A Lesson in Time Economics

I know I am not alone in feeling like I am not very special to someone sometimes. It’s like the ordinary routine settles in and sometimes you just feel like part of the furniture to your partner- or whomever in your life. I have been feeling that way a little with E lately. I been wondering why it’s been hard for ‘getting lunch together’ to feel like a date or why it’s been hard to even watch T.V. shows together without feeling like I’m crowding him out.

I think there are a lot of ways to approach this feeling. Movies will tell you something ridiculous like “get the magic back” by doing something crazy … or “spice things up” or whatever. Someone who has invested in polyamory or monogamous relationships studies would probably say this is a normal loss of “new relationship energy” which is  that hyped up feeling you get when you start dating someone. I mean- sure, that could be it AND maybe that is true for E and I but would it really take three years to lose that feeling?

Well, E and I were talking about this and he explained the feeling in the best possible way for me – AN ECONOMIST- to understand.

E said, “I think the reason our time is feeling un-special is because – well, it’s like economics! Supply and demand. We’ve been spending more time together lately and maybe that makes it lose some value because there is too much ‘supply.’” or something similar. This can sound like harsh words if you think about it from any other profession but from an economics standpoint it’s perfectly accurate AND fixable!!

So let me draw you a graph:
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Slide2

Where the two lines intersect is what is most important. The intersection shows how much time we will spend together and the relative value of that time.

slide5.png

This graph represents things as we met- or at least before we moved to Florida. Interestingly, a lot has changed in my life, now I can OFFER MORE time because I work more flexible hours and even work from home.

E’s capacity to accept time hasn’t changed- think of his capacity to accept time as being his location on an introvert-extrovert scale. (Actually- because of the stress of work and trying to find friends here in Florida- I think his capacity to accept time could be less, but we will keep it simple).

So with all the changes to my ability to offer time, our graph looks something more like this.

Slide6

The added time is represented by a shift in my capacity to offer more time. I have more time to be able to give to spending with E.  The issue is that now E’s capacity to accept my time intersects at a different place with my capacity to offer time. Now the intersection reflects the increased time we spend together and the reduced value we were both feeling.

Slide8

SO WHAT HAPPENED how could the value of time go down! Is my presence less awesome than it was before… well kinda…

Before, E and I would get a bit of time in the morning but then we would spend a few hours in the evening together. That time was interesting because we had spent all day at work or doing other things.

Now we are both just always around each other- our days start late and can end early cuz our jobs are like that. The breakfast isn’t as special as it used to be because it happens everyday now, and the time in between breakfast and lunch is spent staring at each other, and in the early afternoon and in the evening… We don’t even have much to say because we already know what the other did all day!

So – yeah we might be spending more time together but the quality of it is different now- it is more common and less “magical” or “spicy.”

Is this a bad thing? Naw- it happens. Sure no one wants to hear that their presence isn’t special anymore but it happens- to everyone!

Think about the last time a house guest overstayed their welcome? How did that change your relationship with them? It’s the same graph but different relationship, right.

Well this helped me a lot because I can’t fix “magic” or “spice.” As Dr. McCoy would say “I am a doctor not a magician!” I am an economist not a magician or chef or whatever.

So how do you fix it? Simple. I could reduce my capacity to offer E time. Instead of dumping all my extra time on him I could write more, or join a gym (something I have been thinking of doing), or go to a movie alone or whatever. That would make the time we spend together more valuable again- plus it would give us something new to talk about.

I think its annoying and socially irresponsible to believe that someone should endlessly value your time- or you theirs. No, you don’t have to give someone all of your time and they don’t have to give you all of theirs. I think people understand this already- I mean we advise people to “take time for themselves” and suggest that “absences makes the heart grow fonder” right?

Well here is the graph for that!

And before anyone gets worked up about it- you could replace E or I with anyone else in a relationship. I have the same graph that shows my capacity to give time to E and L and my cousin and my mom and so on… I also have the graph that shows my capacity to ACCEPT time from all of those people too… and so do you.

If you want proof just ask and I will set up your graph!

D.

Thanks cousin and E for editing this post!

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