On the Entropy of Relationships

When you’ve become comfortable with someone, it’s easy to drift into a state where you just assume they’ll always be there, that things will always be the same. It’s the natural order of things to regress into a kind of default state, where this person has become a part of the background of your life.

You appreciate this person, maybe. Perhaps you interact positively with them, sometimes. But they have ceased to be an uncertainty. And since they have ceased to be uncertain in your perception, they are no longer a variable which it is necessary to manage.

This is all a very obtuse way of saying that when you get used to someone always being there, it’s easy to take them for granted.

This is a common problem in familial relationships as well as in romantic ones. At least, it’s a common problem in my relationships. Maybe you don’t have this problem at all, dear reader. Perhaps your sense of empathy is so well tuned that you never need to re-calibrate it. Maybe you always show ample love and appreciation and acts of kindness towards the people close to you. But I doubt there are many perfect people like that.

In any case, you probably already know you should give more attention towards the people you love and who love you. There’s simply a finite amount of time in the day, and there’s a finite amount of energy you can expend towards doing things for yourself or for other people.

It’s a matter of priorities I suppose. When a relationship is new, or newly reacquainted, like in a new romance or in returning home to family, then it’s easy to expend the effort required to perform acts of kindness for that person. During that honeymoon phase, the person is an uncertain factor. They are an unknown, and your brain will allot them some mental space. Then slowly, familiarity breeds contempt, as they say. The unknown fades back to reveal the sweet oblivion of familiarity, and the novelty fades into normalcy.

Normalcy is poison to human relationships. Normalcy is what happens when you do the same damn thing every day. Nothing ever changes, and suddenly you realize a year has gone by and you’ve done fuck-all with your life.

I suppose the ideal solution to this problem would be to consciously expend extra effort every single day towards making the people you care about happy. Take the time to say kind words to them. Do them small favors, or just try to make their life a tiny bit easier whenever you can.

That would be the ideal solution, but what happens when that extra effort also becomes a background figure? What happens when the person for whom you’ve expended this extra effort simply comes to see that effort as a given, as a beautiful nothing in the background? All that effort, expended perhaps on both sides of the relationship, merely delays the inevitable decline towards a mutual fading into the relational oblivion of normalcy.

Maybe this is all rather pessimistic. Maybe people are more complex than this. Maybe human relationships are too complex to boil down, too nuanced to divide up into neat little parts. That’s the way I have to look at things, though, so… Fuck it. Maybe I’m wrong, but this is the truth of my own little myopic worldview, and that’s true enough for me.


With love, dear reader,
Jack Wolfe

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