Relationship

Blind Spots and Seeing the Whole Picture

Posted on Jul 27, 2018 in Community, Family, Investments, Planning, Relationship

I’m a huge movie buff. In a different life, I would have been behind a camera, capturing people’s stories on film. One of the best stories I’ve seen on film is a movie making the festival circuit this year, Blindspotting. Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame, along with longtime friend, poet and fellow actor Rafael Casal, have made a buddy movie like no other. It is smart, funny, painful, intense, and powerful. The writing is tight, the acting top-notch. The pair had been working on finding a way to produce the film for ten years, and its tone and subject matter could not be more pertinent today.

And why am I telling you about this in a personal finance blog? The power of the movie is in its exercise in asking the audience whether they can see more than one thing at the same time: Can you see the two people in profile AND the vase? Can you see a black ex-con and a thoughtful man reinventing himself? Can you see that the friend you’ve known your whole life has a different experience of the world because his skin color is different than yours? Can you see a rich person and someone struggling? Can you actively look to see past your blind spots? This is important because without the ability to do so, you can miss important information about your friends, your family, the people you work with, and the broader world around you, as well as about your finances.

What is “Blindspotting”? You’ll find that out when you go to see the movie. (And seriously, go see it.) We’ve all heard of blind spots: something in your range of vision that you should be able to see, but which is obstructed. The obstructions come from a variety of sources, but they can come straight from you: a blind spot is a predisposition, a prejudice. The most dangerous are the ones that you don’t know you have. Dangerous because you may think you are lighting candlesticks when you are lighting dynamite.

We all have them. We are all products of our own stories and experience: our upbringing, our families, and the shortcuts that help us make sense of the world. Sometimes those shortcuts don’t show us the whole picture and result in blind spots. Here are three common ones that might impact your personal financial life, and one additional that can cause you to negatively affect someone else’s:

Confirmation bias – You embrace information that supports your perspective and cultivate a blind spot to that which contradicts it. You buy a stock and when there is good news about the stock, you acknowledge that and feel you have made a wise investment. When there is negative information about the stock, you discount the news.

Recognizing that you’re likely to have a bias for the choices you make and being able to look past that blind spot and take in all relevant information about an investment will make you a better investor.

Over-confidence – What you’ve done in the past has been successful, so you are confident that you know what you’re doing. You have a blind spot to the role luck can play and to evidence itself, and in investment management, that’s one place where numbers don’t lie.

You invest in real estate and home prices soar. You feel like a brilliant investor. Real estate prices plunge, and you blame the market, not your strategy. The blind spot is your confidence in your ability versus the capriciousness of markets.  Why you were investing in real estate in the first place should be your benchmark: you needed a home and were buying for the long-term, or you wanted a long-term investment in rental property and could carry the on-going costs of the property during the periods you couldn’t rent it. That’s the measure you need to be using as a benchmark for success, not your ability to time a market. It’s hard not to get caught up in a frenzy, which also makes it the best time to go back to your desk and work through the numbers to see if an investment will meet your goals over your time horizon.

Note that the corollary of over-confidence exists as well: under-confidence. You invest in the S&P 500 and the market goes up. You consider yourself lucky. The market falls and you blame yourself for a bad investment. Your blind spot is self-confidence: without question, luck factors into timing of investing. But if you invested in the S&P 500 as a long-term strategy for growth, knowing that there will be market fluctuations, there is no luck or blame, that is a solid strategy.

Rationalizing: You overspend but explain how much you’re saving by buying things on sale. You desperately want to get out of debt but as soon as you’ve freed up some extra income, you’ve committed it to another loan or run up a balance on another credit card. You’ll start saving tomorrow.

We are creatures of habit. We are attached to our rituals, our patterns, our ways of doing things, and accepting that they may not be serving us – to say nothing of actually changing them – is hard to do. The blind spot is what you believe is really important and whether your actions support it. What is your goal? Looking at actions instead of hopes or dreams is where planning comes in. All of the above actions are rational in some way to the person making them. Seeing how the action (buying something you don’t expressly need because it’s on sale) impacts your stated goal (saving for a vacation to Italy) can help you release an old rationale and better align actions with what you really want.

