Whether you're a Dr. Phil-loving, self-help junkie or more of a Wall Street Journal type, we've got relationship advice you'll both appreciate. The best part: You already learned it all -- in freshman Economics 101 class. WTF are we talking about? It's actually pretty straightforward, say Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson, authors of Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes (aka the most rational relationship book we've ever read). See, economics is all about the allocation of resources, and if you think about it, so are relationships. How you two decide to spend your resources -- money, time, energy, libidos, closet space -- determines whether your relationship will be a boom, or a bust. Pretty logical, huh? So read on to find out more about what Szuchman and Anderson have dubbed "spousonomics," or how basic economic principles can help you solve your most common and annoying issues.
The Principle: Supply and Demand
Demand for a product or service tends to go up when the costs go down.
Applied to: Out of Sync Sex Life
When sex is expensive (translation: it requires mucho effort, because you're exhausted, you have to convince your partner, you think it has to be mind-blowing every time...), we want less of it and demand goes down (along with your libido). If you want to go at it again like you did when you first started dating, make sex more "affordable." So if one of you is always too tired, save the sexathon for the weekend and agree to a few quickies during the week. If your horndog partner is sick of asking and getting shot down, simply tell her when you're actually in the mood instead. Holding out for when you both have the energy to hit a home run or set the perfect mood (and therefore, batting zero)? Agree to have bad sex. That's right. Shooting for the moon every time requires a lot of energy and time, and we're gonna guess, you don't have a huge supply of either. So settle for plain old, missionary sex sometimes. Because a) Sex is rarely ever actually bad b) The higher the expectations, the more work (i.e., the higher the cost) and c) There's this other economic principle called "rational addiction," which says that the more you do something, the better you get at it, and the more you want it. In other words, just do it!
The Principle: Transparency
A constant exchange of information is required for the economy to run effectively, because the more information we have, the more likely we are to make smart decisions.
Applied to: Passive aggressive behavior
You expect your partner to know what you want or need without telling him. Because if he really loved you, he would know, right? Um, only if you managed to score a mind-reading man! Don't feel like talking about what's bugging you but still expect your girlfriend to know you need space (and not to take it personally)? You'd better hope she has ESP, or you're just asking for more stress. Listen, the point is, guessing is costly -- it can be time-consuming, stressful and cause conflict (like when you guess wrong). In fact, most fights could be avoided if you were just upfront with each other about your expectations and needs. Oh, but telling him what you want for your anniversary isn't "romantic," you say? Well, then keep dropping "hints" but insisting you don't want "anything but his love," and see how that goes. Or, you could send him the link to the bracelet you’ve been eyeing, and, well, you know how that will go! Don’t make your partner work to make you happy, and he'll be a lot more inclined to do it. (See? Supply and demand at work!) Just keep in mind: There is such thing as TMI and it's called "Information Overload" in economics. If you go from telling her you hate when she leaves the gas tank on empty to rattling off everything she’s ever done wrong, it’s likely next time you get behind the wheels, you'll run out of gas before you even make it to the station. One thing at a time, folks.
The Principle: Loss AversionThe tendency for people to prefer avoiding loss over acquiring equivalent gains, which often leads to risky behavior and sunk costs.
Applied to: Escalating Arguments
When a small squabble over whose turn it is to do the dishes turns into WWIII and continues long after you've forgotten what you were even arguing about in the first place, it's time for a timeout. And no, we don't care how many experts (including Grams whose been married for over 50 years) have said, "Never go to bed angry." It's a load of crap! Sleeping on it (read: an 8-hour time out), is typically far more beneficial to your relationship than trying to resolve an escalating fight. See, once an argument has taken on a life of its own, you're no longer working toward a resolution, you're in it to win it -- at all costs (including your relationship). We (meaning all humans) hate to lose so much that even if we're only squabbling over something as trivial as who gets to hold the remote, once we get going, we'll do anything not to lose the argument, even resorting to low-blows, name-calling and dragging up old issues. You've invested so much in the fight at this point, you both refuse to cut your losses, just like the gambler who continues to bet long after he's lost his rent rather than walk away a loser (hence, all those pawn shops next to casinos). But no matter who gets the final word, you both ultimately lose -- sleep, the season finale of The Good Wife, or respect for your partner (door-slamming, really?). Just recognizing this natural propensity to want to win at all costs can help you stop yourselves next time a difference of opinion begins to spiral out of control. Then, do yourselves a favor and sleep on it, or walk away for an hour. A break allows your emotions to subside and you more rational self to return, so you can avoid bringing down the whole house, so to speak. It works for traders, and it can work for you too. Sure, you might still be pissed the next morning, but you’ll be more capable of resolving the issue without name-calling or door-slamming.