Andy note: "Best of Eddie" - while Eddie is on vacation we're throwing up some of his classic posts from the past. This one from June 2010 is part of the very popular "Sell Your Options" 5-part series. More to come later this week & next. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.
Do you know why divorce is so expensive? Because it's worth it.
I don't think my advice today is going to come as a shock to any of you. In fact, if you're pressed for time, here's the takeaway: Don't get married, especially in your 20's.
Now, before I delve into the post, I have to point out a few key things. First, take my advice with a whole shaker of salt. After all, I've walked down the aisle of doom three times now. Second, I have to measure my words carefully because I am happily married now, my wife might someday get bored enough to read this, and I'd like to get laid again before I die. Fear not; I'll still give you the straight scoop like I always do. I'll probably just refrain from pointing out that dipping your privates in battery acid is a better move than getting married.
The fact is, you're going to get married. You might as well get your head around it now. Marriage is the fate of the vast majority of humanity. According to Census Bureau statistics, 95% of men and women have been married by age 55. Ninety-five percent. So odds are it's gonna happen to you.
Let me get the rest of the statistics out of the way up front, because they're scary but not particularly effective in dissuading people from taking the plunge. I attribute that to the fact that our heads tell us it's a bad idea, but our hearts tell us that we're the exception and not the rule. Just keep in mind that every divorced couple who made up these stats also thought they were the exception and not the rule.
If you get married before age 20, you've actually got a halfway decent shot of making it to the finish line. Only 11.7% of men who got divorced were married before age 20. Who knew shotgun weddings were the way to go? In fairness, the numbers are little different for women. 27.6% of women who got divorced were married before age 20. I attribute the disparity to the number of 50-year old guys who marry 19-year old girls and then trade them in for a newer model when they reach drinking age.
If you get married in your 20's, however, the numbers get downright ugly. We often hear the statistic that 50% of marriages end up in divorce, and that's kinda true, but it comes from aggregate numbers. The real number is even higher if you get married in your 20's (53% for women and 61.1% for men). This basically means that 72.8% of men and 80.6% of women who wound up divorced got married before age 30. Still like your odds?
I can already hear some of you saying that it won't happen to you because you're not like other guys. You're completely committed, you understand what that commitment means, maybe you're deeply religious and divorce is anathema to you, you'll never leave your wife. I feel you, brother. But let me lay a little more truth on you.
Today 80% of divorce filings are unilateral. That means no matter how committed you are, how happy you are, how much you love your wife and would never leave her, there's a good chance statistically that she might leave you. Nothing you can do about that. People change, even if you don't.
The odds are downright abysmal for multiple marriage guys like me. 67% of second marriages and 74% of third marriages end in divorce. Larry King isn't doing us any favors.
So why is marriage such a bad idea, especially when you're young? I'll never claim to be an expert, but I can definitely give you a perspective from the trenches.
I was 21 the first time I got married. She was beautiful, cool, and I didn't expect to live very long. True story. It's a lot easier to make a lifetime commitment when you think you might get your ticket punched any day. If I'd had the decency to take the dirt nap a couple months later, it would have gone down as one of history's great marriages.
But that's not how things worked out. We pulled in the same direction for a while, and she was a great cheerleader for me when it came to getting into finance. Once I started making some real money, though, things changed.
So I'm surrounded by guys my age making bank and going out partying just about every night, just having a blast, and I have to go home to my wife and house. On top of that, she was three years older than me, so her biological clock was becoming a factor. I was looking to party like a rock star and she was looking to settle down.
I would call our divorce amicable. And why not? She got everything. In order to forgo alimony payments and to keep her quiet about a few trades I'd made that weren't exactly kosher, I left my house with a duffel bag of clothes and nothing else. She got the house, the furniture, the SUV, hell, she even got my dog. Expensive lesson.
I got married for the second time when I was 29. She was beautiful too, but mean as a snake. You know your marriage hasn't got a snowball's chance in Hell when you find yourself lusting after the hot limo driver in the short skirt who just delivered your bride-to-be to the wedding ceremony.