And one more for the other people in your life:

Making an Assumption: This is the quickest shortcut we all use. You don’t give the plum project to the new parent because it involves travel and you assume they wouldn’t be interested in that now. You order a $90 bottle of wine at dinner with a friend, not realizing that her half of the price of the wine was what she was budgeting for the whole meal. You see your neighbor’s new Tesla, their designer shoes, the gardener at their house and you assume they are greedy and material people.

But are you making an assumption that interferes with seeing the whole picture? Your predisposition creates a blind spot. You won’t see the whole picture in each case until you ask questions and learn more. You’ll retain a prejudiced view of what a new parent wants at work, what your friend can afford, and what your neighbor is really like. The effort to see a blind spot takes time and attention and energy, all of which feel for most of us like increasingly scarce resources.

These decisions we make based on our biases, our assumptions, our blind spots, can have a very real impact on the lives – financial and otherwise – of other people. You limit the professional growth of an employee, you burden a friend with an unexpected expense, you fail to offer friendship to a neighbor because you are operating in a blind spot.

Are you seeing what you think you are seeing? Or could there be another way of looking at something? Can you step back and take in the whole picture objectively? Could there be more to the story? People and situations can be more than one thing. In developing an awareness of what we know for a fact, setting aside the shortcuts, expanding our view into blind spots, we get better information for action. Blind spots are not blindness – we can improve the completeness of what we see. It requires observation, attention, and sometimes confronting a limitation under which we’ve been operating.

Financial self-awareness is the first step. Learning to be aware of our blind spots can lead us to greater understanding, compassion, and better decision-making all around.

As for Blindspotting the movie, my experience at the SIFF screening was intense and very personal. There is an art to allowing us to laugh while we cry, something Shakespearean about giving us that release so that we can continue to watch, to engage, to care about these characters, flawed as they may be, in the short time we have with them. This is a powerful film, coming at a time when we are churning up some deeply held beliefs among us, which I continue to believe is the first part of healing. Right now it may not feel like we’re making progress, yet like any problem – or blind spot – you can’t do anything to change it until you recognize it’s there.

It is only a movie. But if it promotes a continued conversation about racial tension, police violence, gentrification, growing income inequality, and how we can promote empathy and compassion while tackling these issues, then it is so much more.  Blindspotting opens nationwide July 27th.

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Three Easy Resolutions for 2016

Posted on Jan 3, 2016 in Health, Planning, Relationship

I love making resolutions. I make them at New Year’s, at mid-year, and in the Fall when we’re headed into the end of the year.  Even if you’re not the type to make resolutions, here are three I hope you’ll consider:

  1. Move – Whether you hit the gym, run in the neighborhood, walk in the park or dance around the house, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you move. You can sit on your backside for 23-1/2 hours a day, but for at least 30 minutes, get up and shake up your system. In addition to helping any “lose 10 pounds” resolution you may have, this one also helps your other bottom line:  one of the big contributors to disability is stress, and one of the biggest unexpected costs in retirement is medical expenses.  Exercise improves your health (and its associated costs) in many ways, and boosts your mood.
  2. Love – It takes 20 seconds for a hug to change your body chemistry for the better. According to the University of North Carolina study, after 20 seconds you get the oxytocin release that reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) and supports the bond you have with that person. If you’re looking to build meaningful relationships, one easy way to do that is to hug a little longer. Your longer hugs can benefit your heart and blood pressure, too.
  3. Save – You might guess this resolution would be on my list, but it’s not what you think. Often we’re pulled in multiple directions by the different threads of our lives, and at the end of the day we can end up feeling, well, frayed. This year, make a resolution to save a part of your day or week just for you. It won’t make you a bad parent, a weak employee, or a selfish spouse. It may just help you do all those other things better. We each need something that’s just ours. A mediation practice, learning a musical instrument, cultivating a sport. It might seem frivolous, but those 15 or 30 minutes of focus on this thing that’s yours can take you out of whatever the rest of life may be throwing at you, and give you not only a break, but also something you can never lose.

These three goals can leave you with amped endorphins, oxytocin, and joy. And who knows what other resolutions you could tackle after these? Imagine what your life could be like – working towards all those other goals we all set – with an energetic, relaxed, and joyful countenance?  If your financial planning goals are intended to ultimately lead you to a happy and fulfilled life, aren’t you making a good start towards meeting those goals with these three?

