I realised early in my marriage, which is not yet a year old by any calculation, that 90% of all verbal communication between me and my wife are either sweet nothings or to-do lists. This unanticipated fact of life threw me into a conundrum given my scant history of jabbering away love and affection. I tried it once towards the end of my undergraduate life, when I started telling my friends that I would miss them. The second or third time I mentioned it, my best friend tersely told me that he does not want me to bore him with that sentiment anymore.
Contrary to my friend, my wife left no room for doubt that she liked sweet nothings. I tried to get away without indulging in it, but could not escape the do you really love me look on her face. I learnt the common adjectives and phrases, but ran out of these in no time leaving me to come up with my own devices. That’s when I my refuge in my academic training.
Discussing love in the class
I remember only one serious occasion of discussing love in my classes, and this was with a professor who goes by the name MDC at the Delhi School of Economics. He argued that economists had a major argument several decades ago on measuring well-being. One group suggested that there should be a unit of measurement. In our case, this would translate into statements like X units of love, Y units of sweetness, etc. This approach (called the cardinal approach) lost to the alternative (ordinal approach) where assessment is done not only basis of some unit, but by comparison. In other words, economists don’t say there is X amount of goodness, utility or well-being; they say X is better than Y. When a serious economist was asked by a journalist if he loves his wife, the economist retorted, compared to what?
I am not sure if those economists who were debating on measuring well-being had any inkling on how it can affect love lives, but thank god, the ordinal approach won. Consider the implications. If one were to take the cardinal approach, all you can tell your wife is that you love her X units. You will have to repeat that again and again, making it boring and banal, which in my opinion, is the opposite of love. The ordinal approach lends itself to infinite use, and I have used it rather productively. I now routinely tell my wife stuff like: “Sweetness, I love you more than I love squirrels“, “I love you much more than I love the girl in that apartment“, “You are way smarter and way nicer to me than my android phone”, etc. The advantage of this method is that every new invention and every hot product in the market presents you with a renewed opportunity to express affection, and you can always stay up-to-date and hip.
The super-advantage of subsets
The second element of my academic training that came to my rescue was set theory. I use a basic tenet that if an element is the greatest in a set, it is also the greatest in all the sets that are subsets of the set. This is particularly useful in a competitive world where appreciation is expected to be in its superlatives (i.e. best or the greatest in a set). You may not believe that this is capable of rescuing you in your amorous predicament; just wait till you recognise the use cases.
It is not uncommon to say sweet nothings such as you are the best girl I could’ve married in the whole world. Considering that continents are subsets of the world, that statement should also hold true if it is expressed in terms of any continent. This expansion alone allows me seven different ways of expressing love compared to the singular alternative. For example, I could now say that she is the best girl I could’ve married in Australia. The use cases can be multiplied easily, and I have employed them with tremendous success: “you are my best wife ever in Brazil“, “you are the prettiest girl I have ever known in Minnesota”… I guess you get the point.
I am sure that if I dig into my academic training a little bit more, I will find other alternatives. As of now, these two have presented me with a world of alternatives. Most importantly, they keep me entertained. Luckily, she seems entertained as well, and considering that you have come to the very end of this article, I guess it has served the rather unanticipated consequence of entertaining you.