The first couple likes date nights. The dude from Entourage has date nights. Even Hannah Montana does date night. The New York Times’ Tara Parker Pope recently suggesting reinventing date night by doing something different rather than the same tired dinner-with-friends meme. The theory is that new experiences flood the brain with dopamine and norepinephrine, with same chemicals we’re flooded with when we first fall in love.
We at Spousonomics are big proponents of doing novel things together. Going on a date night is what we’d call an “active decision” that has the potential to keep the marriage exciting. Active decision-making (getting off the couch and having sex), according to economists, is often a more productive move than passive decision-making (staying on the couch and watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy).
True, economists don’t usually discuss active decision-making in the context of sex or marriage in general. The topic comes into play more often in the study of health-care economics, contract theory and retirement savings. Should I choose my employer’s PPO health plan, HMO or just go with the default management chose for me? Should I put 3% or 6% in my 401(k) or should I let the company decide for me? Cancel my Popular Woodworking subscription or let it automatically renew even though I never read it?
We’ve found active/passive decision making to be hugely relevant to marriage economics. For one thing, we get passive about keeping the flame alive. We choose sudoku over sex, TV over conversation, a glass of Yellow Tail over time on the treadmill. It takes an active choice to get out of these routines. And for another, we get passive in our view of the marriage. It’ll never be like it was, so why bother trying.
And that’s just depressing. So go ahead, make a decision to do something, anything, with your spouse today that you haven’t done before. Let us know how it goes.