This Valentine’s Day, skip the chocolate, lingerie and jewelry. Instead, practice talking less, doing the dishes and putting out. Romantic? Maybe not. The secret to a life of wedded bliss? Quite possibly.
A little background. I just co-wrote a book called “Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage & Dirty Dishes,” in which I take some well-established ideas from the dismal science and use them to show couples how they can improve their marriages. One of the first things people say when they hear about the book is something to the effect of, “Isn’t that kind of unromantic?” Well, yeah. But what’s romantic about dishes, laundry, diapers, bills, mortgages, in-laws, TiVo, company picnics, circular arguments, BlackBerries, hamsters, PTA meetings, and all the million other little things that go into a marriage and detract from the actual romance between two people who once loved each other so much they decided to keep each other company for the rest of their lives?
Herewith, five somewhat regressive, not very romantic, yet extremely effective lessons from economics for a happy marriage with long-term prospects:
1. Talk less.
2. Lose weight.
3. Do the dishes.
4. Put out
Thinking ahead, learning from past experience, putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes—these are all strategies straight from the game-theory playbook (game theory being the study of behavior in strategic situations). In fact, if you think like a game theorist, you’ll find that marriage is really just a two-person repeated game. In the game, each person is trying to achieve the best results possible, given the limitations that there’s another person involved.
May the best Chess Player win!