Chapter 10 - Choosing a Partner

Relationship Help - Personal Goals - Family Money

You do not go through life without doing joint ventures. You always have to rely on people to work with you honestly and fairly. You have employees or co-workers, friends and you have your family. Most of these people have limited access to your personal finances. They are not difficult to deal with, as they usually are not involved with your capacity to make and manage your money. They can be full of advice but they do not have access to your accounts.

However business partners and a “life partner” version of marriage partner are much closer. They are intimately involved in your capacity to make money in both cases. In the latter case, you have to work with your life partner to make money as a team, and then manage that 2-cent take home money. No relationship has as much influence on your capacity to manage your money properly. A couple working harmoniously can achieve financial security relatively quickly. A couple with conflicts can undo decades of building in months. The most helpful and the most dangerous people to you and your money are the people closest to you.

How to do it once and do it right

If I could answer this question, I would be the richest guy in the world. There do not seem to be any rules. Some couples who stay together for life should not get through get through with a lifetime marriage. Some marriages are in such a state that you wonder why they ever did get together. Some marriages are very successful in every way including financial…and one like this that I know was a case of love at first sight. Some make it through with one being as bad at life as the other in all aspects of life. Go figure?

Movies and advertising constantly bombard us with romance. The story in the movie or the advertisement ends with the couple at the height of bliss. Soap operas try to put a wedding in the script as ratings always rise for the week or two that they have this story line. We are romantics. Romance is fun. Marriage is fun but it is also a lot of work and discipline.

If I could get couples to choose wisely and live together happily ever after, the next goals would be to bring world peace and solve the problem of global warming. Prince Charming and Cinderella and living happily ever after only exist in fairy tales. Real life is full of challenges and changes. Even the best marriages have rough times when one partner is doubtful of the other whether it is character, fidelity, behaviour, or financial endeavours

The mind sometimes has to overrule the emotions and control behaviour in a successful marriage. This is especially true when one partner or the other has made a mistake or is challenged by one of the other aspects of their life. In successful marriages the partners have staying power. They stick with each other through the challenging times and the exhausting time. In successful marriages the partners have to like doing hard things together for a long time. Building a business, paying off a mortgage and raising children are long term and very hard projects. They test your capacities and push you past your limits of endurance. It is an “outward bound” experience.

The challenges are huge but the rewards are great. You should be able to work with a partner to brainstorm and see problems coming and solve them before they become a crisis. When one has a bad day, the other can step up and be strong. On another day the roles can be reversed. That way as a team you rarely have a disastrous day. As your project comes to fruition you share the satisfaction of success with someone who is now special because you did it together. Long-term projects build special and long-term relationships. No life is complete without them.

When it goes wrong

The reason that I have given this a special chapter in this book is because I have witnessed divorce and I have witnessed the treachery of a business partner undoing the good works of hard working and diligent people. I have witnessed the huge emotional damage it does and I have witnessed how long the damage lasts. In some cases it can permanently hobble one’s capacity to have a normal life. I can think of no personal relationship that does as much good as a partnership working well. On the other hand there is nothing that can undo years of progress as quickly as a relationship gone sour. Emotions can motivate vindictive and destructive behaviour. I have seen people engage in the worst kinds of self-destructive behaviour just so that they can take the other person down with them. I use the life partner term not just to be current. In the few homosexual or lesbian relationships I know, the behaviour patterns for success or failure are remarkably identical to those in heterosexual partner relationships. This is bourn out in the news of how fast some of the new same sex marriages have come undone.

There is a song about just this situation. A woman wants to get back at her guy for cheating on her. So she, and in the song she coaches other women to do the same, makes sure that she destroys this guy’s financial health as revenge for him betraying her love. She runs up the bills, doesn’t pay the mortgage, runs up the credit cards and spends as much cash as possible. Now let’s make this clear, the other gender can operate the same way. Bad behaviour and such irresponsible behaviour is not gender specific.

In the case of a business, you pool your resources with some one or some people that you think will make a good team. Once in and your financial resources are at risk, you find out that a partner is incompetent, lazy, scheming or lying. You have signed a long-term contract to work with these people or this person. You know that this situation can take the business down and you with it.

How did you get into such messes? How do you get out of these messes? Why you? Is a hit man an option?

