Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

How to support your wife when she wants an active birth

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 | Family & Parenting

Waiting for the labour pains with a well-timed “I told you so” might seem like a good idea, but turns out not to be if you like your balls attached to your body.

The active birth movement has now been going for 50 years and is almost certainly here to stay. That makes sense. Research suggests that active birth reduces the number of complications and interventions, and allows the mother to recover quicker.

As with everything in pregnancy, though, there are benefits and there are also drawbacks.

First, labour can be really painful. It varies from person to person and from birth to birth, but often the amount of pain management required is going to be dictated by the situation.

Second, not everything goes to plan. So you may be planning to have an active birth but the situation could change quickly if there are any issues with labour. Therefore it is important to go in with a mindset of being ready to adapt to the changes required.

How should you handle it? The most important step is to be supportive. Active birth offers a lot more chance for the father to be involved, supporting your partner through the process and helping with non-drug based pain relief (such as massage, and helping her in and out of the bath).

It is also important to be supportive if things to not go to plan. If she decides she does need pain relief after all, remember to reassure her that almost everyone does, and there is no “failure” in resorting to it.

Overall, active birth is a great decision, especially for dads. The advantage is the reduced chance of intervention, and the disadvantages of additional pain are only felt by the father vicariously.

Why age disparity in relationships matter

Monday, February 27th, 2017 | Religion & Politics

On average, men choose to marry women slightly younger than they are. But for would-be dads, this can have a profound impact on family life.

Most people enter relationships with people of a similar age. In western culture this is normal, and indeed doing anything other than this is considered abnormal. However, in different cultures, and at different times, this as not always been the case.

If we look at the 2013 US survey data, we find that a third of heterosexual married couples are within one year of each other. It is not an equal curve on each side though. Women are far more likely to marry older men. In 20% of marriages the man is 2–3 years old, and in 13% 4–5 years older. Compare this to 7% and 3% for women being older.

This makes sense. OK Cupid data, as documented in the book Dataclysm shows that men prefer younger women, and up until the age of 30, women prepare a slightly older man. As many relationships are formed before the age of 30, the older man younger woman setup is likely to have the broader appeal to both parties.

Why is it important, though?

I think it is important because it contributes to the imbalance of women staying at home to look after the children while men continue working. For would-be stay-at-home dads and passionate career women, this is not a desirable situation.

People who are further along in their career earn more money. Nothing controversial there. This means that if you enter into a relationship with someone a few years older than you, on average, they are going to earn more money than you.

When it comes to starting a family, it would be nice to think that childcare could simply be divided as you see fit. However, this is simply not the reality that most of us live in. Many of our decisions are driven by economic factors. That is to say, there are bills to pay and we need to earn enough money to pay them.

Therefore, when it comes to starting a family, many people are faced with the decision of giving up the father’s wage or giving up the mother’s. Unfortunately, for many would-be full-time dads, giving up their own higher wage is not financially viable for the family.

Exactly what can be done about this, I am not sure. You could say that if you want to be a stay-at-home-dad you should marry someone older, or in a more lucrative career than you. However, as most of us know, love does not work that way.

Why get married?

Monday, July 25th, 2016 | Thoughts


I have always been a lot uncomfortable with the fact I married.

Am I unhappy with Elina? No. I left the wording that way for comic effect. What I am talking about here is what is the point of actually getting married? We’re not religious, so we could simply cohabit and that would pose no barrier to us having a relationship or starting a family.

So why marry? Here are some suggestions:

It’s a pleasurable thing to do

A lot of these reasons might be post hoc. I tried to put a reason to what I was doing after I had decided to do it. So lets start with one that eliminates all of that: I just wanted to emotionally, because it’s a pleasurable thing to do.

Which it is. It’s a fun day. Planning it is fun too. It’s a ritual, and humans love rituals.

You get to have a party

A wedding is big party that everyone makes the effort to turn up to. You get to see people you haven’t seen in ages, and celebrate with the people you love. Nothing brings people together like a hatch, a match, or a dispatch. In some ways, a wedding is a service we reciprocally provide to our family and friends so they can see each other.

It could add sticking power

How much a marriage causes people to stick together is debatable. They are quite easy to get out of these days. You can divorce. Lots of people do (though interesting, divorce rates have actually been falling for the past 40 years).

However, my hunch is that they do some good. For example, when we campaign for an election, we get people to sign a pledge card to say they will vote. Getting them to do that significantly increases the changes they will vote. Making a commitment in front of your family and friends is likely to create some social pressure.

Also, as Tim Minchin points out in If I Didn’t Have You, relationships are more about building shared experience than love at first sight. Having an experience, such as a wedding, could be a powerful emotional building block in your relationship.

Legally, it makes sense

First, it clears up a lot of inheritance issues. If you are married and your partner dies, you get their stuff. You can write a will and do other legal things without marriage of course. However, just the act of getting married gives you all of this stuff out-of-the-box, which keeps things simple and easy.

