Dear Readers - Here’s a plea I received from one of you: “I understand your wanting to answer questions about COVID-19. But please don’t go all virus all the time. I need normal, too.”
Ellie - So do we all! Thanks for giving me an opportunity to bring this question to the realm of relationships:
My answer, from reading many thousands of readers’ relationship and life stories over the years, would be this:
Many people feel that the way things usually are, if accepted without too much difficulty, is “normal.” Many also feel that there’s room within normal to get even better.
So, “normal” is what we’re used to, but can be improved.
Well, we’re now a long way from that in North America and countries across the globe.
No, we are living instead with new and changing rules, new and complicated boundaries, new and very serious fears.
The best we can do is ground ourselves as much as possible in what’s necessary-normal for each of us.
If we have families, we must care for and about them. The “normal” way is to reach out - by phone, text, email, social media platforms, FaceTime, Zoom, whatever.
So, the new normal for some people means learning some new technology skills to keep up your important contacts.
It’s necessary to stay connected with close friends.
Share tips about where to get stuff delivered, where there’s a supply of something you need (is it “normal” that toilet paper is the new “gold”?)
Share recipes that don’t require every herb/spice that you don’t own.
Share frustrations. So many people are in the same situation - with kids home all day instead of at school or day-care, with jobs now done remotely at your own table. Or just stuck home alone. You’re entitled to one good whine, if the listener’s allowed the same.
But what’s normal now in intimate relationships?
It’s whatever you feel you can share with your partner without blame, and can either let go after a discussion, or put on the back burner to deal with when the crisis atmosphere is no longer as intense.
Here’s what else is normal and can be shared: Laughter from shared humour, even the dark variety if that’s what tickles you. Music, that prompts you to sing along, move your body or makes your heart soar.
Reading, beyond the virus news (stay informed on the basics and new information, but limit exposure to repeats). Even re-read books that take your mind to other times, places, peoples, and circumstances.
Love, of family, friends, pets (only share pet contact with people mindful of virus no-no’s). Sex, with a full-time healthy partner. Intimacy… it’s so much more than just sex.
Intimate talks in a quiet, private place together, with your closest person, is where and when you can open up about fears, even irrational ones, and have a cry if needed.
It doesn’t matter if this was not your previous “normal.” If you need it now, and have someone who’ll honour that need, (and hopefully share too), it’s normal for these times.
Relationships, especially long ones, are supposed to have a “safety net” - invisible, but one you know is there - for your tough moments.
So if two of you are stuck together in social-distanced living in a small apartment or a space you normally had to yourself, this is the time that safety net needs to be apparent to you. Rely on it, and carry on.
Reader’s Commentary “You consistently take the woman's side. When I met my husband, he had a 14-year-old son who then lived with us and wanted to continue doing so after his parents’ divorce.
“His mother told him that if he told the judge he’d live WITH HER, she’d allow him to stay with us. He did what he was told.
“That way she collected “child support” during the four years while he lived with us and we supported him.
“I suppose you’d take her side for some reason.”
Ellie - This was obviously a very difficult, hurtful event for you and your husband, with the boy duped by his mother, at a high cost to you all, financially and emotionally.
I understand that this event causes you to look for fault in responses to relationship questions.
My answer: No. I would not take the side of this woman or anyone who lied/cheated as she did.
Tip of the day:
Find your “normal” to maintain needed relationships, especially the one with yourself.