Sunday, June 13, 2021

FOMO - The Cause of Divorce?

While there are a plethora of good reasons to get a divorce, I am not sure that boredom is one of them.

The divorce rate in America is horrific.  Even among fundamentalist Christians (or especially so) the divorce rate is like 50%.   Now, granted, in many cases, divorce is the only solution to a spouse who is physically, sexually, emotionally, or financially abusive (or any combination) if counseling and therapy don't work.

But living here on retirement island, I meet a lot of people on their second or third (or even fourth) marriage, and not because their spouse died or anything.  They just decided to move on, and if you ask them why, sometimes they shrug and say, "just got bored, I guess!"

Wait.  What?

I believe many people express regret later in life that perhaps they didn't choose the optimal spouse.  In fact, it is a common feeling, I think, which leads to adultery and cheating and lying and whatnot - which often leads to divorce.  Many people get married very young - perhaps too young - and later in life decide they are not really compatible.  But the joke is, there isn't someone out there who is necessarily a better choice - it just seems that way.

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" and of course, the mother of your children has gotten older and her titties are sagging and that new secretary you have is certainly cute and she seems to like you.  And working in law firms, I saw this firsthand - many a time.  People do what they have to do to survive, and if asked, the law partner who is banging his secretary believes he loves her.  And the secretary will say the same thing.  And so the law partner gets divorced, which is traumatic for the wife and kids - and expensive as all hell - and marries the secretary, only to later find out it is just more of the same thing - a marriage isn't like a courtship.

Neither party wants to admit what is really going on, deep down.  The secretary sees an older man (Daddy issues!) who is successful and wealthy. Why date one of those loser associates who might never make partner?  Worse yet, you don't want to be "law school wife" who gets tossed under the bus the moment hubby passes the bar exam.  The law partner, on the other hand, sees a young, attractive "trophy wife" who wants to have hot sex with him, but the bonus is, he gets to have her on his arm at the next Firm Christmas party - the ultimate trophy from a lifetime of hard work.

But neither party will admit to that - it is all true love, right?  We lie to ourselves - a lot.

There is another aspect to this, I think - FOMO or the "Fear of Missing Out."  You get married to someone and after a while you wonder, "Gee, maybe there was someone else out there that I was destined to meet and marry and I settled too soon!   Maybe I am missing the love of my life!"

This is evil thinking. There is no "love of your life" or cosmic lover, preassigned by God. who you just have to find.  It is a trope that is used in the movies and books and on television, which I think damages the psyche of people worldwide.  In movies, for example, boy-meets-girl and everything goes into slow motion, angels sing, and soft music plays.  True love at last!  Cupid has slung his arrow!  It was meant to be, and all that needed to happen was these two people who were destined for each other to meet.

Wait.  What?

There is no destined lover or mate for you.  Odds are, you will marry someone who lives near you.  Someone who you went to school with or worked with or met nearby.  The idea that there is this "perfect person" out there waiting to be discovered is complete and utter bullshit.  And I think this idea is dangerous and evil as it destroys many marriages needlessly.

People reach middle age and start to wonder, "Is this all there is?  My life is halfway over and it is just a burden of working, paying bills, and rearing children.  Maybe I missed the boat here, and maybe I was destined for so much more!"   And so their eyes start to wander - wondering whether they could be happier or more fulfilled.  And yes, the grass certainly looks greener on the other side of the fence, when you are thinking about someone you don't already share a bathroom with.

Stephen Trask, in his musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" summed it up nicely, in the song, "Wicked Little Town":

You think that Luck
Has left you there
But maybe there's nothing
Up in the sky but air

And there's no mystical design
No cosmic lover preassigned
There's nothing you can find
That can not be found
Cos with all the changes
You've been through
It seems the stranger's always you
Alone again in some new
Wicked little town

A lot of people simply don't believe this - they prefer to believe the "perfect mate" theory, which is never proven right - but often proven wrong.  These "computer dating services" which started in the 1960's with IBM punch cards, prey upon this belief - that the "perfect mate" is someone who likes and does all the same things you do.  But as I noted in another posting, often this means you end up competing with each other, instead of complimenting each other.

For example, if you like to do triathlons and you hook up with someone on a dating site who also likes to do triathlons, you may end up competing against each other (perhaps literally) comparing your times and your abilities, with one partner always coming up short.  Maybe it would be better to have your partner at the finish line, cheering you on, or handing you a water, halfway through the course?  Just thinking, here.  And then you could encourage your partner in doing what they like to do, rather than competing with them.

I used to believe in the "perfect mate" idea, and when I was younger, I thought I should marry a girl "just like dear old Mom" and ended up dating crazy women.   Thankfully, I never actually got married and ruin two lives.   When I started dating men, I thought I should date who I thought was my sexual ideal, but again, this turned out to be a bad idea.  Sex is fine and all, but a relationship is based on so much more than that.  Plus, if you want a relationship, it pays to find someone who also wants a relationship.  There are many, many people in the world who prefer to live alone, and when they try to start a relationship, it ends in tears, as they toss out their partner the first time they leave the toilet seat up or commit some other alleged transgression.

