Yesterday Kate shared this article with me on "spousonomics" - advice on having a successful marriage derived from economic analysis. It gives three pieces of advice:
1. Couples who share chores do better than those that don't (we'll just assume this is at least partly causal for the time being), but what a lot of people don't understand is that dividing chores 50/50 is not a good idea. It makes more sense to specialize based on your comparative advantages. I take out the trash almost exclusively. I cook dinner and make our lunches probably 75% of the time. She does dishes about the same (we have a "when one person cooks the other does the dishes" rule). However, Kate does most of the laundry. We split cleaning but specialize there too - she's never happy with how I clean the tile floors, so she usually does that and I usually vacuum.
2. The article suggests being realistic about supply and demand when it comes to sex. Everybody says they want more sex in their relationship, but there always seems to be a shortage. Why? Price floors of course. People have expectations of high-quality, super-romanticized sex which costs more in terms of time and effort. Demand for that high-cost sex is lower. The article's advice is to let market forces work and have "cheaper sex" more often rather than abiding by a price floor.
3. It also talks about loss aversion in arguments - sometimes it's better to go to bed angry. People will argue long past optimality because we all have a loss aversion - we feel the cost of a loss much more than we feel the benefit of a gain of comparable magnitude. Kate and I have disagreements but we don't really have late-night sessions hashing it out and talking it out, so I suppose we sort of abide by this. Certainly any guy that ever hopes to have any success in a relationship knows you choose your battles with women, and that has a lot to do with this principle. Another rule that Kate and I have that seems similar is that arguments that happen in the car stay in the car. We realized that a lot of conflict happens in the car over how we drive, directions we take, etc.. Sometimes it would spill over after we got out of the car. So we decided car things don't leave the car. It's worked out great, and I've noticed we even let things go in the car more too.