How not to get into these messes

I can’t think of anyone who has gotten through life unscathed so the header is misleading because you will get into these messes. You are bound to exercise bad judgement every now and then as part of being human. In youth you are compelled to take chances. Peer pressure moves you to do things that an iota of reflection flashes a judgement that the behaviour is stupid. It is funny though, if you survived. Anybody reading this and not having one of their own stupidest acts running through their mind right now was a boring person. Guys love to sit around over a few beers and laugh about stories of insane acts. However, adventure is one thing and insanity is another.

Be young and stupid while you are young and stupid. First, you don’t have much besides life and limb to lose. You are only harming yourself and hopefully you will learn good judgement from all of your bad judgements. Your body and emotions are young and resilient. The other positive about being young and stupid is that you have lots of time to recover from the damage done by your stupidity. And you will recover. Once you have it out of your system, you will help yourself by using good judgement and choose to do smart things instead of “crazy kid things”.

Learn about relationships while you are in your youth. Watch your friends and learn from their misadventures. Watch soap operas and do not engage in any of that behaviour. Watch grownups engage in childish behaviour that tears their lives apart. Engaging in stupid behaviour is like hitting your head against a post. You find that it feels much better when you stop. Stupid behaviour may get you a lot of laughs in your youth, but it does get old. The older you get, the older it gets for those watching you. Engaging in stupid behaviour leads to trying to out-stupid yourself or others. This brinkmanship leads to you engaging in such stupid behaviour that it crosses over the boundary into the area of self-destructive behaviour.

What does all this have to do with choosing a partner? This is a hard one to put into words succinctly because there are so many ways to screw up relationships. Some people seem to be able to get away with breaking the rules and they stay together. I don’t know how that works. No one has a special recipe for success. It is a “whatever works” situation. However there are more recipes for failure than there are for success. Experience and learning from bad judgement seems to help you learn what works and what does not work.

You will learn that there are boundaries to everything. You are allowed having some things that are private and so is your partner. You can have fun that is fun. Don’t overdo it to the point that it is self-destructive or destructive to your partnership. You cannot make huge mistakes and not expect to lose your partner. Adultery in a marriage is one thing that undoes all trust ever built. Embezzlement in a business would be about the same. You need to learn that it is often not what you say but how you say it. You will learn that timing is important in communication. Knowing not to speak in anger is best. Cool off and talk calmly later is how to solve a problem. You need to learn priorities and that your partner relationship is the most important human relationship that you will have in your lifetime. You will learn how to communicate about the smallest things. It is amazing how important this is. You will learn to tell the truth. Letting your partner know that something is private and you do not want to share it with them is being honest if it is not abused. You learn that just being there is all that is needed sometimes. Sometimes, a partnership and the work needed to make progress together are enormous to the point of being overwhelming. You have to believe that you can make it together. Then you have to figure out how which is much easier if you are committed to doing things together.

All this wisdom sounds great. However, wisdom comes with experience and you usually get the urge to partner up while you are still young. Usually in youth that urge to partner up comes strong and often. How often have you used the adage in reference to yourself or others that “Love is blind”? Youth can be blind for decades. So what do you do to let in some light?

Youth are surrounded by full-fledged, card-carrying mentors. You just need to chose one and listen. That is what organizations like big brothers and big sisters are about. There are the Lions Club, the Rotary Club and many other fraternal or sorority like organizations that usually have charitable goals. Their other function is to provide the younger members with a pool of wisdom and the forum to learn from the older members. Some find a family member, a teacher, or just someone who recognizes youth that needs to be helped by a mentor. As a youth the important thing is for you to allow someone to be your mentor. For the mentor, the compliment is too flattering to be turned down and the responsibility is too large to be taken lightly. As children move into young adulthood, this is a role that can be fulfilled by a parent. When the parent relationship grows to the level of a quality and trusted mentorship, it is a normal and wonderful part of the developmental process of a family. If you are unsuccessful at finding someone that you trust, there is no shortage of counsellors and there is no shortage of self help literature. You don’t have to sign on to everything that is told to you, but you can shop around and try out different things. Then stick with the successful ideas and always keep looking. Life is a constant challenge with new things to learn at every transition. If you are really smart, use several mentors if you are lucky to have them.