Don't ever marry a climber. Especially a low-rent climber. I was a commodities trader at the time and, as far as she was concerned, I was her golden ticket to the show. This works out fine as long as you're not legally bound to a golddigger. Mythreatened to fire me as a client if I didn't maker her sign a pre-nup. She called my bluff by saying she'd sign it, so I let her off the hook. Oops.
Didn't take that marriage long to implode at all. Same deal as the first one: she got the lovely parting gifts, and I got the room at the YMCA. Such is life.
My point in mentioning these two disasters is not merely to entertain you. It's important to realize that when you're young, especially in your early 20's, you're way too selfish for marriage. And I know you don't realize that. Think about it. Everything you've done in life up until now is for you. It may have been done at your parents' behest, but it's all for your benefit. If you're being honest with yourself, you are all you've really thought of up until now.
Now, put someone on the other side of that equation. She's every bit as selfish as you are, and maybe even moreso. And she doesn't realize it either. You're each getting married for your own selfish reasons, what you think you're going to get out of it, and you're not thinking about what it requires to make a marriage work.
Men go into marriage thinking nothing will change. Women go into marriage thinking everything will change. Both are sorely disappointed. Marriage takes an absolutely backbreaking level of compromise to make it work. Not negotiation, mind you. Compromise. In a negotiation you can come to a win-win solution. Compromise is always lose-lose.
You're going to give up things that are sacrosanct to you, and she's going to look at you like you haven't given an inch. You're going to do the same to her. It takes a great deal of maturity, more than I ever had in my 20's, to find the middle ground where there is mutual contentment rather than mutual misery.
I'm going to say one more thing about what I think is critical to a successful marriage and then I'll wrap this up with a few final thoughts. I'm about to celebrate my 8th anniversary with my third (and you'd better believe final) wife. She's lasted longer than the other two combined, and she's the great love of my life. She has proven to me that marriage is worthwhile if done properly, and I'm a better man for just being around her. A bad marriage can ruin your life, but a good marriage can turn you into the person you were meant to become.
I think the foundational key to our success is our shared family background. She's not my cousin, if that's what you perverts are thinking. What I mean by that is that we were both raised in essentially the same environment. (Two-parent household, dad worked, mom stayed home and raised the kids, etc...) Now, that might not be your background, and it's no big deal if it isn't. But you'd be well served to find someone who was raised like you. Half a billion Indians in arranged marriages can't be wrong.
Mind you, I'm not saying opposites don't attract. My wife is my polar opposite in many ways, and it adds spice to the gumbo. But when you know where someone comes from, it's easier to know where they're coming from. If you know what I mean.
So, to recap. It's a bad idea to get married in your 20's (especially your early 20's) because you've got long odds against you, you're way too selfish to pull it off and you don't even realize it, and most of all, you should be having a good fucking time in your 20's!
Use that time to see the world, to establish yourself in business, to make yourself someone worth knowing. Legally binding yourself to another human being at that age should be inconceivable to you.
Finally, I feel like I have to talk about the notion of marrying "well". I'm sure there's one of you out there right now, maybe more, saying, "You don't know shit, Eddie. My girl's family is filthy rich and when I marry her, I'm set for life." That's all well and fine, but you've got to ask yourself a few questions.
First of all, do you think the family has remained wealthy because her father has turned over the family jewels to every lower-middle class shlub who managed to diddle his little princess after a 4-pack of wine coolers? Me neither. They might let you see it, they might even let you smell it, but they'll never let you touch it.
Second, you have to ask yourself if you're willing tothe piss bucket. It's your price of admission. If you can swallow your pride and sell your dignity, maybe you've got a shot. I could never do it. Plus rich chicks are a pain in the ass.
This went way longer than I intended, but I hope I've passed along some solid food for thought. Mostly, just remember that you're only young once. It's hard to tear the ass out of life when you're dragging around baggage.
One last thing for the younger guys. You know that thing about your girl, that thing that makes her so special to you? The thing that makes you think she's "The One"? Yeah. Every other girl on the planet has one of those too.