Mantras

In the last few years, I’ve also added a “mantra” for the New Year, a phrase or saying that will encourage me in certain ways. The first year I did it, I had realized that I had become way too attached to certain outcomes, a sure path to unhappiness. My mantra that year was “Just Say Yes.”  Yes to the movie the friend suggested, yes to speaking at an event I wasn’t sure about, yes to going with the flow (and “no” to trying to control everything).  Shonda Rhimes, one of my heroes, did a “Just Say Yes” year recently and loved the way it opened up her life so much she took time away from writing her television juggernaut to write a book about it: http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/shonda-rhimes-year-of-yes-tgit-1201632148/)

Like many people, I also have a weight loss goal for the New Year. And I want to push myself professionally by sharing more personally, a sometimes intimidating act. So for 2016, I have two mantras: “I’d rather be slender and sexy” (for when I really want a cheeseburger and a glass of wine) and “Don’t be afraid” (for the many times when my left brain wants to thwart my right brain and stop me from moving forward with a new idea). We all have scripts that run in our heads, and changing them up from time to time can help push you to do something you might not do otherwise.  Think about what your best friend might tell you when you’re stretching to meet a goal, and put that good voice in your head.

So for 2016, in addition to hitting the gym regularly, hugging my friends longer, and taking French lessons to regain my language skills, I’ll also be watching my diet and pushing myself a little further in the office.  I’m betting the first three will help me stick to the last two.

No one ever said resolutions have to be tough. You’re just setting your intention to do something. Walk, hug, cultivate something you love.  It’s your life, you get one shot.  You have 365 days to do your best to make this year the one you want it to be.

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Starting the Financial Conversation: Moving In

Posted on Oct 3, 2015 in Divorce, Planning, Relationship

Five Things to Do Before You Move in Together

  1. TALK! Talk about your financial expectations in the relationship. Talk about how you are going to handle money. Who will pay for what?  Will you split expenses fifty-fifty?  Or according to how much each earns?  Have you shared complete financial information? Or do you want to keep certain things private? (I would recommend an open book relationship.)
  2. Talk some more: Whose name is on the lease/mortgage? What will happen if someone loses his/her job? If one of you ends up moving out?  Now is the time when you want to consider how to protect and care for each other, to consider a range of future scenarios, even those that seem remote.
  3. Frame your money conversation around how you will agree to protect and support the other in all ways — emotionally, physically, and financially — through your anticipated life transitions. It’s fair to also talk about what’s yours, but start with the easy stuff.  Retreating into self-protection can set you up for a defensive response, closing off a conversation before it gets started. If you can stay open to listen to your intended, your conversation can reveal what you value.
  4. Educate yourself about how to share and/or protect assets with your partner.  You may unwittingly create community property or a third party interest in separate property if you’re not careful.  If you get married and later divorce, the time living together could be factored into what would be considered a meretricious/common law relationship.
  5. Find a facilitator, whether an attorney, or couples counselor, faith-based advisor or secular guide. An objective party can be helpful not only for the necessary financial conversation, but to help you communicate and manage other negotiations you will have as time goes by.

It can be difficult to have these conversations, but if money conflicts are at the root of the majority of couples’ crises, don’t you owe it to yourself to tackle the questions that will help you establish a strong foundation from the beginning?

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When Your Partner Has a Secret Life

Posted on Apr 18, 2014 in Divorce, Family, Relationship

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, many turned to the dead bomber’s widow for answers. What seems impossible for some to believe is that she knew nothing of her husband’s plans. How could she be so close and not know?  Here, a year later, I can offer my perspective from my own experience.

In the last years of my marriage, I discovered my husband had a secret life. There had been hidden addiction, other relationships, thousands of dollars from our accounts that went missing.   It all came out slowly, painfully, over a period of years. It wasn’t until I saw the funds missing from our accounts, which couldn’t be explained away with a story, that I finally could see the truth.

But prior to that, I wanted to believe my husband. I loved and trusted him. We’d met as sophomores in college and had known each other for 25 years. And even though he’d been caught in that first lie that started the unraveling of our marriage, I wanted to believe that after that he was telling the truth. That I fell for that over and over – well, that speaks to my contribution to our dynamic. I couldn’t see some of what was going on because I didn’t want to. Other parts he hid deliberately and effectively. Other people, friends, and family were complicit in the charade because they didn’t want to believe the truth about him either.