What will a mentor counsel you about how to choose a partner? This mentor will tell you to ask the hard questions first. In a business you look at your potential partner’s track record. In a romantic relationship you look at the family that this person grew up in. How do the parents treat each other? What is their attitude to their partner? The reason that this is the first question visited is that this is where your partner grew up. These are the attitudes that this person lived with while growing up. These are the attitudes that your potential partner learned and what your partner will emulate. The saying goes, “You don’t just marry the person…you marry the family”. Other questions follow. Can this person contribute financially? Does this person have a future? Can this person be trusted with your heart and/or your money? Does this person have staying power? Does this person have courage? Do the positive personality traits out weigh the negative ones?

Choosing a partner is a huge decision. I cannot stress this enough. Do not take it lightly. If you can build a lifetime of happiness together, you will save yourself a lot of work over that lifetime and give yourself a lot of peace. You will build life goals and achieve them. You will teach the next generation to do the same. Staying away from the negativity of a broken home and family is worth the work, patience, time, love and thought that it takes. Asking questions may seem shallow and unromantic. The complete opposite is true. You are shallow and unromantic if you do not ask the questions. If you do not ask the hard questions before you commit you are not doing what it takes to assure that this most important relationship in your life is solid.

The result of choosing badly

What is common to most break-up scenarios is that emotions run very high. With money meaning more than just dollars and cents, emotionally injured parties try to hurt the other person’s power, freedom or confidence by doing damage to their financial situation. They will do it to the point of inflicting damage on their own power, freedom or confidence by damaging their own financial situation just so that the other person cannot have any of their money. These are people who have worked together to build some financial nest egg. The power of compound interest is working for them. They have pooled resources to do more together than two people could do separately. Part of the tragedy is that this is stopping. They are just starting to get time working for them and now it is stopping. The second part of the tragedy is that apart, they cannot accomplish as much. The third part of the tragedy is that there are many costs associated with breaking up any partnership. This is money thrown away. There is no return on that money. The courts of any country do not even give air miles for every dollar spent in them. The fourth part of the tragedy is that people will vindictively spend their assets on consumer items just to use it up so that there is none left. This is bizarre and self-destructive behaviour. The fifth part of this tragedy is that the worst of these people will drag this on for decades. They just won’t let go.

This is the financial personal equivalent to a natural disaster. If this occurs late in life, it is very difficult to recover and rebuild. Most of money’s friends need time to work. When couples divorce the only thing to do is to try and minimize the damage.

Some messes are harder to get out of than others

Most folks that start into a business have dollar signs in their eyes. Those walking down the aisle have hearts in their eyes. When things go bad, if you do not have the benefit of a mentor or mentors to raise your awareness of the perils that may await you, you have to get aware now. At this point clarity is hard to achieve because you will be in a state of anxiety. Your dreams are being destroyed. Your pride will be damaged. Your power will be diminished. Your confidence will be shaken. At some point you will realize that this is not a test. This is the real thing. Life is happening to you!

Your strategy will depend on you and the party you are dealing with. The ultimate goal should be to patch things up and move ahead with what is left. Get back to what you were doing right and correct the things you were doing wrong. If that is not the case, wait out the emotional fire and try not to fuel it. Then try to cut a deal to end the relationship. If there are ongoing issues such as children, make a plan to deal with it peacefully. The courts can’t solve your problems. Lawyers can’t solve your problems. Counsellors can’t solve your problems. They will try to lead you, follow you or get in the way and every time they do they take some of each partner’s money. Get help but get full value like any time you spend consumer money. In the end the courts don’t even want to solve your problems. That is because it is your job to solve your problems. You and your partner made the partnership…now take it apart. Try to do it as nicely as possible and there will be something left for each of you. Otherwise you are just spending all of your 2-cent money on the consumer goods of counsellors, lawyers and judges. You undo all of your hard work saving and all of your money’s hard work compounding.

Life goes on. You have made a mistake but learn from it. You will make mistakes and you will make big mistakes. Learn what to do right from what you did wrong. Learn big things about what to do right from big things that you did wrong. The Number One concept is LEARN!! The second concept is that you must move on with the rest of your life. Get over it. At first it is hard because you are alone and you have fallen from where you were. Hopefully, one thing that you have learned from your successes is what you have to do in the future for things to have a successful outcome. On your second time through the rules seem easier to follow and it takes less time as well.

Summary: It is about how to manage your number one relationship…partnership in life in particular. Mentors will help you make the right choice. We explain why you might fail and what to do if you fail.