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.