Hedonic Marriage: A Love Affair

Why do we desire a love marriage?

Ok to be fair – the bigger question is why do we desire marriage in general and why do we so eagerly volunteer to be in a monogamous relationship for an extended period of time? But I’m not going to delve into this conundrum, simply because I think for every individual the reasoning is very subjective. And honestly, my curiosity is with the marriage model itself, and how it’s evolved over the years.

Marriage is fundamentally different today than it was 50 or 60 years ago. Then, marriage followed the factory model – with the husband as CEO, the wife as homemaker, and with what economists call “production complementarities”. People got married because by specializing you could do more together than you could apart.

But now all that’s changed, we have more time, more money, and so we want to spend it with someone whose company we’ll enjoy, someone who has similar interests and passions as us. And so we’ve moved to a marriage model economists would call “consumption complementarities”.

A marriage that originates under these circumstances is dubbed by economists as a hedonic marriage.

“Hedonic marriage” -_- what a roundabout way to say love marriage.

So according to economic theory- love marriages resulted because of our shift in seeking partners who were no longer just production –but consumption complementaries to our lifestyle. Huh… so I should marry you because we have the same hobbies and we can talk about our passions all day, and if you so happen to support me monetarily along the way- double yay?

I like it. I can think of marriage in these terms- and frankly it sounds way less daunting than trying to find my soulmate. After all- you know my thoughts on this: To me love is a choice. To me love is waking up every morning and choosing to spend it with this someone. And honestly the thing is that [my soulmate] could be anyone, but what makes that someone special is that I chose him.


My inspiration to synthesize this piece came from Justin Wolfers commentary in the Freakonomics Podcast: Why Marry?

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