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The Anti-Heartbreak Function

The Anti-Heartbreak Function
By Al Ibrahim • Issue #4 • View online
An algorithm, essentially, is just a sequence of steps. A recipe. If A is done, Then do B. You don’t need software to run a checklist; for most algorithms, a pen and paper would do just fine.
Often, algorithms are better than human judges at deciding whether or not a person should be kept in jail or released on bail. They can also do better than human doctors at detecting cancer.
So if there’s an algorithm for bail and an algorithm for cancer, I see no reason why there can’t be an algorithm to help me detect an oncoming heartbreak so I can swerve to the left and safely avoid it. 

The Variables
There’s too much noise in the data of human relationships. So for an algorithm to have a shot at succeeding, I’ll need a concise way of expressing all the relevant information symbolically.
What I need, is a formula.
And for that, I had a call out on Instagram – the epitome of the scientific method in this year of migration – and asked people to tell me the most important qualities they look for in relationships.
I took all those responses and consolidated them into ten qualities – mostly because 10 is a nice round number – and then used that to start writing my foolproof formula. 
So without further ado, here are the 10 qualities (in no particular order):
1. Emotional Maturity is the ability to take personal responsibility for your own life. Part of that involves having self-awareness, which is the ability to recognize your complicity in your own life. And part of that involves self-regulation and good boundary-setting.
2. Compassion is a form of kindness coupled with forgiveness. It’s being lenient on yourself for faltering – because people falter – and then extending that leniency to other people because other people are also people.
3. And Respect is that quality that makes other people, human. You don’t have to have respect for everyone, but having respect for someone means that even if you disagree with them, you still accept that from their perspective, their actions and statements make sense and that they’re not lesser humans for saying or doing those things that you disagree with.
4. Openness generally means being open to new experiences. Anything from being willing to see things from the perspective of another person to being receptive to receiving feedback, to a general willingness to venture outside of your comfort zone.  
5. Honesty simply means not lying. And not just “not lying” in a technical sense, like – Well, I didn’t really lie because she’s technically still my friend… – but also not framing any information in a deliberately misleading way. Honesty is not manipulative, because respect means trusting the other person to make the right decisions for themselves. And the only way for them to be able to do that is if they have all the relevant information.
6. Independence doesn’t mean not needing help. It means knowing yourself enough to know the things you need help with, being able to ask for that help without shame, and graciously taking “no” for an answer should that be the case.
7. Critical-Thinking means not taking things at face value. It’s sceptical – sure – but it’s also rational, works within the bounds of factual evidence, acknowledges its biases, and – most importantly – it’s self-correcting.
8. A Sense of Humour is not an arrow pointing towards or away from some absolute centre-point on a number line. It’s not measured by how far a dot is from that centre-point. Instead, a Sense of Humour is a lot of random dots on an unmarked 3-dimensional graph, and all that matters is the proximity between any two points regardless of where on the graph they fall. The closer the two dots are to each other, the more joy they get out of being around each other.
9. Sexual Chemistry, at least for the purposes of this formula, is defined as being turned on by each other, and also as having enough of an overlap of things that you enjoy doing and can provide for each other sexually.
10. Having a Growth Mindset is the unwavering belief that you’re not in your final form, and neither is the relationship. You believe that relationships are not predestined to work in a certain way, but rather, they need continuous work, experimentation, and iteration from the people in them. More importantly, a growth mindset is the belief that you have the tools – or the ability to acquire the tools – that you need to build the kind of relationship you want to have.
Step One
For every variable, a potential partner/love interest can have three possible values: -1, 0, and +1.
-1 means that you’ve consistently experienced the opposite of whatever variable it is you’re measuring for.
+1 means that the variable definitely does exist, and you’ve verifiably seen it enough times to make a mark.
And 0 is more or less neutral. You either don’t know whether the variable exists, or you have not seen it enough times to meaningfully say either way.
This first step is the Sum (S) step, and it involves assigning one of those three values to all 10 variables and then adding everything up. For each potential partner/love interest, you should get an S-value ranging from -10 to +10.
Step Two
Here, we’ll take on two more variables that were not previously discussed: Partnership Philosophy and Procreation Plans.
Partnership Philosophy is a broad category that generally deals with relationship types. Whether or not you want monogamy, for example, is something that would fall under the Partnership Philosophy umbrella. Same with whether or not you would want to get married, the specificity of said marriage, and your views on Long Distance Relationships.
