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Friday, April 4, 2014

SL Letter of the Day: Math Is Hard!

Posted by on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 4:47 PM

All good advice this week but your math is way off. An extra partner doesn't mean 33% more chances of drama, but 350% (if we value everything as equally probable of causing trouble, AND if you neglect the real complications).

Look at it: Two partners means two relations (at face value), namely me from your viewpoint and you from mine. There could be a little jealousy (in the mild form of 'he/she's better looking than me'), and there's always some friction (I/you want want more or different stuff), etc., but that's about it. Draw it as two dots representing the partners and an arrow going from each to the other.

However, with three partners it goes from two to six relations, not three (so 3x as much, or +200%, not +33.33...%)—namely the two relations between every pair within the triplet. Draw the three partners as three corners of a triangle, and the relations as the six arrows from the any to any other point. Plus for each of the three, how they feel when they're all together (assuming they're meeting regularly, socially, not just for sorting out their triangle issues). So that's an additional +150%.

Realistically speaking, however, there's a further three relations: Each one will have feelings about the relation between the other two, right? And this is where the "real" source of longer-term trouble lies: when one feels threatened that the other two get along "too well" and winds up feeling excluded. So draw a little ellipse around each two points, and an arrow from that ellipse to the remaining point. I don't wan't to add these to the earlier sum, because they're different types of relations (apples + oranges = ?); mostly, I'd say they're heavier-weighing if they're negative because it's all second-guessing about what goes on when you're not present. And, if positive, those feeling are unlikely to have a strong positive influence. So count one of those ellipse-arrows for two of the earlier, or three, maybe? A "magic" made-up number (2? 3? other?)—a sure sign you should stop counting.

Actually, it has been said that whenever there's two people in a room, there's six people present; the people they think they are, the people they think the others are, and the people they actually are. Adding a third person in that room is left as an exercise for the reader.

All The Best

P.S. I knew that applied maths PhD would one day prove its worth.

Thanks for sharing, ATB! Another letter from a mathletic reader... after the jump...

Hey, Dan! Reader since '02. Enjoy the column. Married since '96 and now find myself saving columns for my kids to read as they enter their teens. Thank you! But regarding this in your latest column...

The addition of a third person may mean a 33 percent greater chance of someone feeling awkward after the three-way is over, and that isn’t awesome. But there is a 100 percent chance of having a three-way, TPV, and that is awesome.

My wife and I have often talked about how much more complicated a household gets if add a kid, grandma, or any other person with freewill into the mix. We gained some insight that I thought I would share, as it gives us some context. Our realization came from reaching back to grade nine math and "factorials." The number of individual relationships in a group is the number of people, factorial, or "N."

One person? 1!=1 so there is just one relationship. Mine, with me.

Two people? 2!=2*1=2. Two relationships. My relationship with you, your relationship with me. To buy IMO this of course you have to believe that my relationship with you is a distinct thing from yours with me. I think that's true.

Add a third? 3!=3*2*1=6. That's right. Six distinct relationships:

A with B
A with C
B with A
B with C
C with A
C with B

So is adding a third more complex? You bet. Triple, not 33% more.

However triple complexity doesn't mean certainty of a problem, and your 100% stat is right on the money!



Comments (22) RSS

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Some people (especially people REALLY good at math) have too much time on their hands.
Posted by BG on April 4, 2014 at 5:08 PM · Report this
And now my head hurts. So many more people, so much more stuff.

Damn those math people!
Posted by phuni44 on April 4, 2014 at 6:06 PM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 4
Fortunately it only works out this way (I hope) if two hysterical drama queens (of whatever sex) get mixed up with a third hysterical drama queen (of whatever sex). In real life, I would think you're more likely to end up with:
-- one partner (the one whose idea it was) being happier than before;
-- one partner (the one they talked into it) with conflicting feelings that may eventually resolve in one direction or another (i.e. they'll decide they like it or they'll decide they don't), and
-- the third, who is a wild card. (Did they get into this relationship because they have a crush on Partner A and are putting up with Partner B as the price of admission? Or because they like 3somes? Or, or, or.)
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on April 4, 2014 at 6:17 PM · Report this
Arsfrisco 5
Hold on. There's a HUGE assumption behind these maths:

We're only counting relationships "inside" the bubble and ignoring everything outside: friends, family, work. If you assign any value at all to these other relationships, then those equations fall apart.

