I’ve brought up the idea of divorce and she always fights me on it. I think she likes the way things are, but as I get older I have to believe there is more to life than this. Last week when we brushed upon the topic, she said for the umpteenth time,
“We’ve put 30 years into this marriage, why give up now?”
I’ve read enough of your writing to have a good idea of what you’ll say but I need to hear it anyway. What’s your advice for a middle-aged guy afraid to start over who has built a pretty impressive life and doesn’t want to tear it apart if there is no guarantee of happiness on the other side?
Too Old for Change?
Dear Nice Man Who is NOT Too Old for Change:
Before I regale you with the best free advice on the Internet (that’s worth every penny!), please click on my legal disclaimer in which I assure you I am not acting as your lawyer, paralegal, therapist or acupuncturist:
Failure to click that link does not create an attorney-client relationship, but does indicate an unwillingness to do as I ask of you.
I don’t like that.
Welcome to the “Concorde Fallacy,” otherwise known as “Sunk Costs are Bullshit.”
My name is Robin, and I’ll be your flight attendant today.
The Concorde Fallacy relies on this observation by evolutionary biologists:
Adult humans are driven by fear of loss, much more so than they are driven by optimism for success.
We are wired this way – it’s in the brain and one of many reasons our species has evolved and survived since we wiggled out of the primordial ooze and hopped on the backs of dinosaurs for a canter around the Garden of Eden.
In some ways, the risk of loss aversion is obviously very beneficial to mankind.
“I probably shouldn’t dangle my baby from this hotel balcony,” thinks everyone except the late Michael Jackson, “because I could drop the little fucker and then I’d miss him and possibly go to jail. So I won’t.”
However, there is a dark side to our avoidance of loss:
Humans are prone to doggedly persevere with a tragically unsuccessful course of action simply because they have already invested so much in it: be it time, money, effort, human life, and the like. Despite evidence that defense of the losing position costs more than abandonment and seeking another alternative, they keep at it.
This concept is well-illustrated by tragic-comedies like the Vietnam and Iraq wars, the Concorde Project, and your sad, limp excuse of a marriage.
Sorry. Was that insensitive? I’m supposed to be working on that. I’m hoping if I am extremely direct with you I can save you from what I see as a very unhappy future.
Never forget: It’s All About Me!
Mr. Patience and Understanding and I fell into this trap a few years ago when we decided to build a house.
We purchased a lot during the recession at a smoking-hot price and proceeded to hire the #1 most douche-baggy architect in Portland. In his own mind, he was a genius!
In reality, not so much.
After months and months of paying him exorbitant fees that never produced useable building plans, we bailed. It wasn’t easy because we perseverated for weeks over the money we had already poured into the project.
During those weeks of worrying about the sunk costs v. tanking the disaster, we paid even more to this jackalope for his mood-swings-turned-design-changes.
Happily, reason prevailed and we fired him and sold the lot.
This displeased him to no end, and he sent us a nasty letter in which he referred to himself as the “BMW and Jaguar of Portland architects” while he was working out of his home, mind you, and told us we’d be better suited with a Ford.
I think he is currently designing yurts and pop-up retail spaces.
Sorry for the tangent:
Back to you!
You and I have spoken several times, my friend, and during our conversations I came to believe a few things:
- Your wife will leave you within a few months of your child going to college. Trust me on this and prepare for it.
- If she doesn’t, and you stay in the marriage, you will die young. There are all sorts of stressors in life but living with someone who dislikes you is a biggie.
- The “impressive life” you mentioned centers around your stuff: two nice homes, fancy cars, expensive trips, etc. That’s not “an impressive life.” That’s stuff.
- You have modeled an unfortunate partnership paradigm for your children but it’s never too late to change that. You could fall in love again with a wonderful woman and have your kids witness true affection and devotion, rather than silent seething and ignoring one another.
- There are no guarantees in life, but you are smart, handsome, successful, young, and funny. There is a lovely lid for your pot.
You have no idea how much pussy is going to be thrown at you once you leave this marriage – it will be raining from the sky like manna from heaven so don’t you worry about being lonely. I have some friends who would kill for a guy like you.
In fact, they will probably email me today and ask for your contact information.
I’m going to give it to them.
I’ll reuse a simple test I devised a while back to help you make your decision:
How to Decide Whether to Divorce
Ask yourself this simple question:
If you could see into the future and know you only had one year left to live, would you spend it with your wife?
If the answer is no, get a divorce and find yourself someone to love and who will love you back.
And like you, too. That’s really important and you deserve it.