I Love You, but I’m not “In Love with You”

i love you but i'm not in loveHow often do we hear that phrase; in the movies, books or any other “romance” related piece of media?  It is usually the line given just before someone walks out on a relationship.  It is usually done such that we feel sympathy for whichever party we are meant to feel for in that context.

If it is the person saying, should be really feel any sympathy?  To answer that question we need to have a look at what we mean by being “In Love” and “Loving someone”.

If we buy the idea that we have to be “In Love” with someone then we have reduced ourselves to victims of the chemical rush; the pheromone lottery that comes with meeting someone.  In truth we have just wrapped up lust in a respectable package to make ourselves feel better.  Okay, perhaps it is lust with a little bit of I like these things about this person.  But whichever way you look at it you are ignoring the “bad things” about the other person.

So what happens when the ‘two year’ honeymoon starts to wear off?  Well, we start to ease of on the bombarding the other person with every language of love and start to settle down to our own native language.  Guess what, so does the other person.  Now if you talk different languages both of your emotional batteries will start to wear down.  As that battery runs low you become intolerant of the other persons flaws and you stop being “In Love”.

Maybe you still see lovable aspects to the other person, so you can still “Love” them, but you’re not “In Love” with them.  Now you have to make a choice; are you driven by you animal nature, a victim of chemical reactions; or are you going to love the person with those flaws AND maybe the amazing positives?

If you choose to stay and put in the effort to be “In Love” the person then you are in a state of “volitional Love”.  When we look at the great writings on love this is the type of love they are talking about.  Love where you have chosen to exercise all the attributes they talk about; not the drugged up phase of “being in love” where it seems to happen by default.

This is not an easy place to be.  It takes work; from both parties if it is going to succeed.  But the rewards are far greater.  When you know the other person has chosen you; all of you, including the flaws; and is making an effort to speak your language, rather than come at you like a junkie looking for their own next self-serving fix.

This may explain why arranged marriages have worked in cultures that frown on being “In Love” and place more value on “Love”.  Sure, there may be underlying socio-economic forces, but you can still choose whether you are going to emotionally engage with that person, or not.  Maybe we need to decide if we are going to love someone, or run away for the next easy fix.




Up Your Own RAS

Everyone is; that is up their own RAS.  Your RAS, Reticular Activating System affects the way you view the world.  Wikipedia  only gives the most basic idea of the potential of this part of the brain.

This part of brain filters what notice.  Simple things like filtering out background noise; the fact you’re wearing clothes (did you notice them now?) and what pings out emotions.  Many methods of self improvement work on reprogramming this part of the brain.  A successful change in a relationship needs the same push.

I could spend some time going on about this, but let’s keep it simple.  When you start a (romantic) relationship you plug the RAS to see all the good in the “love of your life”.  This positive feedback loop keeps you “in love”; then life happens.

The emotional planets align and your significant other does something that cause the RAS to subtly reprogram.  This can be a simple as the slow down in the relationship and falling back to our default love language which doesn’t resonate with the other person.  Before long the only thing we see are triggers that set us off to see the bad/worst in the person we loved.

Sometimes this is a good thing; you know, those people that you were madly in love with that we really shouldn’t have been.  Sometimes its a bad thing, we leave someone we love because we can’t get past the negative waves that hit us day after day.

We can change this negative loop, if we want.  I’ll come back to that in another post; but for the impatient search the web for “psycho-cybernetics”.  It’s not as hocus-pocus or rocket science as it sounds.  It started from getting people to feel good about their plastic surgery and is the core of much “self-help” and CBT.


PS: Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

PPS: For those of you looking for a less religious motif: Have a Happy Festive Season and a Prosperous New Year


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.”

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.

Living the Dream

dream cloudsSadly, I am living the dream. The dream where a relationship seems to breakdown because communication has stopped. I’m not talking about talking, I’m not talking about simple communication, I’m talking about interaction. When two people actually exchange not just words but the full on emotional content that goes with them.

