The rhythm of life

The same only differentI learned a new Law a couple of weeks ago. It’s called, The Law of differing frequency of interest in mutual endeavours.

Any self-respecting law has to be unintelligible at first sight, but don’t worry; this turns out to be one of those where you slap your forehead and say, of course, I knew that all along. Let me explain.

It was raised in a workshop I attended. A woman was at the mike, interacting with the facilitator, and shared about her husband who doesn’t seem to be interested any longer in intimate conversations. As the exchange unfolded, it transpired that, well, yes, he likely is interested, he says he’s interested, he just doesn’t seem to ever bring up a personal topic any more.

“Ahhh,” said the facilitator. “This seems to be a case of the Law of differing frequency of interest in mutual endeavours.”

Simply put, people that we are attracted to have things in common with us (“interest in mutual endeavours”). But problems can arise as we become closer and spend more time with that person, when it begins to look like they no longer have an interest in something that initially brought us close.

What the law explains is that it’s not that they don’t have an interest, but rather that they don’t have quite as frequent an interest. And the practical result is that they never get to express their interest.

Think about it. Rick and I are both interested in going for a coffee and doing a crossword. But Rick is on a different frequency. He gets a hankering for it every day; I get a hankering every other day. That means that he comes along and suggests going for a coffee. As we just went for one yesterday, and I’m not feeling the pressure until tomorrow, it’s not me who suggests it. As a matter of fact, it means it’s never me who suggests it. To an undiscerning eye (the kind that all of us humans have), it eventually looks like I’m not interested.

Similarly, I could kayak every week. Rick’s frequency is more like once a month. That means it’s always me who’s bringing it up. I could get the feeling that he’s not interested in kayaking, even though there is a great deal of other evidence to the contrary. It would be easy to step into the trap of assuming something here.

Rythm on the reefThese aren’t particularly profound examples. But you can see that the Law applies equally to more important, and potentially disruptive, issues. Sex, for example. If you can believe the movies, most couples seem to be on differing frequencies in this regard. Equally, it applies to any kind of physical contact. We all need a hug, but some of us need one considerably more often. Or, take the example that came up in the workshop: intimate conversations. The woman’s need-an-intimate-conversation well runs dry more quickly than her husband’s does.

The Law was only mentioned in passing in the workshop, and somewhat playfully. Its creator would be the first to acknowledge that it doesn’t explain a staggering amount in the complex domain of human dissimilarities. But The Law snagged my interest. I like the way it reminds us about what we have in common, rather than focusing purely on our differences.

I like how the Law focuses on the differing frequency of interest, rather than the differing amount of interest. When we focus on the amount of interest, we can easily fall into a familiar spiral. We begin at: “He/he never initiates…(fill in the blanks: talking, going to the movies, sex, working in the garden, going out for dinner…). We start to think: “He/she doesn’t want to….any more.” That can devolve rapidly to: “We don’t have interests in common any more.”

And finally one arrives at the doorstep of: “We don’t like/love each other anymore.” End of friendship, romance, marriage.

On the other hand, when we look at the issue as one of frequency, rather than of amount, it becomes a mere scheduling problem. Rick and I can talk about the coffee thing, then agree to go for a coffee every day, or every other day, or some creative in-between compromise.

Simple reflectionsIt’s a simple law. Another law I like, Occam’s razor, says that the simplest explanation is most likely the accurate one. And then there’s Heather’s law, which says that There is Nothing Wrong Here. These bits of scientific rigour all align nicely.

By all means, let’s keep it simple.

***

A tip of the hat to Jason Weston who conjured up this Law, from his vast bank of observation of human nature data—and apologies for my subjective interpretation of it.

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4 thoughts on “The rhythm of life

  1. How delightful to read this Heather. I’m smiling. I’ve never written this up, it just came to me years ago and from time to time I speak it when I see it, as happened in the workshop. Thank you for your utterly clear exposition.

    • Whew – I’m pleased and relieved I captured the law to the creator’s approval. We’ve had many hours of lively discussion around the topic. It’s a beautiful law!

  2. A lesson a long time in coming! I seem to recall having engaged in some interesting “games” in this regard. Like, have you ever thought of refraining from suggesting a kayak excursion – even when you desperately crave one – just to see if it’s a matter of frequency difference, or perhaps something more ominous? I can’t say that sounds foreign! 😀

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