Is Social Loafing Affecting Your Marriage?

September 11, 2013

in Marriage Killer, Seeing Clearly

Social loafing is a phenomenon in which people intentionally do less towards a goal as part of a group than they do when working alone.

A number of researchers have examined this, measuring reductions in how much effort people expend as the size of the group increases. For groups of two, various studies have shown effort to be 82% to 93% of what individuals would do alone. Does this apply to the workload in marriages? I suspect it does, or at least there is a temptation to do less.

 1+1=1.83 © Paul H. Byerly

Another piece of this is the “matching of effort” – people who think they are doing more than their fair share will lower what they do to match what they perceive others doing. In marriage, this would mean the spouse who feels they do more than half might suddenly do less. If both spouses feel they do more than the other does, things could get messy.

My suggestion is to figure out how much is reasonable for you to do, and do it. If that’s more than half, should you really be doing more than half? If so, fine. If not, why do you feel you should do more than half? If what seems reasonable to you is less than half, why does it seem right? It may well be right, but be sure, and be sure your spouse feels the same way, or understands why you feel you can’t or shouldn’t do more at this time.

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Regarding the Health Co-op, I think I would be very hesitant to go to the doctor (unless it was a true emergency) if I knew everyone else would be paying for it.  Have you found that to be a struggle at all?

As an example, earlier this year a couple of my children had the same cold.  They both started symptoms the same day and ran parallel for a few days.  Then one started feeling better and the other worse, running a fever, etc.  Of course the turn for worse happened on the weekend when our regular doctor's office was closed.  I was pretty sure there was not an infection developing but I ended up taking my son to the Urgent Care "just to make sure".

Also earlier this year I was having some 'girl problems' which my doctor felt pretty sure are age & hormone related but she wanted to send me for some testing "just to make sure" it wasn't something much more serious - so the testing was precautionary.

Both times, the trip to the doctor and the testing, were more for my peace of mind and not medical emergencies. It would have been safe to wait both out, but that would have left me worrying.  Yet, I think if we had the Health Co-op I would have struggled to go.  Are there any guidelines or do you personally use any guidelines in determining when to stay and when to go?


This reminded me of the marriage math myth.  It's often said marriage is 50/50.  Bogus.  My wife and I each have to work intentionally to give 100/100.  She got 100% of me the moment I said I do.  And I got 100% of her.  We are an all in marriage. 

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@cej I think the high premium and low co-pays of many insurance programs encourage a wasteful mentality. Being part of a group does change how you think about the process. I see a lot more effort put into getting the best care at the best price. I think this is part of why the total cost is so low, there is a sense of ownership.

That said, the first $300 of any medical event is paid by the individual (up to four events a year) so there is that limit to "just in case". If it is worth it to you to pay that $300, then it is a valid concern.

As I see it, what the Co-Op does is what insurance was originally intended to do. The individual covers the small stuff, and the insurance is there for the big expenses that would hurt or destroy a family's finances.

What if auto insurance worked like health insurance does? We would have a co-pay for getting a flat fixed or getting our oil changed! Sure it would be nice to get those things done for less money, but the policy would cost us $500 a month for an older car!

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