Marriage Troubles? Call An Economist

“Teach a parrot the terms “supply and demand” and you’ve got an economist.” -Thomas Carlyle

Paula Szuchman has written a book called “Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes” and there’s a corresponding blog, Spousonomics. Newsweek published an article by Szuchman about the book.

She has some interesting points about how you can use incentives within your relationship to improve it.

“One key area is incentives, the things that motivate people. Mortgage deductions spur home purchases; salaries entice people to work. My husband’s incentive to close cabinets—avoid nagging—wasn’t exactly “perverse,” but it was backfiring. Turns out, there are better incentives. One is trust, which economists have found can be surprisingly motivating. In one example, people were more likely to donate blood if they weren’t paid than if they were. Who knew?”

Treat your spouse like public policy? Push the correct buttons and they will behave a you want? It’s an interesting concept.

She concludes, however, with spot on advice.

“Sometimes that means going against the advice everyone gave me before I got married: never go to bed angry.

For what it’s worth, going to bed angry is a miracle cure. I stop escalating, get some sleep, and wake up with a clearer head. Nine times out of 10, the dispute gets resolved that morning. It’s called maximizing utility—or, in my house, living happily ever after.”

I don’t know who began suggesting that people shouldn’t go to bed mad but I bet that advice contributes significantly to the American divorce rate. Staying up late and screaming at each other is bad public (or private) policy.

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