(By the way, the big comparisons they give are to health insurance and welfare, which makes me question their politics...)
The book gives 3 solutions to the problems of moral hazard in marriage, all of them having to do with incentives, not whether the spouse is good or bad. I take the liberty of just quoting via photo:
"Research shows that marital satisfaction plummets after the birth of a first child:" couples are at a greater risk of depression, overwhelming stress, and loss of intimacy, both conversational and sexual (114). And if you can survive the first few years of the second child, then apparently you're home free (and that would include both of us--"Come on Jet, just get to two so daddy can get laid again!"). If you're interested in the study, it's Gottman and Natarius from Family Process 41.2 (2002).
This one I know by experience and know that it is true--Lennon, G/d love him, has just puts tons of stress on me and my marriage--I'm older, my dad died, work has sucked--but I'm hoping things are leveling out now that he's older. We'll see.
It's also ironic that many marriages also face problems after the nest has emptied, so kids screw you in two ways...
One of the specifics the authors give about putting regulations on your marriage (Solution 2) is drawing up a contract. It sounds good in theory, but in practice I think Melanie would rather have teeth pulled. Unless I drafted it, it just wouldn't happen. She does make verbal agreements, however, and she is usually good and living up to them.
Solution 3 is about incentives, which seems intuitive, but the authors also warn us against "perverse incentives" wherein the incentive has the opposite effect of what's intended. They cite the "failure is not an option" attitude as such an incentive in which a partner does anything to keep the marriage together. That partner is just asking to get taken advantage of or will be blindsided when the other walks out.
Just an aside, Melanie and I think that marriage itself, conceived as a promise of "forever," is in itself a perverse incentive--why would anyone work when the other person has promised to be there "through thick and through thin"? We've talked a lot recently about why we don't believe in marriage and why we prefer to take a day-to-day approach. We prefer that the other person wake up every morning and say, "this is where I want to be right now." I think that attitude helps keep us both honest because there's no guarantee the other may not walk out (and that's true in a traditional marriage as well, if you think about it). Plus, it's nice to know that the other person is here because she wants to be, not because she made some ridiculous promise and has to stick to it out of a sense of duty, not love. Now, the catch is that the cost for such incentives is a feeling of security, which we are working on. Also, it prevents our "marriage" from acting as a "commitment device" (wait for more on them in Ch 8).
In the 3rd solution, incentives, the authors mention "co-payments" as a smarter (rather than perverse) incentive. In other words, co-payments are ways that your partner can share costs and help you enjoy the benefits of marriage (eg, sex, fun, travel, companionship, etc). Some of the specific examples that come from their sample couple are: working less per week, one paying for something the other wants to do (eg start a business), keeping up maintenance at home, helping with dinner, etc.