A friend was explaining this weekend why a mutual other friend put up with her mentally ill husband for so long, 10 years before divorcing. I realized her “new norm” explanation generalizes to just about every relationship.
She basically attributed it to the frog in hot water story. If he just suddenly changed one day and became a total bastard out of the blue that would have been that. But that is not how relationships work. They always start off great or there would be no relationship in the first place. Then over time things deteriorate or change one way or the other. The water heats up slowly and just as the frog doesn’t notice the warmer water the couple doesn’t notice their increased dysfunction it just becomes the new norm.
Most of the time things can coast even with some dysfunction but this doesn’t work as well once children are thrown into the mixture. Children’s needs heat the water or stress the family system rapidly. Things get noticed. Sometimes the new norm is again adjusted to and the couple makes the mistake of adding another child once again heating the system. Any change from here can heat the water to much to bear. Everything is now noticed. A change for instance the loss of a job or the loss of an extended family member and the system boils, the frog jumps out, divorce.