Why is this so difficult? In part it is a symptom of modern life, in another it is just not speaking the same language. Whoa, wait a minute you say, we both speak English/German/French/Spanish/etc. Albeit that a truer word has not been spoken here we are talking about matters of the heart. It is about how we prefer to communicate a sense of love. It sounds simple yet we fail to understand this language and too readily respond to the heady chemical mix of early romance.

A gentleman by the name of Gary Chapman has deciphered the five primary languages people used to sense “love”. I strongly recommend that you go to his web site (www.5lovelanguages.com) and take the free online test. More importantly I suggest your partner should take the test as well and you compare answers.

So, why compare answers? Simply we arrive into adulthood under pressure to conform to some simple courting rituals that we take as the means of communicating love. However, the reality is that we are influenced by for more subtle factors; including biology and parenting (as an aside I can recommend the Nurture Assumption to better understand these influences.) The difficulties start when we step outside the stylised rituals and need to make our own way, that step beyond that leads to cohabitation or marriage.

We are now in free territory and more than likely find ourselves with someone that speaks a foreign language. Just like when we travel abroad there can be fun and excitement trying to breakdown the communication obstacles. But what happens when that inability to communicate, probably compounded by external factors like children, limits the nutrition you need to keep your love alive? Do you look for nourishment elsewhere? Do you blame the other person for failing to provide the food you need?

In our quick fix, everything ready in an instant Western culture it is easy to take either route. However, a hard piece of wisdom says, “The common factor in every bad relationship you’ve ever had is YOU” [add link to post]. It leads to a soaring divorce rate and untold misery because children cannot see why two people that clearly love them cannot love each other. And the reason is our on lazy inability to learn to speak another language.

This stalwart refusal to learn a second, or possibly third, language is likely a reflection of the main Anglo-Saxon cultures resistance to foreign languages and the belief that “everyone should speak English”. Not for one instant do I think this is purely an English speaking people’s problem, but we show many of the traits in other parts of our life and we are rewarded with some of the highest divorce rates in the world.

Our lazy approach gets tied up with us expecting everyone else to speak OUR language. In balanced partnership it’s fair that your ‘native tongue’ is used sometimes, HOWEVER, sometimes you need to use the other persons preferred language. Even then both parties need appreciate the effort one is making to speak their language. Speaking a second language is often not natural, frequently all but the experts will miss a nuance, use the wrong phrase, slip on a colloquialism or just plain old get it wrong. When one or both parties become cynical and feel the other one is “forcing it” then they have lost a grip on the understanding that it IS a foreign language.

The love triangle makes a strong case for physical intimacy being a strong discourse for me and the other languages being about “romance”. I feel truth in both and perhaps an amalgam of the two models is what is needed; a thought for me to ponder.

To paraphrase on old classic – Speak Love, Not War.

Red – The Blood of Angry Men

Blood redLes Miserables; men that is, for the most part. Women, certainly middle aged married women, seem to think that most middle aged men are miserable. The question that begs is whether or not women perceive men as miserable because that’s what they are looking for, so that is what they find or if they really are. It is a horrible reality of humanity in that we tend to see what we want to see and not see what we don’t.

The unfortunate side effect is that men often become the miserable creatures that women seek. And women seem to be so surprised. Why should this be? Women are almost unanimous at the start of their relationships that the man they have just acquired is pretty good if only they can change him a bit. So you change them and then you don’t like what you get, because you change, too, but don’t want to own up to that.

Women, like men, have priorities that change with time, or simply as we get older. The need for fun and procreation dominate our youth, security our mid-life and self actualisation (fancy way of saying what’s the best we could be, or following our dreams) comes to the fore as we see that life in not eternal. This bears a marked look like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; something I touch on in two other posts (Maslow Need for Love and Maslow Changing with Time).

