Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Marriage and Your Inner Economist

This post scares me. It could potentially put me into the doghouse for a long, long time. Still, I gotta say what I gotta say.

I heard about ten minutes of an interview with economist Tyler Cowen on the radio today. He has a new book entitled Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist. He contributes to an economics blog here.

One particular quote from the interview really struck me.
Long-term marriage is about commitment and it's also about expectations. Not expecting it will make you happy. It won't always. I don't think we should marry because we think to ourselves "this marriage will make me happy." I think it's very important to say "I'm going to marry because I love this person and I want to commit to this person." And by not thinking about happiness, we'll actually end up a lot happier than if we think "this is a choice that's going to make me happier."
This is an interesting idea. Some couples I know have divorced (or started the process) in the past couple years, which has made me a bit introspective about relationships. Why does my marriage work? What makes our relationship different from theirs?

When we focus on love, commitment, and partnership, happiness seems to flow. As we successfully work as a team, we get positive reinforcement that makes for a happier relationship and thus leads to less stress and more happiness. I love Mrs. Kid and I love our partnership. She makes me happy not because she has to, but just because she does. Does she make me happy 100% of the time? No, but I love her 100% of the time and am happy about the commitment I made.

If you want to be happy, make it happen. Don't blame others because they don't make you happy--it's not anyone else's job. As a matter of fact, when you make other things or people responsible for your happiness, the expectations you have are bound to make sustained happiness unobtainable. It's not your job's fault or your car's fault or your teacher's fault or your spouse's fault that you are not happy. It's your fault. Own your happiness.

Soundtrack: Wayne Shorter (eponymous), War (The World Is a Ghetto), Philip Glass (Powaqqatsi), WFMU and KCSM Radio

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