From time to time I asked questions. And I would get answers that didn’t quite make sense. Or answers that were true – but incomplete. There were periods when I worried about my mental state. He said he’d told me something, but I was pretty sure he had not. Case in point was his description of a trip he was taking. He was going to see his brother and he’d found a hotel with a cheap local’s rate. That much was true. What was revealed after a forensic search of his credit card statements was that he made the trip with another woman (and her dog), paid for their airfare, meals and shopping from our money. The hotel with the local’s rate was a four-star resort. He could say what he’d told me was the truth. But there’s a reason they make you swear in court to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Slowly I began to see half-truths, omissions, and out-and-out lies.

You want to believe the people you love, especially if the truth is too painful to see. There were many times I felt something was wrong, but didn’t know what to do about it. The lesson for me was how to press for answers, how to keep my partner engaged in a difficult conversations, and at least for me, if he can’t participate in these difficult talks, to leave.

Some of the things you might look for if you suspect your partner is hiding something from you are the following:

  • Creating distance between you – My husband was pulling away from me, physically and emotionally. All long-term relationships go through ups and downs.  He also created distance by coming home consistently later than he’d said. I used to joke that if he said he’d be home at 5:30, I’d see him at 7. What I should have done is kept trying to close the distance. It might not have changed the end result, but I think the truth would have come to light sooner.
  • Things may not be what they seem – What you think you see may not be correct – actions may be subject to interpretation. I had an explanation for what was happening in my marriage: many times I was put off because my husband had work to do. He was dedicated to his job (an attribute I admired greatly) and I wasn’t going to interfere with his work. Only later I learned much of that time spent “working” was actually on-line and in person with other women, other activities that were not advancing his career.
  • Denial – My ex-husband had a difficult and traumatic childhood. That he survived it, and even thrived as an adult in his work life, was again a quality I found laudable. His family and even our marriage counselor supported his inability to talk about difficulty in our relationship as “being stoic” or “flooding”—being so overcome during an emotionally-charged time that he could not speak. His father had been a bigamist, and spent time in prison. There was no way his family was going to believe that my husband would grow up to hide things like his father. It worked to his advantage that there was no expectation that he needed to explain his actions or thoughts. That was just him being stoic.
  • Manipulation – What I didn’t see was that he used this vulnerability to get what he wanted from me, and the rest of his family. Unhappy in a city with limited career choices for me, I suggested I move temporarily to another city, apprentice in a new field, and return to start a new career. In tears and on his knees, he told me how he didn’t want us to be apart. Despite my deep dissatisfaction with my own career prospects, but not wanting to have him be so unhappy, I stayed. When I look back over our years together, I see this pattern of my wanting something, his hurt, my wanting to stop that hurt more than honor my own needs, and relinquishing my want.
  • Deep investment in the marriage – I loved and respected my husband, and I believed we are each responsible for our own happiness. Things that started off as small slights – being inattentive at a party, coming home late, using work as an excuse to abandon our Thursday Date Nights and time with family – these added up over time. But I wasn’t going to leave him over these things. We had been together since college, and I doubled down and worked harder to be happy on my own – which should have been an indicator itself of a troubled marriage.

In my case there was no terrorist plot. There was just a man who got off by hiding things from his wife. Being so close to him, at least in my case, was part of the problem. And for a long time, I didn’t want to see it. Once I did, my life made a lot more sense.

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Getting Kicked Out of the Tribe, Part 1: You’ve Struck it Rich

Posted on Apr 28, 2013 in Community, Family, Philanthropy, Relationship

Congratulations. You’ve won the Google/Facebook/Amazon lottery. You got in on the ground floor of a successful company, you’ve worked hard, and it’s paid off. So what’s the downside?

Unless your entire social circle consists of co-workers enjoying the same liquidity event, you will likely experience shifts in your Tribe. That group of people you depend on for social connection, feedback, belonging, and the occasional phone call at 3:30 in the morning for bail money. That’s your Tribe. You’ve typically accumulated them over time based on shared experiences, or from a particular, notable point in your past. These are the friends you’ve had since kindergarten, the buddies you hung with in college, your cohort at that first job.

Even if the members of your tribe all won the lottery along with you, family members might see you differently, and expect different things from you. Take an extreme case, that of Michael Jackson and his family. Jackson was a hugely talented, hard-working artist whose success was deemed by his family to belong to them collectively. He was most conflicted about how to help his mother, Katherine, a fight many successful kids face. His painful struggle was meticulously and poignantly described in Randall Sullivan’s biography, Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. Four years after his death, Jackson is still in the news, and his family is still fighting to get what they feel is theirs. (Katherine Jackson’s wrongful death suit against AEG, Jackson’s concert promoter, seeks damages based on Jackson’s future earnings potential, estimated to be $40 billion.) Jackson’s effort to make everyone happy took its toll as the extended family piled on to let his wealth support their lifestyles. Expectations regarding what you can do for family now that you’ve hit the jackpot can create new tensions in these relationships.

