Friday, July 1, 2011

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Szuchman & Jenny Anderson — 352 pgs

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty DishesIn this new and revolutionary self-help book, authors Szuchman and Anderson tackle the problems of marriage in a way that has never been considered before. What if you could organize your marriage and make it better by applying the principles of economics to one of the most personal relationships in your life? Sound kind of boring? Well, surprisingly, it’s not boring at all. Keeping everything at a layman’s level, the authors explain how game theory can bust through any argument you may be having and how division of labor can help you get out of doing the most awful and time-consuming chores. They explain how to use incentives to get what you want and what happens when one spouse has more information about a subject under discussion than the other. They teach us about moral hazard and why it can be a killer to any marriage, and why intertemporal choice is so important to healthy and happy marriages. In all of these sections, they interview real couples and get down to the nitty-gritty with each of them to discuss what’s gone wrong and how to fix it. Did I mention that this book is also very funny? Because it is, and not just funny, it will make you think about marriage in a way you’ve never thought about it before. Whether you are newly married or have been married for several years, Spousonomics is a refreshing and interesting way to look at life with your partner, and to maybe help get him to do the dishes once in awhile.

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to economics, but it’s been awhile since I’ve studied it, and for all intents and purposes, most of the information I once had is very rusty or has flown the coop altogether. That’s one of the reasons I had mixed feelings about reading and reviewing this book. Would it be dry and dusty, the way I sometimes remember studying economics being? Or would it go over my head now that I’ve forgotten all that I had learned? There was no need for me to worry though, because this book hit it out of the park on all levels. It was smart enough to get its point across, even to people who may know nothing about economics, and it was funny and personable enough to catch my interest from the very beginning.

Each chapter begins with a different economic principle and breaks it down in a digestible and clear way that anyone can understand. Often a colorful example of how this principle works is shared as well. Then we get to the good stuff: the couple interviews. Each section shares the story of three different couples and how they met. Many of these couples are offbeat and strange, making this a very interesting reading experience. Each couple has a big problem relating to the economic principle being discussed and each of them finally gets a solution after having laid it all out on the line. I liked this approach a lot, because lets face it, I’m a bit of a voyeur when it comes to other people’s relationships and I like to see how different people act within the confines of their marriages. It was interesting to get to see how the assorted couples had been dealing with their problems and how they could become better communicators and partners based on some simple principles of economics that are clear and easy to understand.

I liked this book a lot, and aside from the pleasure I got from getting a birds-eye view into several marriages and the laugh out loud moments of humor that were scattered throughout, I found that a lot of these principles were relevant to me and could help me in some ways. And it’s not that I have an awful marriage. Just like anyone’s relationship, there are things that could be more smooth and areas where I would like either my spouse or I to improve. And that’s the thing about this book. There is no blame or shame attached to these solutions. These are not people in the serious throes of relationship hell. In fact, they’re people just like you or me. People trying to maximize the time spent together versus the time spent on chores. People who have different priorities about money or who want to make more time for sex. In a clear and universal way, this book seeks to make all these things easier for you, and to enlighten you about a few things you may have never thought about. It’s a heady combination of exposés that delve deeply into the relationships between several couples, and an instruction manual that will let even the most timid and shy partner take control in their marriage.

One of the things I liked best was the book’s sly conversational feel and its no-nonsense approach to some of the problems that any couple could face. Reading this book felt like sitting with a couple of very smart and funny women who had a competitive edge in the field of marriage and who didn’t mind sharing it with me. It was a refreshingly honest approach, and there was no talk of man-caves or any of that other silliness. Just a principle, an example and a solution underscored with variations or helpful tips. The book took instructive relationship advice to a new level that any smart woman would be eager to read and apply. It was a lot of fun to read for a lot of reasons, and without man-bashing, (or woman-bashing for that matter) it taught some very interesting techniques that seem to be useful and easy to apply.

I had a great time with this book, and perhaps it was the high level of humor that made me feel like this wasn’t your average self-help book. It had wit and sparkle while still being helpful and unique. Who knew that economic principles and relationships could intersect in this way, and who knew that I would find it so entertaining? If you’re looking for a great book that deals with relationships in a rational, and more importantly, sane way, this book is probably your best bet. I think a lot of readers will be surprised at how much good information is passed along and how fun it can be to peek into the lives of men and women who are just like us, but subtly different. I can heartily recommend this book for a lot of reasons, but the main reason is that it’s just plain fun. Recommended.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

18 comments:

Amy said...

This actually sounds like a really interesting book, I'm rather surprised :) Glad you took the chance and read and reviewed it. I'll definitely keep this in mind for, you know, if I ever end up married or in a relationship ;) lol

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sounds like an interesting concept. If it can lead to a more equitable distribution of chores, I might have to look into it! :--)

TheBookGirl said...

Wonderful review Heather!

I tend to avoid self-help books like the plague -- not that I don't think I need help in alot of areas, lol. It's just that I find most either pathetic, preachy, painfully simplistic, annoying or any combination thereof.
This one clearly sounds like the exception to my rule though. I love the combination of humor, quirky subjects and easily understood advice.
I am defintely going to look for this one. Now if I can be a voyeur, may I ask if you husband will be reading it :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

I don't think I would have given this book a second look on the shelves. So many "help your marriage" books are so damned condescending! And linking it with economics? Ugh! But surprisingly, it seems like it is actually a good read (yes I am shocked!). Nice review.

Zibilee said...

BookGirl,

Yes! Surprisingly my husband is eager to read it too, and was really receptive to me reading little snippets of ideas to him. I actually think that he is going to be picking it up over the long holiday weekend. I am secretly very pleased by this!

Suko said...

A FUN self-help book? Okay, you've got me interested in this book. :)

Aths said...

I like the sound of this one. It's probably not really my thing (being unmarried), but the humor factor is tempting! Loved your wonderful review!

Marie said...

i love it when a book can take something that feels familiar and present it in a whole new way, which sounds like the case here. i'm definitely going to keep an eye out for this!

Vasilly said...

After reading your review, I placed this book on hold! It sounds like a really interesting book. Thanks for the great review.

Jenny said...

Ooh I've been dying to read this one!! Now after reading your review I know it's something I MUST read!! Such a clever way to take on relationship issues. (I actually hated economics in school but I have a feeling I'll still really like this).

Beth F said...

I don't read a lot of self-help (not that I can't use help). I like the concept of this and will look for the book at the library.

Tracy said...

It's not my relationship that needs equalling in any way/chore division - it's the kids that are the problem!

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Oh how fun! I have never been a big relationship/self-help book person but this looks entertaining enough to dive in to.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I'm not a fan of self-help ... but this sounds actually useful!

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

Would you use anything to adapt to your own marriage?

Interesting.

Geosi said...

I like the preamble. I may have to pick this up. I think some self help books have wonderful stories though.

nomadreader said...

I've been meaning to make time for this one, but you just convinced me to *really* do it. Thanks!

Jenners said...

This sounds really good!!!! I know that my own marriage would benefit from this ... I mean, whose wouldn't? And I like that it is funny (not what I remember from economics) and has real-life marriage stuff. I remember reading articles from a magazine my mom got when I was a kid called "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" and just loving it. There is something about reading about other people's intimate relationships that is compelling. Great review!!!

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