It's not about how *many* populate your bed, but how *respectfully* and *honestly* you deal with all who populate your life.

Posted by Arsfrisco on April 4, 2014 at 7:09 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 6
What about masturbation? That adds an additional factor for each of the three people.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on April 4, 2014 at 7:21 PM · Report this
rob! 7
It must be those big eyes that give you such insight, Dr. Forka. XD
Posted by rob! on April 4, 2014 at 8:33 PM · Report this
As much as the math makes my head-spin I think the LW are bringing up a good point about adding another person to a relationship. Mainly that it's complicated and not some magic cure-all for relationship issues.

I think Dan tends to overlook this.
Posted by msanonymous on April 4, 2014 at 9:21 PM · Report this
Can't believe no one wrote in about the more basic math error. When you go from 2 to 3, that's not an increase of 33%, it's an increase of 50%.
Posted by Margaret L. on April 4, 2014 at 10:02 PM · Report this
@3: that was what I was going to say.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on April 4, 2014 at 11:05 PM · Report this
@3: Yes, it is twice the (N-1)th triangular number (if you count A's relationship to B separately from counting B's relationship with A) which is N * (N-1) or "2 x N-1 Choose 2" for those familiar with combinatorial calculations.

1: 0 = 1x0
2: 2 = 2x1
3: 6 = 3x2
4: 12 = 4x3
5: 20 = 5x4
6: 30 = 6x5

All of which is why Dan goes to so many poly weddings but no poly 5th anniversaries.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on April 5, 2014 at 12:16 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 14
You know what they say about a man with big eyes...
Posted by Urgutha Forka on April 5, 2014 at 10:28 AM · Report this
@3 & @12 -- Thank you.

If I ever learn calculus, can we three get into some kind of hyper-polynomial addition/subtraction kind of relationship?
Posted by six shooter on April 5, 2014 at 10:32 AM · Report this
I agree #10. I should've said that sometimes opening a relationship can save it and adding another person can be a boon instead of a drama-bomb.
Posted by msanonymous on April 5, 2014 at 3:24 PM · Report this
@15: Probability, logic, and statistics are far more useful in daily life (and most every profession) than Calculus.

I coach competitive math and I'm now imaging a whole range of questions - totally inappropriate for school-age children - involving X partners, Y orifices, and Z appendages and how many combinations are possible.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on April 5, 2014 at 9:27 PM · Report this
sissoucat 18
@14 No, what is it they say ?
Posted by sissoucat on April 6, 2014 at 5:22 AM · Report this
rob! 19
@14, 18: Small stomachs?
Posted by rob! on April 6, 2014 at 2:13 PM · Report this
One relevant statistic seems to be the chance of having a good time sexually with a new person. If her vetting approach leaves her satisfied with most of her lovers, as it has with this guy, she can expect the same success if she vets the new woman. Or establishes mutual attraction and sanity or what have you. Dan did gloss over the intimacy with another relationship. It would be wise in this case to take an interest in the couple's stability to estimate the chance of being drawn into their relationship problems.
Posted by RFFF2 on April 6, 2014 at 4:07 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 21

Big glasses. Duh.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on April 6, 2014 at 11:31 PM · Report this
sissoucat 22
@21 Got it this time.
Posted by sissoucat on April 7, 2014 at 2:01 AM · Report this
Eudaemonic 23
Wow. Am I the only person who didn't think the math was at all confusing?

It's just saying that adding a third person means both partners have some kind of individual relationship to that third person, and to the way their partner relates to that person, and that person will have feelings about the first partner, the second partner, and about the way those other two interact.
Posted by Eudaemonic on April 7, 2014 at 6:19 AM · Report this
I stopped reading when my head started hurting.
Posted by portland scribe on April 7, 2014 at 9:52 AM · Report this
LW1 - I disagree with the 150%. Feelings about the relationship as a whole are not independent from feelings about the individuals. I would find it easier to argue the opposite.

LW2 - I believe you were confusing n!=n*(n-1)...*1 and n+(n-1) .. +1=n(n+1)/2. The latter can be used here.

I also dislike decorative statistics, a stats editor would be cool.
Posted by RFFF2 on April 7, 2014 at 3:13 PM · Report this

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