Like many things misunderstood, the term ‘entropy’ often gets a bad rap. Referred to as a measure of disorder, ‘entropy’ often gets shoved into the corner with other terms such as: argument, irreconcilable differences, or unmet expectations. All negative terms often used to define a failed marriage.
Just what does ‘entropy’, a word commonly used in the scientific arena, have to do with marriage?
A lot, actually.
While pouring over articles dissecting stale marriages, I found the word entropy linked to marriage over and over again.
One explanation said that if marriages are left un-nurtured, they will become an entropic couple.
Another explanation stated that couples who failed to successfully mediate arguments would find their relationships disintegrating into entropic chaos.
“Resisting Marital Entropy” was the title of one such article.
While I do not disagree that marriages left unattended have a greater chance of failure, or that failure to mediate arguments can lead to a state of chaos, I cannot, in good faith, throw the term ‘entropy’ under the bus.
All living organisms depend on maintaining a complex set of interactions. Internal processes are at work in order to allow these reactions to proceed. This concept is often referred to as homeostasis.
And my new favorite word ‘entropy’ is nothing more than those interactions needed to maintain that balance.
Entropy is the measurement of the different ways a system can be arranged. In order for an ice cube to melt, the molecules need to enter into a state of chaos so they can rearrange from solid to liquid. Likewise, further energy and chaos needs to occur so water can change to gas.
If our marriages are supposed to stand the test of this earthly life and one day be made new and everlasting, we have to accept challenges. That means, we cannot be afraid of arguments or stagnicity. Or entropy.
What we need to understand is, like all homeostatic environments, we just need a little kick of energy to get our system back up to the base line.
Scientifically, this is referred to as a negative feedback mechanism.
Think about it like this:
• You are cold
• Your body temperature has fallen bellow 98.6 degrees f.
• Your brain sends a message to shiver.
Shivering is nothing more than entropy—your body creating energy to bring it back to baseline. Is shivering always comfortable? No. Sometimes its really annoying.
And what about sweating? Sweating is a biological function designed to cool your body down. Is sweating convenient? Ever? No, it can be down right embarrassing.
But it is needful.
It cools your body down when your temperature has gone too high. Entropy is at work again, creating needful energy to bring you back to base.
The key to entropy is to understand why it is happening.
If you are arguing in your marriage, perhaps there is a break down in communication.You are not arguing because your marriage is bad, or doomed, or dead. You are arguing because you care about each other and you want to get back to base.
Perhaps you might think about creating your own ‘negative feedback mechanism’, rituals that help bring your marriage back to base:
• A weekly date night
• Walk in the park on a lunch date
• Sitting down with individual journals to write down things you’d like to communicate with each other, and then share.
Whatever you choose, this can become your own mechanism that kicks in each time you need a little entropy.
If you feel like some of your issues need a higher degree of intervention, seek out couples or even individual counseling. No one is given a BioMechanics of Marriage 101 manual at the altar. Relying on the advice of someone who is trained to recognize entropy can help you get your relationship homeostatic again.
When I was a young and naive newlywed, I would dread each argument. I felt it was a sign that I had made a bad decision. Over time, I have come to realize that an argument or a case of the doldrums is all part of the plan.
It is an opportunity to think about my marriage in a new light, as a living organism with a complex system that must be brought back to base. And by recognizing entropy can take my marriage from one state to another. It’s true, that oft quoted phrase:
There is beauty all around, when there’s love at homeostasis!
Jessica Clark is a wife, mom, writer, runner, knitter, and proud Canadian. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Anthropology, and has been a student of people and cultures ever since. Right now she is busy studying the behavior and cultures of the people of Texas.