Second, because partners have certain rights, it makes it more worth making sacrifices for your partner. You can take choices with your family, educate, career, etc, knowing that you will have some legal recourse if it does all end in divorce.

Social pressure

We are all affected my social pressure to some degree. Perhaps I am less than most: I mostly married because people did not expect me to. One acquaintance, who kept nagging Elina and I to get married doesn’t know we have: I take off my wedding ring and pretend we’re still just boyfriend and girlfriend, just to annoy her.

However, other people may feel a strong social pressure. Maybe their parents or grandparents really want them to get married. Is it irrational to do something you don’t personally care about to please someone you love? I would suggest probably not (especially as such people often pick up the bill).

Visa reasons

I know friends who have married for visa reasons. That does not mean they are not in love. It just means they were happy cohabiting, but then the legal issues got in the way and the only way they could continue their relationship was by getting a piece of paper. That seems a legitimate choice to make in a world that only recognises loving relationships when you sign an official form.

Sex, Love & Marketing

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Events, Humanism

Leeds Skeptics recently invited David Frank to present a talk entitled “sex, love & marketing”. It looked at how people market themselves on online dating and what interesting information we can gather from large scale data releases by major online dating networks.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Online dating is rapidly becoming a mature industry with wide social acceptance – most people think it is a good way to meet people and 11% of Americans have used it
  • It is predominantly used by middle-class urban dwellers with some university education
  • “Do you like horror movies?” turns out to be a really good predictor of compatibility

And some tips for using online dating:

  • Get your friends to pick your photos as you will instinctivly try and pick mirror images of yourself rather than the best photos
  • Get your friends to peer-review your profile, just like you would a CV
  • Use an interesting username that is neither boring nor contains words with negative connotations
  • Use pictures taken on DSLRs – whether it is the skill of the user, the higher quality camera or extra care taken, the produce much more liked photos than camera phones
  • If you must use a camera phone, turn the flash off
  • People love some depth of field on profile pictures too
  • Selfies are good for women, but bad for men
  • Smile with teeth is best, followed by no smile, smile without teeth. A smirk is the worst thing you can do.
  • T-shirts or casual shirts are the way to go for men – tank tops and topless are the worst ways to go
  • Showing cleavage works for women, and this becomes even more successful as they age
  • Do not talk about god in your profile
  • Basically everyone hates misspellings, grammar, and short replies

Overall a really interesting talk. There was also a section on sex and fetishes. The entire thing was well supported by stats and evidence. You can find the full slides on David’s website.

The importance of Valentine’s Day

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 | Thoughts

I think Valentine’s Day is important.

At this point, you may well be thinking “I don’t need some stupid excuse to show my partner I love them; I show them all the time. I don’t need posts like this to make me feel bad because I ignored a Hallmark-created fake holiday”. If so, it’s important to remember that I haven’t said that I haven’t said that – that’s just your guilty conscience making excuses for itself.

It it not a holiday invented by Hallmark. Hallmark is 105 years old, and Valentine’s Day is 2,000. There is a whole history of it on Wikipedia. Even the Lutheran’s feast on Valentine’s Day. The Lutherans! These are the only people who hate fun more than the Presbyterians.

But even if it was made up by Hallmark, that’s not important. Obviously somebody made it up anyway.

In Religion For Atheists, Alain de Botton talks about the importance of ritual and ceremony. He talks about religious feasts. It is important to have one night of debauchery every now and then, to keep people in line the rest of the time. It keeps things on a regular, dependable cycle that stops things from getting forgotten.

Take presents for example. I could buy Elina a present any time of year. Sometimes I do. However, mostly I buy her big presents on her birthday, and at Christmas. I could buy her presents randomly at all times. But that would probably be annoying for both of us. The nature of random is that she might get three presents in one week, and then none for years, depending on frequency. That would be rubbish. I would then have to have a system of deciding how to handle the random frequency – humans are not very good random. Do I write a computer programme to do it? How do I balance a finite budget with the frequency and value of items?

Even if you do just randomly buy your partner presents, do you go to the same detail you would during the holiday season, or at a birthday? Do you wrap it? And how about everyone else, do you randomly buy presents for all your family to? I don’t. I buy as specifically ritualised times – birthdays, Christmas, when I am on holiday, etc. Having a ritualised system means that I regularly buy presents for my family without having to spend my entire life designing a complex system to track prepared spontaneity (which as we all know is the best kind of spontaneity).

Returning to Valentine’s Day. I am sure that you, like me, regularly choose to show your love to your partner in a variety of surprising and novel ways. Super, and I hope that continues for a long time.

However, we know that a) it becomes more difficult the longer a relationship goes on. If you are a friend of mine, that means that if you are married (you probably aren’t) you have probably been married less than 5 years. That means you are in the easiest part of your marriage, because that is when the romance is strongest. About the five year mark is when divorces peak.


I don’t know why this is, but there are a couple of reasons that seem to spring to mind. Firstly, in Rip It Up! Richard Wiseman talks about passion in relationships which is strongest at the start of a relationship and then goes into terminal decline for the rest of the time. If you haven’t built a strong and lasting relationship by the time it wears off, you’re fucked.

