Momentum and Inertia: a Lesson in Relationship Physics

Twitter: @1PeopleMW

Why do rational intellectual mature adults do things we regret shortly after? How do arguments between loving couples become so intense that horrible things are said that can never be taken back; relationships ended? How does horseplay turn tragic? When you turn on the news and hear a report of a murder-suicide involving a family of four, have you ever thought to yourself- “How in God’s name did things get to that point and what will it take to keep it from happening to me?” Seriously! Because we all know that the husband didn’t just wake up one morning from a near-perfect life and say, “I think I’ll murder my wife and children, then kill myself!”

Our lives and thus incidents which quantify our life moments are linear; we are born, we age and we die. There is a progression that bridges one moment in time to the next- like the connecting of dots. You cannot be an adult male in his mid 30’s working construction in the middle of Kansas one minute then an adolescent girl on a playground in California the next. These two “dots” could never connect because they are not “linear” to one another. Each dot is the logical progression of the previous dot, which means certain things have to happen to set the stage for the next thing.

Before I can say what it is I want to communicate I need to set up my argument. So please bear with me.

Without the previous “dot” a bridge cannot be formed to the next. While it is true that from one dot you could theoretically choose to “connect” to any one in a seemingly innumerable sphere of dots, you can only connect to one. However the available dots will be variations of each other, not completely random in nature from one another. So linear in this instance doesn’t necessarily mean a straight line collectively (i.e. all dot connections form a straight line), but it does mean a straight line from one dot to the next (as we know, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line).

Whenever a girlfriend would ask me, “What would you do if you were alone in a room with a beautiful naked woman; would you reward her or refuse her?” And since this is not a simple yes or no question (so guys be smart; never just answer yes or no to this question) I’d ALWAYS reply, “I would have had several chances to avoid this situation before it got to this point, so I must have already made several bad decisions which led up to this moment! I am not a eunuch; I don’t claim to be strong enough to refuse a beautiful nude woman. But I can avoid this scenario all together by never making it to the room. Just as I may secretly consider robbing a bank with the gun I bought that morning, but I can’t rob that particular bank if I’m on the other side of town and never buy the gun!”

The reality is we don’t just open our eyes and find ourselves in this or any other situation. We would have had to connect the dots in order to get there! Think of all the events, the dot connections if you will, that had to take place prior to her and myself ending up in that room and then with her ending up in her birthday suit. Consider all the warning signs to which I could have taken heed. As each dot unfolds, and the next set of dots are revealed, we must be intuitive enough to assess what is taking place and be sober in the path we select, the next dot we jump to. When we are not in full control of our decision-making process there is a tendency of being “carried” to the next dot by momentum instead of rational choice.

Okay, it’s time to bring it home.

Discussions become heated exchanges because of momentum. Lives end in suicide because of momentum. Full blown affairs destroy families because of momentum. Momentum is essentially a knee-jerk reaction to what life presents to us, as if we are just going with the flow with zero self-control.

So does this mean we are not accountable for our actions when we allow ourselves to get carried away by momentum? Absolutely not, we are still very much accountable! The reason why something happens doesn’t always excuse it. It merely explains it.

Just as there is a straight line between two points, there is a point at which a civil discussion crosses the line and becomes a vicious dispute. I believe more times than not this line is identifiable. Sometimes you can even sense the transformation taking place. You can feel the momentum pushing you in that direction, then beyond it. You see your mate succumbing to the same impulsion. As if you were both on a runaway train heading towards a brick wall! You start getting loud so your mate gets louder. You say something hurtful so your mate returns the favor (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction).

While it is true that the very act of traveling from one point to another creates momentum, the goal is to achieve inertia at each dot before traveling to the next. In other words once you arrive at the next dot, stop! Take a deep breath, assess and choose wisely your next dot (or action in this case). Don’t be carried to the next dot, choose it! Please know that the more momentum you allow to build up the more difficult it is to achieve inertia (Force equals Mass times Acceleration).

The same goes for arguments; the sooner you get control over what you’re saying and how you’re saying it the sooner you can help to bring the hostility to a halt. Likewise with an affair; the sooner you get control of your behavior the sooner you can end the affair, correct yourself and begin to repair your primary relationship. Ditto for an addiction, bad habit, or bad behavior.

Momentum limits our options because we are being propelled into a specific direction, which makes it more difficult to change direction. Due to this limited change in direction we tend to make discussions we will later regret (every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it). Inertia, or coming to a complete stop, allows us to see more clearly all of the possibilities available to us. It gives us time to choose wisely our next course of action or take a time out to seek the help we so desperately need.

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