the grace of divorce – why we go: the dyadic shift

Annie is my Golden Retriever of unknown age, we’re guessing around five years. We picked her up from a family who appeared desperate to be rid of her and when we got her home she seemed just as happy to be rid of, especially when she discovered we had a pool.

Gretta is my Shetland Sheepdog and that moniker is misnomer, she’s more Chihuahua with a fur coat. I’ve had her as long as my youngest child has been around, twelve years. We’ve had this dyad between us ever since her companion, PJ, my other more conventional Sheltie, passed away three years ago. Now, it’s just her and me, as long as we’re the only two home. If another family member comes along with the higher potential of belly rubbing or treat tossing, Gretta’s dyadic primacy shifts away from me to them, and I’ve never really liked that.

She got a taste of that herself the day Annie joined our family. My dyadic primacy shifted to the big yellow dog (BYD) and Gretta was pissed.

For a month. I never knew dogs held grudges and I’ve been around them my whole life. But there’s some balance restored in the familial scheme of things, a trust both these canines took their time in coming about, but are now comfortable to live with. Rub one’s belly, you’d better have time to rub two.

Sound familiar? See, in any triad, quadrad, pentad, there’s dyadic primacy; a coalition shared by two people unique to their relationship with each other. Parents have coalitions different from their kids, like making life better for them. Kids have coalitions different from their parents, like making their lives hell.

Blend a couple of families together and where kids once had exclusive access to one parent begin to take on non-verbal characteristics not unlike Gretta’s expression the day we brought home the BYD.

Shift the dyadic primacy in a romance and, voila, third-party relationship. Doesn’t have to be organic. I once had a third-party relationship with a car. Nothing kinky, I just spent more time and money on it than I did on my wife. And while that wasn’t the deal breaker, it certainly opened the door to other third-party relationships that were.

But it’s not infidelity that ends most marriages. It’s the shift itself. The change of priority, the undercurrent that someone in the dyad has been displaced by someone or something else.

Babies do this to young parents. Dyad becomes triad, and guess where the dyadic shift is going to go? To the one who has the biggest need and the one most adept at fulfilling it. And until men start lactating that primacy is going to be between momma and baby, though many might attest that daddy was still the one with the biggest need. That’s why we invented SportsCenter.

We can also justify that shift. It’s natural, the way things have been since thing have been. What we can’t justify is when we make the dyadic shift to something like World o’ Warcraft, or March Madness, or deer hunt, or that Mars red Porsche 914 that I lovingly wiped down every morning with a diaper.

Yes, I was pathetic. Hard to think I could even be capable. But the reality is, it was pretty easy to do. As soon as we don’t realize the value of the other within our dyad, as soon as we’ve somehow discounted them away from the moment we first realized we were in love with them, the third member of that now-triad is pretty easy to come by.

Out of all the experience I’ve had in my life I know of only one species capable of making the best out of the dyadic shift, and even then it took them at least thirty days.

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2 Responses to the grace of divorce – why we go: the dyadic shift

  1. Scott Mayfield says:

    For the first time in my life, and after your class today, I deceded to check out some blogs…then along came this one. Coming from as a divorcee myself I could relate to your blog personally. I found this post commical yet all to true. I too have wondered and seen the Dyad and Triad take place within my own walls. But after reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder…what would happen if both the bellys were rubbed? Take that comment however you want to. Then again, like most parents, sometimes you only want to rub one belly and emotionally punch the other in the gut just like they do to you. Ahhh the joy of family relationships.

  2. Scott Mayfield says:

    Oh and I almost forgot….I made a dyatic shift from my wife once too…her name is Lori and she is now my second wife….lol

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