Secondly, it could be that after five years there is a good chance you have had children, which is a very stressful experience and can often break couples apart.

My point is that if you are in the early days of a relationship (and by early days I mean the first five years) that passion that drives you to show your partner you love them might not be there at a later date. There is no point denying this to ourselves, despite how bleak it may seem, that is what the studies show. Or it may well be that you are so busy raising children that you simply don’t have time to think about that stuff, because you are too busy trying to work out how exactly Chris Junior could even physically get his head through a gate like that, let alone how you are going to get him out. And how do his hands get that sticky? He hasn’t had any jam!

Hopefully, of course, you manage to keep the passion alive. However, Valentine’s Day provides a safety net. It provides a ritual that makes sure that you don’t forget to have a least one day of affection each year.

I, like you no doubt, hope to have many more a year. I hope to show my affection every day. However, not everyone does. And in a historical context, which is of course where Valentine’s Day evolved, romantic love taking the lead is a somewhat modern concept.

I don’t go out on Valentine’s Day because all the restaurants are full. Much better to take Elina out to restaurants on weekdays when it is easy to get a table. Tonight, we’ll be staying at home, I’ll be cooking, and we’ll be spending time together. Because it’s Valentine’s Day. Surely that can only be a positive thing?


Monday, March 19th, 2012 | Thoughts

I had an interesting experience at this month’s Wendy House.

A girl, who as far as I could tell, nobody knew, joined our circle on the dance floor and began dancing with us. More specifically, she seemed to be dancing and making eyes at, me. I thought I was just imagining it at first, but two of my friends later independently joked to me “I think you’ve pulled”, so I wasn’t the only one thinking that.

I’m in a long term relationship so I couldn’t do anything. Or could I?

I could have totally misread the situation – maybe she was just being friendly, maybe she was friends with someone in our circle, maybe she was even friends with me and I didn’t recognise her (because that did happen last month, sorry Charlotte!). But she apparently walked off as soon as I went to get a drink so I’m just going to asume I was correct, as the exact truth is irrelevant to this blog post.

In these situations, you have to do the maths. Well, you don’t have to, you could just reject the idea out of a blind policy that you’re in a relationship and that is the end of that, but if that is your line of thinking, how do you actually know that you want to be in the relationship and are not just sticking with it out of blind faith? It’s a rhetorical question; you don’t.

So I did the maths. On the pros list – if I did make a move and she was into me, we could go off and have a bit of a dance, a hug and a kiss. That’s always good. On the cons side, I would have broken the trust of the person I love most in the world and potentially ruined a hopefully lifelong relationship.

Obviously, the cons outweigh the pros. It never scares me to do the maths because I always know that is is going to come down on that side – Elina is always going to win, unless our relationship hat deteriorated into a state where neither of us wanted to be in it, and that certainly isn’t on the horizon (I hope lol…).

But the problem with this method of thought process is just that – it involves a lot of thinking. You have to make a rational decision and reject the instant gratification in favour of the greater long-term payoff.

Both engaging rational thought on the subject and being able to restrain myself for the long-term payoff are not something that I personally particularly struggle with. But I can’t imagine that is the same for everyone.

Compound on that the fact that most people are severely intoxicated when they commit such acts of infidelity and suddenly you’re on very rocky grounds for decision making.

I wrote about a similar issue back in December when I commented that the lack of protection used during one night stands is not acceptable, but is perhaps understandable.

The chances are that a lot of people don’t put quite so much rational thought into their actions or have the self-control to wait for the long-term payoff. As a result, is it any wonder that some people do end up making silly decisions and cheat on their partner? Not acceptable, but perhaps understandable.

Valentine’s Day

Saturday, February 11th, 2012 | Thoughts

One of my friends recently retweeted a message saying “Valentine’s Day is for people who lack the imagination to be romantic during the rest of the year.” That put me onto an interesting thought process about the origins of the holiday.

Because, if you think about it, Valentine’s Day is almost certainly a holiday created by men, for men.

I mean, imagine if we had to be romantic all year round! There is simply no time for that, we have far too much watching sport and eating pizza to do. Designating one romantic day per year, effectively manages the expectations of the fairer sex so that we don’t have to worry about it for the other 364 days. Genius.

Intimate Details debuts

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 | Foundation, Humanism, News

Yesterday, the first session of Intimate Details took place at Leeds Atheist Society. Intimate Details is a course which looks at sex, relationships and surrounding issues from a secular perspective – and indeed given it covers a lot of the same material as UCCF’s Pure course, some have cheekily nicknamed it “Impure.”

Yesterday’s session looked at sexuality and the various sexual orientations that exist, taboos and fetishes and the attitude towards sex in society such as sex in the media and education system as well as pornography, prostitution and religion.

Next week’s session will be looking at dating, relationships and sex. You can join us for that at 7pm on Friday 10 December.