Mathematics allows you to determine at what age to seek true love
Stephen Strogatz immediately warns readers: it is hardly worth taking literally the hypotheses he constructs in the book. Life is much more complicated than mathematical formulas. But there are expectations and desires that are more or less common to all people. For example, we hope to connect our destiny with a person who suits us better than anyone else. It is not possible to calculate how many novels you need to credit before choosing a spouse. But it is possible to determine the optimal time for making such a decision.
To do this, you need to divide the "active" part of your life (from the day you started trying to build a romantic relationship) in two. As a rule, in the first half of this period we are more frivolous, inclined to experiments and willingly get along with new people. Gradually, something like a rating of our past lovers is forming in our head.
In the second half, we are already ready to build a family, and quite easily make a choice in favor of a person who, in terms of a set of personal qualities, surpasses all those with whom we have met before. This is because the query “ideal partner” by that time is naturally replaced by “the best for today”. In order not to miss the moment, Stephen Strogatz recommends that you start looking for a spouse at a stage when you have lived about 37% of your potential adult life.
Let's try to use this recommendation. Let's say we become adults as by law - at the age of 18, and the period of active search for a pair ends closer to 55 years. Of course, a woman of an older age can start a family, but, as a rule, in this case it is more likely not about the first marriage. This means that we have 37 years to find the optimal partner. 37% of 37 is 13.7. We add the figure to 18, and it turns out that the chances of a woman meeting her destiny are especially high at the age of 31–32. Provided that she has experience in relationships behind her.
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Mathematics can point to systemic relationship problems
Major quarrels and partings with subsequent stormy reconciliations can occur sporadically, or they can imperceptibly become part of the system and, in fact, determine the dynamics of relations. To assess whether it's time for partners to rethink their behavior patterns, Stephen Strogatz suggests turning to differential equations.
Imagine a hypothetical Romeo is in love with a hypothetical Juliet. Juliet herself is a fickle and freedom-loving girl. The more Romeo shows his feelings for her, the more she moves away from him. But when Romeo begins to show indifference, a passion for him suddenly awakens in Juliet. The real-life scenario is extremely common.
The man who finds himself in Romeo's place hopes that sooner or later he will be able to finally melt the ice. Alas, Strogatz's forecast on this score is not particularly optimistic. If you express the dynamics of the feelings of Romeo and Juliet in the form of differential equations, and then transfer them to a graph, it turns out that they are sinusoids. Each of them increases and decreases, but at maximum values they do not coincide. That is, the romance of these two people will be an endless cycle of love and hate.
The conclusion is deeply psychological: as long as our feelings for our beloved are strongly dependent on his emotions and reactions, it is hardly worth counting on a healthy, stable relationship. But if you notice in time that over and over again in the same situations you act in the same way (and your partner too), you can try to build a graph similar to the one used by Strogatz in the example with Romeo and Juliet. This graph will help you understand at what points your sinusoids diverge, and tell you which behavioral patterns should be abandoned in order to bring the relationship into a more comfortable direction for both.
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Mathematics helps maintain harmony in the family
Let's say you've managed to build a strong family with a partner that suits you perfectly. But even in this case, the marriage will still be checked from time to time. One of them will most likely be relationships with newfound relatives, which are far from always ideal. To better understand the balance of power and maintain a balance, Steven Strogatz recommends building "relationship triangles" on paper. They allow you to understand who from the immediate environment violates the harmony in your couple.
The names of people are placed in the corners of such a triangle, and with the help of its sides they indicate how they relate to each other. The side drawn with a continuous line indicates a positive, friendly relationship. The dotted line indicates dislike. The most balanced triangle, of course, is the one in which all connections are positive. But further it is more interesting. If the dotted line leads to the same relative from both you and your partner, chances are your marriage will be safe and sound: there is little that brings people together more than a common enemy. But if there is only one negative connection in the triangle, this can become a big problem.
For example, you love your husband and you have a great relationship with your sibling. But my sister and husband hate each other. Safely pretending that their mutual hostility does not concern you will not work. The confrontation between husband and sister will bring psychological stress to your relationship with both of them, and it will be possible to align the balance only by taking sides, that is, creating another negative connection. Well, or by reconciling the antagonists.
According to Strogatz, you can build not one, but a whole network of triangles, reflecting all the vicissitudes of relationships in a large family. If we resort to this method, it turns out that the split of relatives into two camps does not destroy, but only strengthens relations within each of them. The main thing is that there should be exactly two of these camps: as practice shows, a trilateral split cannot have balanced triangles.
Of course, the recommendations that Strogatz gives do not by themselves create a solid foundation for marriage. The author's The Pleasure of X's attempts to translate human relationships into numbers are more of an exercise like the kind psychologists sometimes suggest their clients do as “homework”. At the same time, Strogatz argues quite convincingly that a field that is traditionally considered rather unpredictable can in some areas be assessed from the point of view of exact science. And mathematical equations may well give us hints in which direction to move in order to successfully build and maintain relationships.>