting involved in a serious relationship. It tells them to go out and have some life experience and gain maturity and independence. It suggests that they can then have it all: they can have lots of youthful fun and can bring a fully self-actualized and thoroughly lovable autonomous being into their next relationship.

The culture insists that young people engage in all manner of sexual experimentation. It has convinced them that they will be failures in bed if they are not in touch with all of their erogenous zones and have not tried out all of their kinks.

They are also told that true love will conquer all.

Not only have they been told that being more independent and autonomous, thus developing bad relationship habits will make them more loveable, but they have also been told that when they find their soul mate, the One, it will all work out.

In brief, young people have been systematically lied to about the nature and the culture of relationships. They are paying the price.

Recently, blogger Susan Walsh recently wrote an excellent post entitled: “Casual Sex Makes College Students Crazy, Fat and Stupid.”

When measuring the mental health consequences of casual sex against sex within a committed relationship Walsh discovered that those who indulged the former manifested far more mental health problems than did those who involved themselves in the latter.

One might reasonably extend this thought and say that the students who become crazy, fat and stupid from having casual sex are not going to be great relationship material.

Walsh admits that long term relationships in college are no longer “the norm.” That is, they no longer count as normal.

By implication, when children go off to college they are more likely to learn dating skills and perhaps hook-up skills than to learn relationships skills.

If, at some later date, they decide to have a relationship they will make the unhappy discovery that they need to unlearn their dating skills, to unlearn their hook-up skills and to learn new and seemingly alien, dating skills.

No one should be surprised to discover that these young people will have significant and unnecessary difficulties forming and sustain relationships.

Moreover, if long term relationships are no longer the norm, peer pressure will influence college students to have fewer relationships. A student who falls in love will be pressured to go out, find herself, have some fun and explore her sexuality.

In a world that worships sexual liberation a committed relationship is considered inhibiting and even oppressive. Committing to one person limits freedom, especially a woman’s freedom.

When it comes to relationships the gold standard is marriage. Young people who are choosing relationship partners should ask themselves whether they would marry the person, whether they can take him or her home to Mom and Dad, and what kind of life they would have together.

Unfortunately, Samantha Daniels does not distinguish between a marriage and a “monogamous committed relationship.”

If you are in college, you might not be ready for marriage. Therefore an MCR—monogamous committed relationship-- might be suitable.

But, if you have graduated and are living together in an MCR and the person you are living with does not want to marry you then the chances are good that the relationship will suffer an abnormal degree of stress.

An MCR that does not lead to marriage is abnormal.

If you are living with someone who does not want to marry you it will not take you too long to start asking what is wrong with you, what is wrong with your partner, what is wrong with your relationship.

Failure to commit in public to another person will normally cause problems in your relationship.

Finally, Daniels suggests that a couple suffering an unusual amount of difficulty about what is and is not normal needs to sit down and have a conversation about what each of them takes for normal.

Again, this bad advice is always on the therapy culture menu. Young people are led to believe that every problem can be solved by being talked out. Sprinkle a little empathy and it will all go away… it was just a misunderstanding anyway. It would have been much better to advise young people to develop relationship skills and not dating skills.

As it happens, a long MCR, and especially a marriage, requires the harmonious performance of couple routines.

If you are undisciplined or chaotic, if you have no self-control and have too many bad habits, you are not going to make it all better by talking it over or by following the advice of relationship experts like Samantha Daniels or the ladies of Miss Advised.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another casualty is the "throwaway" mentality
If it is not working today, throw it away.
I notice this more now...
The dIsposable society has bled over from cell phones and toasters into relationships....
Is it laziness?
Is it general disregard for the commitment that we saw our parents make?
As a single female, I find myself wanting to work just as hard as my parents (married 55 years), only to find men who dispose of relationships at first disagreement. Believe me, I am not trying to wed I date, I am just saying I seem to find an awful lot of men like you describe...
And I am sure there are just ad many men who will say the same thing - that they find woman after woman who won't commit...
Disposable Society...