What Happens When You Come into Money
Any major shift in one’s personal circumstances is accompanied by a shock to the system. New money often comes with a rush of emotions: euphoria, guilt, fear, numbness, relief, feeling unworthy, depression. Making financial decisions in an emotional space is never wise, so first give yourself some time to adjust. Don’t spend it all, don’t give it all away; you can do these things later on if you still want to. Right now, wait, and do some research on getting help to sort out your financial options.

Once it becomes known you’ve hit the jackpot, you are a target. A target for scam artists, money-seeking paramours, friends and distant and not-so-distant family who may have a changed view of you. Part of my work involves helping clients given away their excess – helping them design a philanthropic strategy to improve the parts of the world they value most. In the beginning, I was impressed with those who gave anonymously. I felt slightly guilty that personally I wanted the credit for my own donations. But often these lists of donors are targets for salespeople, scammers and highly specialized professional lawsuit creators. These donors were giving anonymously perhaps because they didn’t need the validation of seeing their names in the annual report, but in large part they were giving anonymously to protect themselves.

You Will Need to Work to Keep the Friends Who Matter
Most celebrity success stories – those people who manage to skirt the ego-engorgement and excesses that often come with renown — have a Tribe that goes back to their pre-fame days. These are the people who will laugh in your face when you get a little too full of yourself. Who will be there to bounce ideas off of, with no vested interest in the result other than trying to give you the best advice they can. They are the people who liked you even before you came into money or fame. These are the people who know you, and can call out when something you’re suggesting doesn’t fit with who they know you to be. They will remind you who you are.

Once you’re surrounded by people who are on your payroll (for real, or just every time you’re picking up the tab) it becomes very hard to know whether they are telling you the truth. An early Microsoftie who signed on in the late ‘80s retired several years later at 33. He found himself surrounded by a great group of people who enjoyed a lot of the same music, the same clubs, the same lifestyle he did. Until the tech bust wiped out his ability to buy them drinks. Suddenly he was dealing with a personal financial crisis that turned his world upside down and a time in which needed friends the most. Turns out that’s when they needed him the least. He was alone in his house, sorting out what was left of his portfolio, including a hefty tax bill, with no one to turn to for support.

What to Do?
•  Recognize that your friends will not be able to keep up.  You might pick up the tab from time to time, but the friends that are worth keeping won’t want to be on your payroll. Consider mixing up time in the VIP suite at the Giants game with lunch at a food truck to maintain some reciprocity in your relationship.
•  Be aware that you will attract attention. Buy that Model S and you’ll get attention. Carry that Prada bag and you’ll get attention. Move into that posh place in the city, and you’ll draw attention. That’s not always a bad thing, but recognize that it becomes more difficult to discern the draw of your charm from the draw of your dough.
•   See an estate attorney. You might not yet have stuff to protect, but you have moved into a situation in which establishing trusts to protect financial assets could make sense. You may also want to shield future acquisitions of property from the probing eyes of others.
•  Take a minute to think about what a shot at what financial freedom really means. The first question I ask new clients is what they would do if they were financial free. Money is no longer an issue. What would you change in your life? Would you change anything? Continue to work? Focus on different things? Retire? Can you really handle 50+ years of golf? Include everything – things, people, experiences — you think you want. Now is the time to consider how you really want your life to look.
•  Recognize that building new relationships will be challenging. I think this is the hardest part of new money. How do you want to develop relationships going forward? It might be easy to offer to buy lunch, treat a friend to a show, or try in other ways to even the playing field. But are you trying to make things more even between friends, or subtly buying affection? What are you worth to your friends, new and old? Do you feel you have something to offer besides money? Recognize that you may literally buy in to new groups to which access comes with money, but these relationships are based on a monetary foundation. They may evolve into more, but don’t confuse buying access with earning acceptance.

