Three years ago, Chrisanna Northrup was a fairly typical wife and working mother of three; she and her husband both worked long hours, cared for their kids and had little time left over for themselves. Their marriage, she felt, was on the back burner and she wasn't sure how to fix it.
Northrup turned to the web, to self-help books and even to her local university library to figure out what couples in today's society were doing to maintain happiness. While she found plenty of theories and expert advice, she didn’t find practical input from couples themselves. Rather than retreat and accept it as a "phase," as she says her husband was inclined to do, she eventually teamed up with two of the country's leading sociologists and launched The Normal Bar project.
In the couple years that followed, The Normal Bar team surveyed nearly 100,000 people around the world about their relationship habits and attitudes. The result is The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating A New Normal in Your Relationship, which hits bookstands this week. From communication to sex, housework to gift-giving, the book offers data and advice on practically every element of a romantic relationship, all of which helps to illustrate a baseline "normal" for couples who are eager to see how their own relationships compare.
We caught up with Northrup to find out more about this huge undertaking and how it affected her own marriage.
The Normal Bar project emerged from a challenging period in your own marriage. Can you tell us more about the kinds of struggles you and your husband were encountering at the time?
We were fourteen years into our relationship, my husband and I were both working full-time jobs and juggling housework and young kids—we were barely making ends meet. The little time that we had together was just a few moments at a time and it mainly consisted of us talking about what was going on with the kids, what needed to be done, or who was doing what. It's not quite how I pictured my life. I kept thinking, where is all the fun? Our weekdays were work, shopping, fixing things, making dinner, cleaning, homework, sports, and it would flow right through the weekend.
I felt as if my relationship with my husband was taking a backseat to everything else and we were drifting further apart. Communicating was becoming a struggle too. We would either not talk about certain things to avoid an argument or let things build to the point where one of us would virtually explode.
I was curious to see if this is just the way it's supposed to be or if things could be better. I started asking friends and family what their relationships looked like to get a better idea if the "normal" we led was similar to theirs. Keep reading ...
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