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The High Cost of Choosing the Wrong Mate

Emotions, whether we like it or not, affect our business. This is also true of the long-term decisions we make in our personal lives.

We’ve all heard the statistics. Arguably, about half of all first marriages end in divorce.

The good news is this number may be dropping slightly, partly due to the fact that women are choosing to delay marriage until careers have been established, and with this, people find themselves getting married at a more mature age. By this stage in life, personalities have been formed and the future is clearer to see.

But many professionally successful individuals who’ve already grown their businesses and built enviable careers married before this trend, and for them, the story is different. Because they married young, they were wrapped up in the beauty, the promise and the romance of it all, without knowing themselves very well, the financial stakes ahead, or that most women have a professional shift in their 40s.

As someone whose business is relationships, I see what our “love lives” could stand to learn from our professional lives.

The Impact of Impulsive Love

If you read Sparks! regularly, you know I work primarily in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where both men and women make a lot of money in technology and entertainment. My clients are highly successful men who want to be married, and whose demanding schedules prevent them from meeting someone new through the hit-or-miss nature of random dating.

More than 50% of my male clients come to me post divorce, arriving in my Santa Monica office with all the emotions that come with such a difficult and challenging time. Those married in their 20s and early 30s didn’t imagine how their partner might change or grow over the years. At that time, it was about settling down and starting a family. Now, a decade or two later, the kids are grown, careers have been shaped and with that, some marriages have failed.

Divorce is expensive. Especially for successful entrepreneurs and well-known entertainers, who find themselves dividing assets that include business equity, shareholder voting rights, portfolios, future residuals from past projects and other earnings, even with pre- and post-nup contracts in place. The impact on one’s net worth is very real and palpable.

And it’s not just men who suffer financially when they choose the wrong mate, or marry before they’re ready. Women who choose men in their 20s, before their own career has taken shape, are choosing based on who they think he will become. So many women I know chose the cute, athletic guy, but now he’s become like another kid in the household because he never grew up or didn’t have the same ambition or impulse to succeed. I know many extremely successful women who are paying 30% of their income to an ex.

It’s hard for me to witness. When a marriage ends, both men and women suffer personally and professionally.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s possible to get it right the first time.

Conscious Coupling

Our culture encourages us to view love and marriage as a montage in a movie, where everything is a whirlwind and people are swept off their feet. Romantic excitement is certainly a part of falling in love, and the breathless anticipation and thrilling chemistry are nothing to be shunned.

But there has to be more if the the marriage is to be enduring. Would you approach a business partnership based on fun and chemistry? Of course not. Surely a lifelong commitment is deserving of the same rigorous attention.

Often, when meeting a new client, I delve into the questions that are rarely asked when couples fall head over heels in love with each other and decide to marry. I ask about core values, how one might celebrate life, money matters, family, individual needs and personal goals. These questions cause the pool of available matches to become smaller ― but it’s much more efficient and realistic, and prevents future heartache.

It’s risky to marry someone who hasn’t established himself yet. It’s also risky if you are still in the process of figuring out who you are and what you want. It’s better for partners to be on similar footing when it comes to knowing what they want out of life and how to get it.

For example: if you’re considering settling down with a man who is supporting children from a previous marriage, it’s in your best interest to have honest financial discussions about the distant future. What are his financial plans for providing for them? Does that include college? Trust funds? Inheritances? Legacies for grandchildren? What will be provided for you or any children the two of you will have together? How does he see his income evolving in the future?

These are things you must have an understanding of to determine if this is right for you, and whether a marriage to him will go the distance.

Cultivate Early Knowledge and Honesty

I can’t help but wonder if everyone were to self-reflect and ask themselves these questions long before they meet someone and fall in love, would we have a lower divorce rate? Would people not find themselves suffering through the division of assets and emotional turmoil?

I recently looked at the marriages I’ve created in the past 17 years and can happily say, I have a 1% divorce rate. Were my matches just that spectacular and perfect? No. We simply did the work to prepare the individuals for love and lifelong partnership. It doesn’t take away from the union, in fact, it makes the marriage all the more rewarding. And lasting.

Choosing a mate is a significant decision. Don’t rely on magic. It’s tempting to be carried away and jump in with both feet. But I encourage you to do the work in advance that helps ensure you find the mate that is going to grow in harmony with you. It’s vital to the longevity of your future marriage, and the health of your future financial picture, to take a long and in-depth look at your inner self, as well as the character of the person you’re choosing.

It is possible to do this, and it can be deeply gratifying. Anything less is too costly.

What are your thoughts on this? Please share them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

Much love, as always,

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