Divorce – A Tale of 4 People

Group4_Meeting_DarkThis a tale of four people; somebody, anybody, everybody and nobody. Somebody should have saved the marriage.  Anybody could have saved the marriage.  Everybody knew it could be saved, but nobody did.

Those somebodies include us, in our own relationships.  We just need to be brave enough not to be selfish, to look beyond the first flush of the honeymoon period and be in for the long run.  I’m not suggesting we should save every relationship we find ourselves in, sometimes they don’t work.  That doesn’t absolve us of the need to put in some effort when we find things take some effort.

Anybody can save their relationship.  If it isn’t broken at some fundamental level, like it should have happened in the first place, then all it takes is effort.  It’s not free, it is damn near impossible if the other person is not onside with you.  Good relationships are not a gift, they are a prize you win by staying in the race.  Life does not owe you love or happiness just because you are.  Life has given you the opportunity for love and happiness, you need to put in the leg work to make it happen.

Everybody knows that relationships can be saved.  We’ve seen it done.  The magic isn’t always the same, but usually involves people giving up their own self-importance in the short term for a long term gain, or someone being prepared to forgive our own humanness when it is reflected back at us by someone else.  Everybody can’t do it because we are all human.

Nobody wins in a divorce.  Even in a bad marriage, one that should never have been, there are only people who lose less.  Nobody sets out with this end in mind, unless they are choosing a bad marriage for a reason, and that probably makes them a bad person.

Somebody should read this blog.  Anybody can read it.  Everybody is entitled to read it.  Probably nobody will…


Headlines, Blogging and Deception

newspaper headlineThe thing I enjoy most about blogging is a kind of perverse satisfaction in thinking I’m playing some journalist at their own deceptive headline game.  You know, the shock controversy headline that leads to something far more bland and banal. Without a small touch of irony that resonates with our personal relationships.  We want that big brash headline.  Everything from the mega-wedding, the rich, good-looking, suave, etc., etc. partner. Just like a short attention span TV ad. The twist is that we tend to be deceiving ourselves rather than anyone else.  We want those headlines to convince us that “We are Worth It”.  Where does that leave us when there is all the normal stuff that makes up the stuff under the headlines? When we are young, we can often just find more headlines to fill out life with over and over.  Look at Facebook and Twitter and how people (and I don’t just mean celebrities) have turned what they’re having for lunch into a headline.  It is a mad adrenaline junky habit that is one of the deadly sins (rather than a deadly unsin ) What do we do when life is less about headlines and more about getting on with things?  Times like when you have kids; more about Mum & Dad’s taxi than Mum & Dad Set the World Alight.  Or when it is more about the pension, or caring for elderly relatives? Modern, and by that I mean the last 50 years, we have seemed to moved to dumping the other person (or people) in our lives.  It’s easy and lazy and firmly reinforces our own sense of headline grabbing celebrity. Why have we moved to this need for affirmation from everybody else, when we seem to have so little self-worth?  Are we incapable of loving ourselves?  What is our great need to have a bigger and better, or more interesting life than everyone else?  It is an odd dichotomy I play with in trying to stay anonymous with this blog. Perhaps the problem is we should look a little closer to home for our validation.  And perhaps the fist step in that is validating our partner.  That might even me buying roses or chocolates, going out for dinner or even having sex when we might not feel most like it. That karmic bank balance doesn’t earn interest if all you do is make withdrawals.  When you put in a deposit in the Love Triangle  you’ll find that rewards come, not always straight-away, but they come back with interest.

Marriage – The Prisoners’ Dilemma

sweat gamerStrange how conversations twine together to synthesis new thoughts.  Okay, okay, enough of the psycho-babble, we can leave creativity to another forum this one is about relationships.

As with most marketing the headline is deceptive.  I’m guessing most people will think of being trapped in a marriage.  Although there is a subtle implication of that the prisoners’ dilemma is a gaming theory  concept.  Although the “prisoners’ dilemma” is a simple concept it never seems that easy to explain.  To get the best of what comes next at least pop over to Wikipedia  or read the Stanford article .  Read and see if you can jump to a similar conclusion, then read on…

Now, you might have come to the conclusion that I am proposing a very cold view on marriage.  That is only true if you think only in terms of money.  In relationships there are many more ways of measuring the costs and benefits, which is not aided by the fact that things may not have the same utility (i.e. both parties don’t view the cost or benefit as equal).

One other factor that is ignored is that in human relationships people make time dependent decisions that can throw the rational economist view out the window.  What do I mean?  The problem is not in the definition of the dilemma, but rather than looking at a subset of the problem.  For example, I choose to detour on a trip somewhere to take you somewhere, so you don’t have to drive.  Looked at in isolation I appear to bear all the cost and you all the benefit. But, my reward may be that you make a similar trip the following week.  Thus, if you don’t set the boundaries of the problem far enough you get the wrong answer.

In short, and ignoring how people end up in a relationship, those in it decide to co-operate; the proverbial optimal outcome for all parties.  Assuming everything stays the same both parties are in a Nash equilibrium and things move along just nicely.

What this theory ignores is that external factors come in to play. One party’s definition of the costs and benefits can be altered dramatically.  The classic ‘stressful events’, death, jobs, etc. can cause people to reassessing how they value things.  What this means is the optimal outcome for one party is now to “betray”.  In a relationship that can be an affair or a decision to separate.

When a relationship is “in crisis” maybe the questions to ask are about how we come to the conclusion of the costs and rewards in the matrix.  Then we can ask how they were when things were good. Finding the reason for the difference is almost certainly the key to finding the right outcome.

