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The 4 Keys to a Happy Marriage Through Mathematical Formulas

Accept what you cannot control.

David Sumpter is a professor of applied mathematics at Uppsala University in Sweden, but his work isn't as arcane as it may seem. "What I was most interested in was ways of reasoning. That's why I became an applied mathematician in the first place—you can also apply them in your everyday life," he recently told the Telegraph. That desire led him to write several books that suggest math can be used to solve some of our most ordinary problems including in relationships. So you might consider the following the four keys to a happy marriage, according to mathematical formulas.

Accept What You Can and Can't Control


"Chaos theory tells us that we can't control everything," says Sumpter. "But chaos theory doesn't mean we should just let go completely. Identify the things that are important to you—time with friends and family, or your own performance at work—and work hard on these. Let everything else go."

Realize You Can Only Change Yourself


"It isn't important who started an argument; what is important is how you speak to each other. Identify the things others say that have the biggest chance of triggering you and focus on reducing the probability you lose your temper. Think of your own responses and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the only person you can change is yourself."

Use Tipping Points


"Group dynamics often involve moving from one stable state (like lying on the couch) to another (an established fitness regimen)," says Sumpter. "So, if you want your friends to join you in getting into shape, be prepared to make the effort required to 'tip' the seesaw."

Not Every Study Applies to You

Portrait of serious weary businesswoman typing in laptop while sitting at table in apartment

"The latest study might say that doing the plank is better for our health than taking a walk. But if a long daily walk motivates you, then stick to that," says Sumpter. "Statistical studies of our health and happiness are powerful, but they apply to society as a whole, rather than specifically you as an individual."

The Two Worthwhile Arguments

Woman pushing man aside during argument on the couch

Sumpter says that even difficult arguments between spouses can be resolved through math. "There are only two worthwhile arguments: Class I arguments, on their way to a stable resolution; and class IV arguments, where important new ideas are discussed but might never be resolved," he says.  

What Chaos Theory Can Really Teach Us


"The real lesson from chaos theory then is not that the future is beyond our control. The theory instead tells us that if something is important to us, we need to plan for it carefully," Sumpter told the Guardian last month. "Family dinners are important to both me and my wife. We want to sit down as a family and talk about what has happened during the day. And good conversation is best enjoyed with a carefully planned meal. My wife was right. We need to think about details."

Perfection Is Impossible


"A day at work will only turn out completely as planned if we can account for all the calls we might receive, all the people who might or might not arrive late for meetings, for the mood of everyone in the office and the mood of their partners and their partners' parents," said Sumpter. "Creating perfection every day of the week is impossible, both at work and at home. We can't account for everything when we look into the future."

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