Tag Archives: relationships

The Calculus of Romance

I’m not using calculus metaphorically in that headline. I really want to talk about calculus and romance, specifically differential calculus and romantic relationships. But this needn’t be a math lesson; you can follow the links to Wikipedia for the full details on how calculus works, or take lessons from the Khan Academy.

Generally speaking, a derivative is a measure of change, and you can take derivatives of derivatives. So a first derivative describes a function, measuring the rate of change of that function. In the graph below, the first derivative is the tangent that measures the slope of the function. A second derivative describes the rate of change of the first derivative, a third derivative describes the second, and so on. You get the point.

Illustration of derivatives

How on earth does that relate to romance? Well, consider a romantic relationship to be a function, moving along the X-axis of time. When you are discussing your relationship (which you hopefully do sometimes), that is like the first derivative – describing the trajectory of your relationship. Sometimes you may talk about how you talk about your relationship, improving your communications skills. That is the second derivative. But if you are having real problems communicating, you may talk about how you talk about talking about your relationship. That is the third order derivative, and it’s bad.

Nobody likes higher order derivatives, and nobody likes talking about talking about talking. So make sure you get those second derivatives right!

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On Making People Happy

A friend recently used the old line that “you can’t make others happy unless you’re happy yourself.” I disagree, and I told my friend so. As I recall, my exact words were “That’s ridiculous. I have a Ph.D. in making other people happy.”

I don’t really have a Ph.D. at all, in making people happy or any other subject, but I do like to make the people around me happy, and here are three techniques I sometimes use:

  • Listen: People like being listened to. I like being listened to, and my dad does, and my friends do, and I think pretty much everyone does. Listening validates people and indicates that you actually care what they have to say. Also, listening gives you good information on which to act.
  • Act: When you learn of an action that could make someone happy, do it. You might learn of this action from listening, or from reading (not their diary…that will NOT make them happy) or from simply watching. Or you could deduce it, eg. “women like flowers, Catherine is a woman, ergo….” It doesn’t matter how you get there; what matters is doing something nice for someone.
  • Compromise: Give in sometimes. You don’t always have to get your way. Like the time I wanted to go see Transformers 2 (because I think Megan Fox is a great actress) and my sister wanted to see Lorna’s Silence and (despite being really worried about what might happen to Optimus Prime) I gave in because it made my sister happy. And, it turns out, learning about Lorna and her Belgian snack shop wasn’t really that bad.

There you have it. A graduate degree in making people happy, in three easy steps.