Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Chemistry can teach us about Relationships by Louis Evan Palmer

People crave analogies and like magic, they find them everywhere. Most adequate or even instructive; however, some analogies are so compelling that we base our life on them.Our tireless search for answers never stops, whether the questions are valid or not, because we have convinced ourselves that we are on a search for illumination. We turn here and there, this way and that. And now, let us turn to chemistry for guidance - turning to our understanding of the physical world as manifested in its chemistry.

The key underlying principle of these bonds, both personal and chemical - is that they are powerful over short distances but weak or non-existent over longer distances. In the personal realm, various technologies can be employed to reduce the perceived or effective distance. Communication technologies are one of the important ways of reducing the perceived distance between people.

Memory is another means of diminishing distance by increasing presence. This seems to show that the perception of presence can be a solitary experience. Or possible, that its true nature is solitary but because the perception is simultanaeous and similar, we take it as common and shared. Thus, in personal relationships, anything that increases distance decreases the strength of the relationship.

In chemistry, there are three main types of bonds with one type having two subtypes: ionic, covalent (non-polar, polar) and hydrogen bonds. To equate these to people relationships, we will look for aspects that analagous to the chemical bonds.

First, ionic: this would be a relationship that involves a person (or persons) with a low "something" bonding with a person (or persons) with a high "something". This "something" can be almost anything - money, charisma, knowledge, skill, energy, connections. In chemistry these are weak bonds. By analogy then, we would expect these type of relationships to be weak. For example, a rich man befriending a poor man; a smart woman befriending an unintelligent woman.

Next are covalent bonds which involve sharing something important - in chemistry, electrons; in relationships, something important to both partners in the bond. One type of covalent bond is non-polar while the other bond type is called polar.

In a non-polar bond, we have equal sharing. In personal relationships, this would manifest as two parties sharing something that is equivalent in value or importance (not necessarily the same). For example, two people putting in significant and equal shares of capital into a venture.

In a polar bond, we have unequal sharing. In personal relationships, this would manifest as two parties sharing something that to them is significant but is not equal in value. For example, the partner with experience and contacts and the silent partner with a large investment. This highlights the time aspect of investments in a relationship - some of the value of the bond only comes into play later but is needed from the start.

In chemistry, covalent bonds are the strongest. In relationships then, the strength of the relationship is highest where each party gives and receives something significant with the other party. This would be true whether the sharing is equal or unequal as long as its significant and needed.

The last chemical bond to consider is the hydrogen bond. Like the ionic bond, it is relatively weak. It contributes to the polarity of the bond which affects its ability to bond.
In personal relationships, this would manifest itself in the person who plays a supporting role. The person who provides necessary but peripheral bonds that enable larger bonds that could not have formed on their own. For example, the introduction or recommendation that establishes one person's bona fides with another.

If the overarching and specific analogies are valid then the strongest personal relationships involve giving and receiving something significant from another. Weaker but still important relationships consist of the bonds formed between "haves" and "have nots" and "supporting" relationships. Some of these types of relationships will occur on their own but others will require an effort and, in some cases, a conscious exchange of "something" to cement and strengthen the bonds. And, the more bonds the better for those relationships one values most.

A bond that is typically considered separately is the metallic bond. This bond is not a single bond but rather a lattice of bonds. It is collective bonding - commonly thought of chemically as a matrix of positive ions held together by an ocean of negative electrons. By analogy, in personal relationships, this would be the crowd bond - for example, cheering for a sports team, or a large crowd of political or social protesters or supporters, or a rioting mob. This collective bond can range from weak to very strong.

What Chemistry can teach us about Relationships, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Copyright 2011 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.

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