Procreation Plans is whether or not you want kids. And if you do, the process you would want to go about getting them. Is surrogacy an option? What about adoption? And if you do get children, how do you plan to raise them?
In step one, the values are assigned based on whether or not your potential partner/love interest exhibits traits that confirm the presence of one of the 10 variables.
In this step, the values are assigned based on whether or not you and your potential partner (or partners - if that’s your partnership philosophy) are on the same page – that is to say, in agreement – concerning the two variables.
So if you and your potential partner/love interest are on the same page with regards to exclusivity and a legal union, assign a +1 to Partnership Philosophy. If you’re not, that’s a 0. The same applies to Procreation Plans.
Step two is the Product (P) step. So after assigning the values to the two variables, you multiply them, and what you’ll end up with is a P-value that can only be either 0 or 1
The Result
The final step in the algorithm is to multiply the Sum (S) with the Product (P) to get what I call The Anti-Heartbreak Function (F). And the result of that will either maintain the Sum as it is, or it’ll bring everything down to zero.
A negative F-value points to a potentially unhealthy relationship in the future. And a positive F-value, while of course better, doesn’t necessarily mean that a healthy relationship is viable. 
The closer The Anti-Heartbreak Function is to +10, the more promising the future of the potential relationship, and thus, the less likely it is that a heartbreak – even if it occurs – will come with a lot of unnecessary pain. 
Where it gets interesting though, is when the F-value is 0.
Because 0 could mean a +10 person you disagree with on Procreation Plans, or it could mean a -10 person you disagree with regarding Partnership Philosophy.
The first person is someone you could plausibly have a loving, healthy, short-term relationship with, and at the end go your separate ways with very minimal unnecessary pain. While the second is a person you should almost certainly avoid entirely. 
And yet, as far as the algorithm is concerned, they’re exactly the same person. Equal. Both 0.
Algorithms are of course not neutral. And at the end of the day – intentional or not – every algorithm reflects the desires and biases of its creator(s). 
This one, forged in my present-hurt, is completely blind to the things I’m blind to in my attempt at preventing future pain.
To love – to fall in love – is to open your heart to hurt. Or at least to the possibility of getting hurt. And no cards or stars or – yes – not even an algorithm can protect you from that.
People are wild, messy, and complicated. They cannot be boiled down into signs, decks, formulas, or four-letter acronyms. And if for some reason you believe that someone you know is clean, simple, and straightforward, it’s unlikely that that belief came about because you know them so well.
What’s more likely is that you don’t know them well enough.
This – my longest dispatch yet – is mostly just me processing my own heartbreak. If you know anyone who might find any of this useful, feel free to forward it to them.
Meanwhile, here are some of the things that have kept me busy in the last three months.
Things I Made
My Time Travel (Not Quite) Template
My Time Travel (Not Quite) Template
At this point, it’s a ritual. After every break-up, I send an email to the future to check how I’m doing.
What Einstein Can Teach Us About Communication
It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I might make a Youtube video about it at some point. Subscribe so you don’t miss it :)
Things I Like
I Wrote This Book Because I Love You: Essays by Tim Kreider
Every single one of the essays here says something that is at once deeply specific, and the same time universally applicable. I find this book so deeply relatable. It’s an all-round 10/10 reading experience and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
THE BISEXUAL Official Trailer (HD) Hulu Comedy Series
THE BISEXUAL Official Trailer (HD) Hulu Comedy Series
For some reason, I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last couple of months. I guess, in a way, it makes sense because this is kind of a breakup series. It was underrated when it first came out – and I suppose it still is – but I remember really enjoying it despite the reviews.
The Mirror Has Two Faces | Netflix
I’d never heard of this movie until it came on Netflix (Malaysia) a couple of months ago and a friend suggested that we watch it together. And – without getting into too many details – I don’t think I’ve ever identified with a character in a rom-com as much as I identified with Barbara Streisand in this.
The Shadows
In just 7 episodes, Kaitlin Prest details the lifespan of a relationship from a crush to a crushing heartbreak.
Gnarls Barkley - Who's Gonna Save My Soul (Official Video)
Gnarls Barkley - Who's Gonna Save My Soul (Official Video)
There isn’t a more heartbreaking breakup music video than Gnarls Barkley’s Who’s Gonna Save My Soul. And Gnarls Barkley – along with Lauren Hill, The Weeknd, Mitski, and Stromae – is one of the artists present on my breakup playlist on Spotify titled Welcome to Pecah Hati.
And that’s all from this dispatch.
Reply to me with some of the things that have helped you in your most recent breakup, especially if your breakup happened during the pandemic.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Al Ibrahim

I'm a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and an all-around creative enthusiast based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

On the first Monday of every month (more or less, but more and more less these days), I send out a dispatch of some of the best things I've read, made, watched, learned, and listened to in the previous month.

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