Friday, 28 September 2012

Marriage: The Payoff Calculation

My reaction to being advised by Manosphere blogger Donlak that I need to Game My Wife (co-habitee, long-term girlfriend, moter of my children) non-stop, or Present Alpha All Day, Every Day, is simply this: "that's a ton of freaking work for what? Exactly?" The payoff thing matters. 

Here's what Donlak said are the benefits of marriage:

"Companionship, well cooked meals, an appropriate mother for your children, surrounded in a home that you are in command of, and you built with the mother in order to raise children in a stable loving environment; constant sex (again I’m assuming your marrying a decent looking babe or else why would you marry her?) chicks are also good at organizing mundane crap that I don’t want to do, they can do laundry, make appointments, take care of day to day house issues, and some are actually fun to be around for a great deal of time. It’s nice to always have something soft and doting and loving to be at your side for life."

Seriously, he said that. Here's the link, it's about half-way down the post. He actually wrote that and hit "Publish" and went to bed and slept soundly and woke up and didn't feel the slightest bit of doubt about it. Really. 

Let's say that those are "aspirational" rather than "expectational". 

Anyway sex isn't the big deal everyone thinks it is. Judging by what a number of my girlfriends have said, most men are three-minute men - stick it in, wiggle it about a bit, shoot their load, pull out and go watch the match on TV.

Well, err, I'm not. Which is fun for the girl, but not so much for me. So sex is off my marriage-payoff list. One-night stands and short affairs are fine, but after a while she's going to notice a lack of sticky male stuff and start getting suspicious ("if I'm not getting it, who is?") or insecure ("I can't satisfy him, when's he going to leave?"), either of which are bad for everyone's peace of mind. There's a good chance that she simply won't notice or care, as well: women who have only known the love of three-minute men think it's enough to show up and lie still for,,, three minutes. Also, it means I can't be managed-by-sex, as the one thing she can't do is throw me a quickie just to keep me sweet. Ladies, marry a three-minute man: it may not be so much fun for you, but it will make him manageable. So I'm going to leave the alleged benefits of sex out of my calculation. 

Children? The costly gift without price? You need to choose your wife and future mother of your children well. Because if she flips and takes away access to the kids, it will hurt like a mofo, you will be your ex-wife's bitch for the rest of your days, and in a sad proportion of the cases, you will watch two wonderful children turn into dope-smoking, rebellious, academic failures. I'm going to say that the expected benefit of having children nets out to not much: it might be high in a happy family, but it's way low in a divorced or dysfunctional one. 

This leaves money. To be sensible, an action must have an expected pay-off of greater than zero - this is Economics 101. So what's the payoff in marriage? In the UK, in 2010 cumulative divorce rates looked like this... (numbers in the triangle are cumulative percentage of marriages stating in the year that end in divorce by the anniversary)

Year of
Anniversary (years)
marriage
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40









1970
5
15
22
27
30
33
34
35
1975
7
18
25
30
34
36
37

1980
9
21
29
34
38
40


1985
10
23
30
36
40



1990
11
24
32
38




1995
11
25
33





2000
10
23






2005
8






  

The lifetime probability of divorce in the UK runs around 40%. We can assume that the split-up rate for live-in long-term relationships is higher. Try looking for the size of divorce settlements and you won't find anything as reliable. However, it's easier than that to do the calculation. First, is there a financial benefit to being married? You pay one set of council tax and one set of utilities bills. Every other cost is unchanged from when you were single, and house prices doubled long ago to take account of the fact that the woman was working as well. So, no, there isn't a lot of benefit. If you have children, that's a cost, and you may lose your wife's income for a number of years. If there was a study that showed married men get paid more than single men, it would be mentioned every time this discussion came up. It isn't and this is another time when absence of evidence means evidence of absence. The downside, the divorce settlement, does vary, but the target is a 50-50 split of assets gained since the marriage, unless she's taking the children, when he basically loses it all. So the expected value of marriage is:

60% of not much - 40% of at least half everything for the rest of your life

I'm going for that being less than zero.

Notice that in a divorce settlement, the wife/mother is not expected to compensate the husband/father for the loss of valuable access to the children, nor, for that matter, for the loss of her cooking and housekeeping skills, whereas he is handing over compensation for her loss of his earning power. This should strike you as a lot more problematical than it is. The reason it doesn't is that you and the lawyers think her housekeeping and sexual skills are worth, well, nothing, and are not convinced that the net benefits of child access in divorce to the father is positive (on the one hand, he sees them, on the other, he suffers the pain of loss and of having no chance to intervene in their rapidly deteriorating progress through school and life.)

In all this you still have a 3:2 chance of being the guy who gets the not-much, but here's the thing: you won't know whether you are one of the 3 or one of the 2 until you or your partner dies. When Aristotle said "call no man happy until he is dead" he was talking about good fortune and his point was that until the moment you die, your luck can run out and disaster can strike. Same point. At any point until her death, your wife can divorce you, take the money and turn you from a successful and happily-married man into a chump who didn't see it coming all these years. 

And that 60%? They aren't smug, happy, shiny, sexy marrieds. They are those uncles and guys at the office who won't talk about their marriages. How many times do older guys slap you round the shoulders and say "Not married yet son? Hurry up, you don't know what you're missing!" I've heard people say that about ski-ing and the Seychelles, but never about marriage. Like the dog that didn't bark in the night, the absence of remarks like these from men is a huge clue.

I've kinda known this stuff all my life. I thought I was being cynical and my family experience was un-typical and somewhere out there were a bunch of Normal People who had Happy Marriages and Happy Families. I thought there was Something Wrong With Me, and if I Fixed It, I Would Be Happy Too. Forty per cent says I'm right. Especially if Danlok is right and the guys in the other sixty per cent are either whipped or sleeping with one eye open. Sheesh.

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