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.