In simplest terms, marriage is a partnership. Like a business, it requires the full effort and cooperation of both parties to ensure success. With that knowledge in mind, it's fitting that many of the same principles that ensure a business will thrive will also help to keep that wedded bliss alive. Here are four money messages that are as true for the economy as they are for your matrimony. (Strengthen your marriage by discussing these financial pitfalls. Check out Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues.)
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1. Incentives Work
While bribery may have a negative connotation, the truth is that offering something of value in exchange for something you want can work – even in marriage. Paula Szuchman, co-author of "Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage and Dirty Dishes," discusses this in her book, and gives incentives the green light. If a never-ending "honey do" list just doesn't seem to change things, maybe a favor done with the right heart can motivate a reluctant spouse. Likewise, if you recognize that you're not feeling as productive as you should in matters of marriage, it doesn't hurt to ask for a good deed to help spur you on. Just as you are likely to continue working with a company that offers its most loyal customers special perks, you can find a renewed sense of solidarity with a marriage partner who won't hesitate to do a good turn, as well.
2. Accept Your Specialty
Just like in any business or community, each married partner has a unique set of skills and abilities that he or she contributes to the whole. Embracing that you may be more effective at grocery shopping or that you are better at motivating the kids, for example, can help in determining who should handle the next trip to the store – and who should direct the children in an afternoon of housework. While it never hurts to venture outside of your comfort zone - giving your spouse a break from the norm to flex an unused muscle here and there - accepting your strengths isn't just easier, it can also be healthier. Partners who fill in the gaps for each other can truly thrive in any economic, or marital, situation. (Marriage can be like doubling an income, as long as you avoid doubling these expenses. See Marriage: For Richer Or Poorer?)
3. Life Isn't Always Fair
In keeping with the goal of using your specialties to run your business (and marriage), you may find that the concept of 50/50 isn't really true, at all. You may do more housework, or your spouse may work more hours. While this may not seem like it can add up, it can. Similar to the theory of comparative advantage, you are each bringing your specialized skills to the table and are more efficient as a team. (Who pays the bills? Who maintains the vehicle? If each gives 100% of their unique talents, you can avoid the "tit for tat" dilemma.)
4. There Will be Dry Spells
Lost jobs, pay freezes, and unexpected medical bills aren't just economic downturns, they are also marital downturns. While poor financial gains can be bad for a marriage in the short run, they are also a reflection of just how volatile life as a married person can be. (The old "for richer or for poorer" expression has a purpose, doesn't it?) The sooner you can accept that the downturn will happen in your marriage, and maybe more than once, the sooner you can learn to manage the things that are manageable and forgive the rest. Just like your stocks or your career, it's the health of the marriage over the long run that will really matter in the end. (It now costs nearly $300,000 to raise a child for 18 years. Are you sure you're up for it? Check out Kids Or Cash: The Modern Marriage Dilemma.)
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The Bottom Line
Money and love seem to have even more parallels than you may ever master in a lifetime. With true intent, a desire to learn and a commitment to doing the honorable thing, however, marriage and the economy can survive even the most unfortunate of setbacks.