1. Splitting the housework 50/50. This is often considered the “fairest” way to split the chores, whether it’s washing the dishes or walking the dog. But aiming for 50/50 means you’re constantly keeping score, making sure that neither of you is getting the short end of the stick, and bickering every time you think you are. Spend too much time fixating on fairness today, and you risk not making it to the long run when things often balance out.It’s better to use a system similar to what economists call “comparative advantage,” where each of you is responsible for what you’re best at, relative to other tasks. You might handle all the bills, grocery shopping, and laundry, while your spouse sweeps and mops and fixes things when they break. Some weeks, you’ll end up doing more, other times it might be 75/25 in his favor—but you don’t keep track because if your husband handled the grocery shopping, you might end up with a pantry full of Tostitos.
2. Waiting until you’re in the mood to have sex. Unless you’re both extremely hot and share an obsessive addiction to monogamous sex, odds are you’re not in the mood as often as you were when you first met. So if you wait ’til you’re turned on, months might go by before it occurs to you that maybe sex would be a fun thing to do.
The economist George Loewenstein developed a theory called the hot-cold empathy gap, which says we have two selves: a cold, clear-headed rational self that might say, “I will have sex with my husband when I come home tonight because I love him and I will enjoy it and heck, it’s good for my marriage” and a hot, impulsive, emotion-driven, irrational self that says, when the time actually comes, “I’ve had such a bad day, I feel fat and bloated, my husband is annoying tonight…No way am I having sex. I’m going to watch the Real Housewives and go to bed.”
When the time actually comes, we may not be in the mood, but we need to listen to our “cool” selves, the voice before we had a bad day. You’re not in the mood NOW, but you were THEN, when you were thinking about it, and you’ll enjoy it—so just do it. You might not be in the mood, but you won’t regret it, either.
3. Assuming a rough patch is the end of the world. Relationships go in cycles. There are ups (booms) and downs (busts), just like in the economy. They’re not only inevitable, but they’re actually healthy. They force you to see where you’ve let things slide, taken each other for granted, or just lost sight of what’s important. Embrace the rough patches and borrow a concept from economics called “creative destruction,” or innovating in the face of crisis, and think up a novel solution to an issue that keeps dividing you.