Would you invest, say, $10,000 on a program of relationship education to avoid more than $100,000 in expenses and other costs resulting from poor relationship choices?
Today, that’s a no-brainer for me: Absolutely, I would. But that was not always the case.
For most of my adult life, like most people, I was firmly committed to the follow-your-heart, learn-by-experience, anything-for-love approach to relationships. By my 40th birthday, the results of that approach were mediocre, to put it kindly. They include relationships marred by sexual infidelity, foolish financial choices and emotional manipulation committed by both me and my erstwhile partners (including those I was certain I loved and loved me). That track record also includes a broken engagement and a 10-year-marriage (with three children) ending in divorce.
I was wracked with guilt over my first divorce. I grew up watching my divorcee mother struggle alone to raise me and my three siblings after my father left us, and I vowed to never commit that unforgivable crime against the mother of my children. Yet, I’d done exactly that (though, unlike my father, I remained a committed, engaged and financially supportive co-parent).
That first marriage was also costly in other ways. While neither my former wife nor I ever intended to hurt each other, the benignly dysfunctional nature of our marriage led to costly financial decisions and (at least in my case) compromised job performance.
That said, when you consider that the cost of a single failed-marriage cycle routinely exceeds $100,000, I got off easy, at least financially. The estimated total cost of my first failed marriage, from our engagement and through the divorce, did not exceed $50,000.
I first began to admit to myself that I might need help with decision-making in relationships after my first marriage ended. However, I felt that it was nothing that reading a couple of good relationship books couldn’t fix. Besides, I’d learned a lot from the therapist I’d begun seeing in a last-ditch effort to save the marriage. Also, I still attended church every Sunday, and sought guidance from my Bible every day.
I’d never heard of anything like relationship education at this point. Even if I had, I would not have considered spending several thousand dollars on it. Why, when for a few hundred dollars at most (the cost of a few books and maybe some counseling sessions), I could learn everything I needed to know to get this relationship thing right? I mean, how hard can it be, really?
So, after nearly two years of not dating at all (in order to focus on my children and my career), I began dating and quickly fell “in love” with a succession of women, the last of whom I married only 10 months after we began our relationship.
Fast-forward about six years: I’m in the midst of a contentious and costly divorce, after an ill-considered, debilitating and drama-filled second marriage. My children have been subjected to an unstable, emotionally toxic environment. Along the way, we’ve gone through three marriage/family therapists, and I’m facing a growing pile of debt and expenses, including legal fees, that could result in my home going into foreclosure. The toll all this has taken on my mental and emotional health is immeasurable. The estimated costs of my second failed marriage cycle: more than $250,000 (including an $11,000 engagement ring).
So, by my count, my insistence on following my heart and making relationship decisions by trial and (mostly) error has cost me more than $350,000, not including the immeasurable emotional and psychological toll I paid for my choices. And this is just from the two marriages; it does not include the financial expense and emotional toll of my other “love” relationships.
Surrounded by the rubble of my second failed marriage, I had no choice but to face the truth: I did not know how to love. I was operating without a clear definition of what a healthy relationship is, and with no idea of what is required to establish and maintain one.
At this point, given the chance to do things over, I would have gladly invested a few thousand dollars on relationship training and education, to avoid the hundreds of thousands in cost and other destructive consequences of my decisions.
The pain-staking process of rebuilding my life after my second divorce led to me challenging everything I was ever taught to believe about love, marriage and relationships, in order to avoid repeating the decision-making patterns that led to such painful and costly outcomes. Eventually, I began to immerse myself in studying and understanding the characteristics of healthy relationships. And that ultimately led to the creation of Grown Zone Relationship Education by me and my wife and business partner Zara Green, as well as our book Loving In The Grown Zone: A No-Nonsense Guide to Making Healthy Decisions in the Quest for Loving, Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem and Respect (Balboa Press).
Today, I’m more than seven years into my first truly healthy relationship (with Zara, of course), including just over a year of marriage. I know now that to form such a healthy partnership requires learning to become happy, self-loving and whole in single life. And that successful single-living, with confidence and without compromise, cannot happen without relationship education. Finally, I am totally committed to teaching others what I have learned, helping them to avoid the costly tuition that I paid to get the lessons the hard way.
My message to you, based on my personal experience: Any investment you make in your relationship education is nothing compared to the costs of not making such an investment. The destructive choices and painful consequences we have come to accept as inevitable in relationships are preventable. You may say that you can’t afford to invest in relationship education. I’ve learned that you can’t afford not to.
ARE YOU A SUCCESSFUL, HIGH-ACHIEVING SINGLE STRUGGLING WITH YOUR “SINGLENESS”? CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT SCHEDULING A 1-ON-1 HIGH-IMPACT COACHING CONVERSATION WITH ZARA OR ALFRED!