How 100,000 People Helped Save A Marriage


'The Normal Bar' creator wondered if her marriage was normal—then polled 100,000 people to find out.

At the time, how did your relationship seem to stack up to those around you?
There was a wide range, but it did seem like the majority of couples were dealing with some ups and downs of their own. Everything from one of my closest friends telling me she hasn't slept with her husband in six months, to another saying they just go through the motions everyday and it was "OK," to friends that were on the edge of divorce, and there were the few that seemed to be very much in love living happily ever after (but I couldn't help wonder if that really existed).

It's a funny thing, when you start comparing, depending on who you are comparing to, you almost feel better about what you have. But I still wanted more and so did my husband.

What was your definition of "normal" before you started The Normal Bar?
Normal to me was patterns you create in your own life and maintain day after day.

And what was the "normal" baseline you were striving for, do you remember?
Of course I do! Because the baseline I was striving for is what I have now!

I wanted my relationship normal to be filled with passion and fun. I wanted to have the kind of relationships you see in the movies where the couples laughed, played, and had really intense sex. I wanted my husband to be my best friend to talk to about anything and everything without worrying about what he was going to say and how he was going to react. That's what I wanted our normal to look like, but I often wondered if it even existed or if I was expecting too much.

How did your husband react when you told him about your idea for The Normal Bar?
He loved the idea! He was just as curious as I was and he wanted to have a better relationship too. He was very committed to do or try anything. When I told him about my mission to compare relationships around the world by age, ethnicity, religion, income, kids or no kids, years in relationship, etc., he fully supported the idea and it became a joint effort. I couldn't have done this without him.

What are some of The Normal Bar findings that have most profoundly influenced your own relationship?
Every single finding impacted our relationship to one degree or another. When I was in full swing with The Normal Bar research alongside my coauthors, Dr. Pepper Schwartz and Dr. James Witte, we had hundreds of pages of data coming in on a daily basis. Every night my husband and I would go through the data and talk about it. It was so easy talking about very difficult subject matter when you had a baseline to work from. There was no bickering or criticism about why it was brought up or some hidden agenda. The data was black and white and it was very easy to have an open conversation with my husband.

I kept thinking, how could we have been together for over fifteen years and not have ever discussed these things? Everything from how often we kissed to how we communicated.

What's your current definition of "normal"?
My definition remains the same: Normal to me was patterns you create in your own life and maintain day after day.

The only difference would be in the beginning I thought your normal was affected by outside factors you maybe couldn't control, such as money, culture, family, etc. Now I know none of this matters. Nobody controls your normal, not your husband or wife, your kids, your boss... nobody. The only person that defines the patterns created and maintained on day after day basis is yourself. I'm in control of my own normal, nobody else. It’s up to me to create the normal I want. Keep reading ...