The title comes more in to the response the sexes have to this situation; for men largely triggered by their no longer being a need to be capable of reproduction. Men have long been the butt of the mid-life crisis jokes, which is probably in part motivated by not wanting to change from the “younger situation”. Simple straightforward denial of the facts in front of you by the virtue of total defiance. Most men grit their teeth and work through it.

Women appear to be finding their own ‘late life crisis’. It is not just the miserable men they’ve helped create, it is the loss of the need to be the mother and carer. The empty nest pushes the emphasis up the Hierarchy of Needs and women appear to now take the simple way out and head for divorce; an issue I look at deeper in the Silver Separators

So where’s the red? It’s that other option, and often precursor to becoming miserable, men come to when women have redefined how love is expressed in the relationship (see The Love Triangle). That attack on men’s sense of fulfillment of the Need for Love generates anger when they can see no clear way to resolve the issue. A lack of understanding, and the social redefinition of how sex is a horrible thing; except when you’re younger and the social stigma of old age sex has kicked in, discussed here.

Yes, in the end it comes back to sex. Men find that pinnacle of intimacy key to a relationship and its dismissal can lead to the breakdown of a relationship, as much as it can be a sign of trouble in other parts of a relationship.

So come one women; make love, not red.

My car is broken – let’s talk

girl with broken down car

Imagine this; you are travelling down the road when your car breakdowns. You have no idea what is wrong, or if you’re lucky you might, like a flat tyre. Either way you can’t fix it. So, you call an auto-mechanic to come and fix it. There is a subtle air of tension as you wait for them to arrive.

Now imagine this scene playing out: The truck pulls up behind your broken down car. A person that exudes an air of confidence and competence steps out of the vehicle. An air of relief descends over you. This person then starts to ask you about the problem, your sense of assurance grows as you feel they are diagnosing the problem. Soon they are asking questions that seem less relevant to your breakdown, like where you live and even start telling you about what they had for lunch. After half an hour the car has barely been touched, great you have a better understanding of the mechanics and the fundamental physics behind what has broken, but you are no closer to getting on your way…

It is hardly stretching your imagination to believe that all but the most patient of people would by now be ready to shout and making great protestations about the lack of progress being made to helping you get on your way. What has been lost is that this sense of frustration is what men feel when they attend marriage counselling. It is another sweeping generalisation about the sexes, but there is research to support it.

Relate (##www##) published a report, reproduced in most national UK paper, that states when women go to counselling they want to talk about the troubles within the relationship and men want to fix the relationship; with the subtext of getting more sex! The failure to fix things can lead to frustration for men, however, I can hardly sense that any women would be pleased with the mechanic in our story.

Yes, it is another one where both people (sexes!) are right and one cannot come without the other. You need to talk to find out what needs fixing. The difference is more that women seem to think that the talking is a solution in itself, whereas men want to see a roadmap to a solution. This may stem from the Love Triangle and the Perceived Benefits of a Relationship. The question is how to balance the two.

Couselling tends to focus on the more Freudian approach and this finds favour with women because it involves a lot of talking. The thinking seems to be to allow new habits, or old ones to be rekindled, by the couple involved. This gives the slow self-discovery organic growth to the relationship and this is a closer reflection of the evolution of a typical new relationship.

One school of psychology occasionally tapped in to is that of Cognitive Behaviour Theory (CBT). This approach appeals more to men, as the focus is to agree to an action and let it set the new behavioural norm. It is about making the desired reality a conscious decision and by repeating the acts over and over again the subconscious brain adapts to the new norm.

CBT can be very attractive for the stereotypical male. What it does ignore is the need to resolve underlying issues that the subconscious mind will push to the fore. It is these issues that the talking can reveal and permit a deep rooted repair to be made, rather than a quick fix. These can be found using tools like the genogram (or Love Map).

As great as it can be to decide to have more sex, there is a need to keep talking before and after. Talking during is an optional extra!!