Education is your best defense against missteps that can derail your good fortune. Finding a financial advisor who can offer objective analysis and support over the course of your transition to your new circumstances, and a sounding board for decisions going forward, can be hugely beneficial. At a minimum, your advisor can be the “bad guy” who you can blame for not being able to fulfill the demands or other financially questionable requests from others. Fee-only financial advisors offer their advice free of conflicts from selling specific products, and many offer holistic planning that incorporates aspects of your financial life beyond your portfolio, including taxes, residential real estate, asset protection, charitable giving and long-term planning. You can search for a fee-only financial advisor in your area through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA): http://www.napfa.org/index.asp

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Dearly Beloved, We Are Gathered Here

Posted on Mar 31, 2013 in Blog, Community, Family, LGBT, Relationship

I’m adding to the already crowded blogosphere with the intent to explore the following question: how do we deploy our resources – financial and otherwise — in a way that makes us happy?  And how do we do this with eyes wide open to the distractions and detours that lead us astray?  It’s one thing to have money; it’s another to have a rich life.  I’m operating on the premise that money alone doesn’t do it; it’s our connection to others – partner, family, friends, community – that makes life worth living.    

There’s not a better time to start the thread of this blog, with the Supreme Court hearing two cases on the future of marriage.  Technically it’s about same-sex marriage.  But at the core of this issue is our ability to partner with someone who lets us be our best self, supports us in good times and bad, and helps us build a life based in love.

We all know how imperfect heterosexual marriage is.  Ok, every relationship is imperfect. But that struggle to find someone who will hold you, fight with you, defend you, love you despite bad hair (or no hair), embrace who you are and challenge you to be your best –THAT is what it’s all about.  The idea of denying that when someone has found it is beyond my understanding.

When I was married, I loved my husband with my whole heart.  And I wondered how life would be if I couldn’t love him because he was blond, like me.  It didn’t make my feelings any less strong. It just made me feel incredibly sad to think that as a society we were denying others love. I didn’t love him because he was blond.  I loved him for who he was, and he happened to be blond.

Under the marriage contract as it stands, we have laws that make it difficult if not impossible to allow us to protect spouses who are victims of domestic violence.  That is the kind of marital bond we should be working to end.  But instead we fail to recognize another couple’s commitment to care for one another and deny them this right often at the most vulnerable time, at the end of life.  The closest comparison I can make from personal experience is being with my canine companion, my dog, Katie, when she was humanely put to sleep several weeks after a diagnosis of terminal and painful liver cancer.  I don’t know how I could have left her in a strange room, with strangers, in her last moments.  I cannot fathom that we would deny someone the right to be with the person to whom they’ve committed their life at the end of it.

Some of the fretting over same-sex marriage has to do with “”redefining” the institution.  It’s about time.  You promise some lofty things in a traditional marriage ceremony, but there is little to back up performance under this contract. (All you men can relax, I’m not talking about THAT kind of performance.)  It used to be that women were property in a marriage.  It used to be that sex was a husband’s right and a wife’s obligation. 

Those things have changed – we have already redefined marriage. Now let’s bring it into the 21st century.  What would a newly redefined version of marriage look like?  Maybe let’s set some performance standards and look at how a couple “loves, honors and cherishes” each other.  When was the last hug?  The last compliment?  The last kind act?  We want to foster long-term relationship, so let’s evaluate this over time: When was the last compliment after 10 years of marriage? After 30 years? If having children is one reason for marriage, many same-sex couples have met that requirement — and as I’ll hit 50 this year, I’m past that life stage. Am I to be denied marriage if I find a man I love? In a traditional ceremony, you promise to “forsake all others.” In no fault states[1], being a faithful spouse doesn’t count for anything under the law, and there’s no penalty for cheating.  Perhaps under a redefined marriage contract you’ll lose those tax benefits of marriage if you stray? 

As a happily divorced person, I’m more inclined to channel Mae West’s philosophy on marriage being a great institution — and how I’m not ready for an institution. In the end, what I support is finding love, partnership, community – wherever it leads you.  To live without those things is to be exiled to a half-life.  This is an opportunity to look at actions over words, at what we want to cultivate in each other, and define marriage in those terms. 

Love, respect, safety, integrity, equality.  We could start there.



[1] “No-fault” divorce is one in which a finding of wrong-doing is not required by either party. Prior to passage of no-fault legislation (first signed into law by California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1969), divorce required a party to prove breach of the marriage contract to sue for dissolution.  Passage of no-fault laws effectively eliminated the marriage “contract.”

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