Spousonomics Part IV: Dodging the marital game of chicken
Jaidev calls me a fighter cock. I call him a stubborn mule.
But that’s only when we’re having the worst of our disagreements.
It’s a fact: Couples fight. They spar about everything from who’s picking up the dog from daycare to who is picking up his poop, who’s buying groceries for dinner to whose turn it is to cook dinner.
How often have you and your significant other reached a standoff and waited for the other to back down first? Spousonomics authors Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson write that when it comes to your marriage, “you’re not above engaging in some brinkmanship, or scheming to win an ongoing battle, or strategizing to get what you want — in fact, you do it more than you probably admit.” Spousonomics Part II: Getting your significant other to do what you want
Szuchman and Anderson suggest we married folk could use a lesson in game theory.
The authors explain that in game theory with two players, each player is trying to do the best they can for themselves, but is limited by the fact that they are not alone. There are “cooperative” strategies in which the two parties work to come up with a solution that is best for both of them, and there are “noncooperative” strategies in which each party is out for number one.
Guess which strategy makes for a happier marriage.
Cooperation may be the obvious answer, but the solution is often difficult in practice. Having to compromise, negotiating different points of view and different goals, and not always getting your way can take some adjustment.
In Spousonomics Part I, I shared the story us each giving up a piece of sentimental furniture to create a happier home.
Another major marital spat was sparked by our search for a new Manhattan apartment. Jaidev accused me of liking “rickety places,” and I retorted that he liked “soulless white boxes.” I had loved my cozy brownstone studio on West 106th Street, and he had loved his sleek bachelor pad loft in TriBeCa.
To put it simply: I was an uptown girl and he was a downtown boy. So how could we meet in the middle without moving to Midtown?
After cohabitating in our TriBeCa rental — the former IRS headquarters, if that gives you an idea of the place — I knew I couldn’t face another modern apartment building where we lived in a virtual ant farm and didn’t know our neighbors.
Jaidev wanted space. He hated “cramped brownstones,” and couldn’t handle peeling paint and cracks in the floorboards. He was used to having all the modern amenities, including a washer/dryer in the building, and ruled out the possibility of doing laundry in a Laundromat.
We locked horns. We dug our heels into the ground. Game theorists would call this “strategic polarization,” where both of us had become completely inflexible, firmly rooted at opposite ends of the New York City apartment spectrum. How could we have a happy home, I wondered, if we had opposing ideas of what that looked like? Spousonomics Part III: Discovering trade-offs that work for your marriage
When we found our place in Chelsea, we both were relieved. The 2-bedroom brownstone apartment was well within our price range, and the monthly rent included all utilities. It had a dishwasher and washer/dryer downstairs (also included in the rent). It was near a major subway line, and had enough character to make me feel at home. And it was a dog-friendly building so that Sachi, our Japanese Chin, would feel right at home, too.
Of course, the situation wasn’t perfect, and we both made some concessions: Jaidev wanted a doorman, and I wanted more closet space; Jaidev wanted an apartment that was in better shape, and I wanted to live somewhere without a noisy business downstairs; Jaidev wanted a modern bathroom, and I wanted a nicer kitchen.
I realized the scale was tipped in my favor, but I figured I’d earned it after two years of enduring the IRS building.
So while you can’t always get (exactly) what you want, Mick Jagger was right when he said, “if you try sometime you find you get what you need.”Get the best mortgage rates in your area