Monday, October 1, 2012

Trendy Love

I don’t know if someone you love sends you articles from the newspaper, but when my mom does I usually spend a few minutes deciding which side of the clipping she wanted me to read.

Was it the story about a crackdown on frat parties or a look at different types of cheese? Both topics would be interesting but she’ll only ask me about one the next time we speak.

I was less confused a few weeks ago, however, when I opened her letter and found a glossy page torn from London’s Sunday Times Magazine. The headline read LOVE GAMES—can game theory and the art of strategy favoured by economists, save your marriage? An American Author claims it is the secret to wedded bliss. Shane Watson Investigates.

My marriage did not need to be saved by game theory it was living proof that it can survive its application even when only one party fully understands it.  So with my tenth wedding anniversary a few weeks away receiving the article from my mom had the subtext, “hey, maybe you’re not a fluke,” in the supportive way no greeting card could capture.

The story was about the book, It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson. Watson’s investigation is a positive take on the book’s premise, one that can be partially explained by the book’s original title: Spousonomics.

It’s Game Theory that Watson seizes on saying it “comes into play when two or more people have choices to make, preferences regarding the outcome, and awareness of the other’s choices and preferences.”

She says the authors liken marriage to a business rather than just a romance, and suggest people adopt strategies that keep the best interest of the marriage in mind. Doing so ultimately serves one’s individual interests as well.

I have found that this strategy requires two difficult things: thinking ahead or predicting the outcome of my actions and words and prioritizing a potentially good outcome achievable in the future over an immediate emotional release, i.e. fight.

It’s my husband who has the temperament and training to more naturally apply this type of thinking when I’m staring at an overflowing garbage can and holding a handful of eggshells. I think salmonella; he thinks about how much tension he really wants while eating breakfast together. Solution: he takes out the garbage. You see why I’m a convert.

And I really am.  But other couples probably choose or stumble upon their own unique strategies. So it’s not this marriage trend I am most happy to be a part of but another.

And that is that a lot of folks are celebrating their wedding anniversaries these days. Specifically, those of us in Generation X.

Although her article was about divorce, Susan Gregory Thomas summed up the state of marriage for those born between 1965 and 1980 in her article “The Divorce Generation” in The Wall Street Journal last year.

Divorce rates, which peaked around 1980, are now at their lowest level since 1970. In fact, the often-cited statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce was true only in the 1970s—in other words, our parents' marriages.
Not ours. According to U.S. Census data released this May, 77% of couples who married since 1990 have reached their 10-year anniversaries. We're also marrying later in life, if at all. The average marrying age in 1950 was 23 for men and 20 for women; in 2009, it was 28 for men and 26 for women.”

Is it too early in the marriages of Generation X to tell what this means? Maybe, but the Census Bureau reports that marriages are most vulnerable to divorce in the early years.

So, Happy Anniversary Gen X-ers, whether you are a game theorist or a lover of games. Longevity in marriage may not equal happiness, but let’s hope it can. Because unlike flannel and Jordache, this is a trend we might not regret.


Tim Morrissey said...

Although I am the same age as your father, I've only been married - this time around - for 15 years. First one lasted 12 years. So, I'm in the 50% of baby boomers whose first marriage ended in divorce. The second time around, part of the success comes from finally being mindful of the idea that marriage is seldom a 50-50 proposition; sometimes it's 90-10, sometimes it's 10-90.

It took a while, but I finally learned - like your husband - to simply take out the kitchen trash when the receptacle is full.

Lunch Box Mom said...


I love your comments. This one made me laugh. So much depends on the kitchen trash, doesn't it?

I like your description of the 90-10 or 10-90 compromises. Very true.


Hieronymous Knickerbocker said...

After 43+ years I can say staying together becomes something of a habit. But getting there can mean doing the dishes if you didn't cook (or if she's tired, even if you did). And, to be sure, mind the garbage pail. You are friends and partners, after all.