Well, this has ended up being more academic than I intended when the thought occurred to me.  I’m sure this could be extended to a psychology PhD research paper.  So, if anyone goes that way, please mention you read it here first.

The Problem with Comedy – Are You Racist?

funny laughThis post is a little off topic here, but as comedy is about relationships and this blog is about relationships its not going too far astray.

My opening is an apology to the blogger who posted something called “And this is the problem”, or something like that. It was about a cartoon referencing “Orange is the New Black” that lampooned at least part of the male gender for its predication to ogling the female form rather than engaging them in the totality as a person, with feelings and thoughts and, well, just everything because a woman appears topless in one scene.

I’ll put aside the simple fact that women objectify men; yes they do and my teenage son feels this because he is not some ripped jock type bad boy. Mainly because I don’t want to dwell on the issue about it is a stick to beat men with or do you despise everyone, regardless of gender, who behaves that way?

This post needs to look at the fundamental psychology of humour. To be blunt, it is about exclusion. Some research suggests that laughing, or the ‘baring of teeth’ would have been an act of group aggression towards the butt of the joke. Whether that is true or not, at the very least it places the person or persons that the joke is direct towards outside the social group.

You think I jest? Think back to the last time someone made a joke about you. If it was a group of close friends then maybe you felt little more than admonished. If it was a group of work colleagues or comparative strangers you probably felt somewhere between humiliated and embarrassed. Basically you felt the pain of social exclusion.

Social exclusion, it’s just a fancy name for an -ism. I’ll exclude you from my social group because of you ethnicity, racism. I’ll exclude you because of you gender, sexism. I’ll exclude you because of your age, ageism. The list could go on and on.

So, what happens when you try to satirise someone’s -ism behaviour? Most communication is non-verbal, up to 80% in some case, and that includes the written word as verbal; think of that little voice in your head when you read. That factoid, combined with my experience that a lot of written humour in misinterpreted means that more often than not you end up appearing to support the very view you are trying to decry.

Humour in marriage can get like that, too. When the bonds are strong and the relationship is solid humour is seems more a way of mutually laughing at the things that are uncommon and just plain slips of human nature. When the relationship is weakened turn from a bonding exercise to another knife in the back. It is that fine line of when someone is laughing with you and when someone is laughing at you.

As a friend said to me more years ago than I care to remember; “Don’t take life too seriously or you’ll never get out of it alive.”

Who’s Leading and Who’s Following?

emperor palpatineThe problem with blogging is the you invariably get around to asking some big questions.  Maybe that’s the nature of on part of the blogoshpere, those that are asking the questions.


Well, as my small hardy band of followers increases I wondered what gets us to follow someone?  What makes me want to do it?  Is it because we read the words of a kindred spirit?  Is it because we’re following people that someone else is following?  Is it because they make us laugh, show prophetic wisdom or sum up what we feel?


By the same token what makes us stop?  Do they have to deeply offend us?  Do we just overload with other blogs, RSS, texts, phone calls and, heaven forbid, human interactions?  Why do we take that far more brutal step of unfollowing somone?


Whatever the surface motive I know one key element is that whatever is being said, including the pictures, on that blog are salient.  They are relevant to our “right here, right now”.  How our on line relationship develops is now different than a real world one.  If we keep meeting people and share experiences, even indirectly through stories we can grow to become “friends”.


And just like real life we can find ourselves drifting apart. Other events in other parts of our lives can make what we have to say to each other seem irrelevant or even downright heretical.  Something probably much more likely to happen in our multimedia lives than our real ones.


But before we press unfollow, we should stop think whether it does us good to have our thinking challenged, rather than hide in the comfort of those that think like us.  In this global village we need to learn to respect other viewpoints, nay, cherish them.  The freedom to disagree underpins the whole premise of freedom of speech.  Let us agree to disagree and defend to the death our right to do so.


So before you next click unfollow, ask yourself; “Am I taking on small step towards the destruction of free speech”?  Your other friends may applaud you unfollowing a controversial (in their opinion) blog, but to quote a great film, “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause”. [Amidala, Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith ]

We’re Number 1 on Google and Other Search Engines – Marriage SEO!! But Who Knows about it?

bing google yahoo

Search engine logos

It’s true.  This blog is number one if you search Google, Yahoo and Bing for layshrink.  It is a massive marketing coup.  How many companies, or indeed any organisation, doesn’t want it’s name to produce an instant first hit on a search engine front page?

I’m not going to under play the satisfaction I feel in hitting the top spot.  One underlying problem is; do people even know that the brand exists?  How few people know that “layshrink” is a brand where they can find advice, support or just my plain old opinion on marriage and relationship related issues?

Although I’m not sure I’ve built a better mouse trap (or should that be spouse trap?) here this is not a bad place to start to find answers.  So, I can’t expect people to beat their way to my blog’s doorstep, just like any new product.  People need to find out about this place.

The world may not be as big as space, but cyberspace is a hard place to get noticed.  I’ve got a great brand, but it is in a crowded marketplace.  What’s special about this blog?  Mostly it is a personal experience, some first hand, most second hand about the trials and tribulations on trying to stay married, or not.  Maybe because I’m a man (oops, a clue to my identity!) it is not just an emotional rant, but a pointer on the path to fixing things.  This blog doesn’t have the answers, it just wants to point you in the right direction.

Where does this leave me?  Well, it’s a short and simple request to anyone that reads or follows this blog.  Can you please mention this blog whenever you think its relevant?  No need to even include a link, it just about making people aware of the name.

Like in a marriage, being number 1 doesn’t guarantee success, you need help and support from all the people around.