The New Republic ran an article this summer about deferred gratification and its effects on happiness. “What You Can Learn from the New Science of Smarter Spending” by Cass R. Sunstein explained new research which shows that anticipating fulfilled desires is as important to creating happiness as the actual fulfillment of our desires. In essence, when we get the material things we want, their novelty wears off, and we again become less satisfied. Therefore, anticipation helps to keep us happier for longer.
My husband and I have played on this philosophy for some time without knowing it. For example, instead of getting Christmas gifts, we take a trip, typically to our favorite part of the state for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and of course hot tubs and saunas. It’s a few hundred dollars for a long-weekend getaway, not bad for the scenery of the north shore of Lake Superior. Now that we have a child, these trips are even more important, not just for the “couples retreat” that they offer but for the anticipation of a relaxing experience. We need something to look forward to, something to daydream of during the busy monotony of everyday life. With both of us managing work and school and parenting, we have little time for nurturing our relationship, but this is no reason to neglect it. Scheduling time together and being able to look forward to it keeps our marriage healthy and vibrant. In fact, the anticipation of this quality time is likely as beneficial as the trip itself. So, we always keep something on the calendar- even if it’s a month or two away.