When I met Mark, I was not too keen at first - and neither was he about me.  This was back in 1987, and it was popular among engineering types to have a calculator watch - you know, the kind that beeped every 15 minutes (I am dating myself here!).   Anyway, I left my watch at his apartment and gave him my phone number (which he promptly threw in the trash).  In the middle of the night, the beeping was driving him nuts, and he had to dig through the trash to find my phone number.

Anyway, he put the watch under all his couch cushions to dull the beeping sound and the next day, I came by to retrieve the watch, and it was like, "Well, while you're here...." and the rest, as they say, is history.

We had a lot of interests in common, but also diverse.  He had opinions different from mine, and skills that I lacked - and vice-versa.  It turned out to be a good match, as we were able to cover each others' blind spots.   And of course, it was a lot easier to get ahead as young people living in the big city, when our rental costs were slashed in half. Yes, a marriage or relationship is economic above all else.

Sadly, this isn't the case for many people.  Rather than saving money by being married or having a long-term relationship, they spend more in a race-to-the-bottom to see who can get the most out of the deal, in retaliatory spending.  Or each partner maintains separate checking and savings accounts, titles their car in each name, rather than jointly.  Even their house is titled as Tenants in Common (!!).

When retirement approaches, it gets sticky, particularly if there is an age difference.  One spouse can retire, while the other still has to work to fund "their" retirement.   We see this a lot with gay couples, but I know a few heterosexual couples who practice this as well!  Husband is retired and loafs around the house all day long, while Wife has another ten years before she can afford to do likewise.  Retirement should be the time the two of you go out and do things together.  Yet so many people - married people - live entirely separate lives.  I feel sorry for them, as they are missing out on so much in life.

When I retired, we retired.   We weren't going to play the game of "my money, your money" but our money. And yes, this requires a high level of trust.  But often that level of trust is reinforced by the fact your lives are so financially interdependent.  Remember what I said about relationships being economic in nature?  It is typical and common to have disagreements and arguments in a relationship - if nothing else from low-blood-sugar or dehydration.  If you have everything separated, financially, it is all-too-easy to bail on a moment's notice.  When you are tied up together financially, you realize how shitty things will be if you try to unwind this.  It keeps people together.

On a side note, we know a number of single people who go out and buy a house or condo or townhome, and then wonder why their "perfect mate" doesn't want to move in with them.   Think about this, would you want to live in someone else's house?  Again a relationship is all about "We" not "Me" and if you own your own home as a single person, expect to have to sell it and buy something jointly together if you want to get married.  No one wants to move into your lair.

But I digress.

In a previous posting, I linked to an Amy MacDonald video.  I first heard this song many years ago, on a YouTube video that someone made by putting a camera in their model airplane. This was before drones really "took off" - if you'll pardon the pun.  The music had nothing to do with the video, and indeed, I find dozens of videos on YouTube which use this song as background, because people like how it sounds but fail to read the lyrics.  It is all about loss and regret and the fear of "missing out" on the perfect spouse:

He'll say, "Me, I wish I knew you
I wish I met you when time was still on my side"
She'll say, "Me, I wish I knew you
I wish I loved you before I was his bride" 
And so they must depart
Too many more broken hearts
But I've seen that all before
In TV, books and film and more
And there's a happy ending
Every single day 
And they'll meet one day far away
And say, "Me, I wish I was something more"
And they'll meet one day far away
And say, "Me, I wish I knew you
I wish I knew you before"

It's a very poignant song, and apparently based on the author's own life (apparently, she dated a drug addict and had some regrets about that!).  But I think the lyrics resonate with a lot of people - wondering whether they made the right choice in life and spouse.  All those cheesy click-bait ads promising to put you in touch with that "hot cheerleader" you knew in high school are testament to that!   But as I noted before, odds are, she is now fat and slovenly, and living in a trailer with seven kids and no, she still doesn't want to date you!

I am not sure what got me started on this, but this is a blog about personal economics, and it doesn't get more personal and economical than marriage or a relationship.  I feel blessed and lucky to find someone who I am largely compatible with but who isn't just like me.   And over the years, while we have had our ups and downs, it has worked out pretty darn well.

People get bored in a relationship sometimes, just as many people get bored with their old car, and want to rekindle the excitement of owning a new car, with that new-car-smell.  But as I noted before, often the best used-car deal is parked in your driveway.  Yes, like an old husband, your old car may have bulging tires and may belch smoke and leak a little oil.  But if you buff it up, slap a new set of tires, and put in one of these tree-shaped air fresheners, maybe it's good for another 50,000 miles - at far less cost than trading-in.

Just a thought!