Sep 262015

When you live together, there are certain chores that need to be done.

They're tongue-wrestling to decide who gets to clean that up...

They’re tongue-wrestling to decide who gets to clean that up…

Simplifying things a bit, my girlfriend and me agreed that she would do most of the cleaning and I would do most of the cooking.

I love to cook. I enjoy the process of making something from base ingredients; it’s arts class for grownups. I like thinking about what I’m going to make, doing the preparations. It’s challenging to get everything just right at the same time. And at the end of it you have a (hopefully) great meal which you get to share.

My girlfriend likes cooking, but not by as much as I do. She however gets a bit of a kick out of cleaning; something to do with putting on loud music, not having to think, getting a really nice (clean) result and having things done “her way”. I don’t get that at all, but luckily we’re not all the same.

The way we’ve set things up, we both get to do the thing we like most and don’t have to do what we like less (or in my case when it comes to cleaning, actively dislike). We’re playing to our relative strengths and I’m sure that any economist would be proud of us.

Because for me the cost of cooking is low, perhaps even negative; it’s very easy to give. On the other hand, the value of the meal is high for my girlfriend, as she really enjoys a good dinner. The other way around is the same, the cost of cleaning for her is low, while the value of not having to do it for me is high.

And though it might be an un-romantic way of looking at it, I think this is a fundamental part of any good relationship: Find things to give that are low cost (for you) and high value (for the other) and trade!

More importantly however, it’s important to realize that values and costs are different for different people. It’s very natural to assume that other people are like us (and without any information it’s probably the best assumption). But had we done that, I would be doing the cleaning (as I would have assumed that not having to do it was high value for my girlfriend) and she would have done the cooking. Very noble, but we both would have been (much) worse off.

What is the value of seeing someone happy? What is the cost of making them happy?
This is an easy example, but there are other, more subtle differences.

For example, how do you like affection to be expressed? I like a hug or a surprise. My girlfriend also likes a hug, but compliments are especially powerful for her and she doesn’t care overly much for surprises. So I’ve learned to be more generous with my compliments; they are low cost (for me) and high value (for her).

What do you value? What costs you little? And what are the answers for your partner?

Happy trading!

Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

I love to connect, so if you have thoughts, ideas or questions based on this (or another) post, please leave me a comment!

  One Response to “Value and costs”

  1. “I’m sure that any economist would be proud of us.”

    Absolutely. Very proud, indeed!

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