'Spousonomics' for couples

Time is money: If one can do better, Spousonomics says, let him or her do it alone.

“Spousonomics”, the book written by Jenny Anderson and Paula Szuchman, talks about how couples can economise their time and efforts. “Economics is the study of scarce resources. What is more scarce in your marriage than time, energy, love, libido?” ABC News quoted Anderson as saying.

Common wisdom suggests that happy couples share responsibilities like laundry, dishes and cleaning.

And according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, the most important things in a successful marriage are faithfulness, sex, and sharing household chores.

But the authors say that while dividing every chore may seem fair, economics says it is folly. “If you’re doing half and I’m doing half of each task, then the time we’re spending on everything is actually greater than if we specialise,” Szuchman said.

Take, for instance, a hypothetical couple, Jack and Jane. It takes Jack 30 minutes to do the laundry and 20 minutes to walk the dog. Jane can do the laundry in 45 minutes and walk the dog in 25.

If they each do the tasks half the time, it would take them a total of 420 minutes per week.

Even though Jack is better at both tasks, it’s in the couple’s interest to split responsibilities according to ability and take advantage of what economists call comparative advantage.

Jack should just do laundry because he’s comparatively better at it, and Jane should just walk the dog because she’s comparatively better at it. By specialising, they could save 36 minutes a week. “Everybody has to do something. This is a system for dividing it up in a way that’s more efficient,” Szuchman said.

It all boils down to simple supply and demand. In business, when the cost of something goes up, the demand goes down.

‘Go for cheaper sex’

“This can be true for sex as well. When you make it cheaper — and we don’t mean in monetary terms, we mean in terms of time and energy -- demand for it can rise,” Anderson said.  “The more expensive sex is, you are celibate, and the cheaper it is, you are a rabbit,” Szuchman stated. Couples can have “cheaper” sex, the economists say, by finding different times of the day. Make it a priority and don’t wait until you’re in bed ready for sleep. The bottom line is that if you have more sex, you’ll have more sex.

‘Go to bed angry’

And on disagreements and fights, the economists say the old advice to keep talking and never go to bed angry, does not work well. “That’s bad advice. It’s better to go to bed angry if you are,” Anderson said.

Economics says that sometimes, at least, the best thing is to simply shut up and stay angry.  “We hate to lose. Economists have quantified that we hate to lose twice as much as we like to win,” Anderson stated.

And even when frustrations boil over, Szuchman and Anderson say it’s vital to remember how great marriage can be and try to make things work.

“Marriage is a long term investment. The last thing you want to do, when you start panicking that life isn’t as sweet as it used to be, is run out the door looking for a replacement,” Szuchman added.

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