Life is a marriage; to your wife, your family, your job, or your addiction. In managing the relationships we form, we need to be very aware that the decisions made early on can be the most critical to their longevity and value.
Sensing that this already reads like a how-to book, the lesson is over. To paraphrase a philosopher, “the rest is commentary.” Learn it, learn from it.
Most of us tend to be at our very cores a little selfish. Nothing is wrong with that – it’s life. We all want to get ahead and be happy, so we find ways of making that happen. Is money the key to happiness? We are always taught that it most certainly is not, yet money seems to drive us anyway.
We work; some of us even slave (it’s an East Coast thing, Californians seem to have a better grasp on the work-life balance concept), because we need to pay the bills necessary to survive; if we are lucky we can even make enough to have a few things we want as well. Is that happiness? Emphatically No! But the alternative of living without the basics is certainly not appealing and unquestionably not a recipe for joy.
So here we are. As my rich uncle used to tell me when we still spoke to one another – before family financials caused our relationship to be tested before a probate judge – “Money won’t buy happiness, but it makes being unhappy a hell of a lot easier.” His own story is proof of that. He’s an ass, but he was right.
So my relationship with my uncle, who was essentially a father to me, soured with money as a catalyst – but I venture it had more to do with his maternal abandonment psychoses than anything else. To say blood is thicker than water may be truthful, but while a simple compound of hydrogen and oxygen may not be sufficient to break family bonds, evidently those same bonds often prove to be no match against the more complex compound mixture of highly classified paper, cotton, and green and black ink.
Family is perhaps the toughest set of relationships to maintain. Culture trains us to give more love to and accept more abuse from family. What we do for our siblings, parents, children, spouses and related blood lines, and even for good friends, are things we may never consider doing for our neighbors. Yet, we sometimes extend some of those courtesies in business for the purely selfish reasons of wanting a return on the investment. For family, the return is often purely emotional.
When it comes to blood we allow a lot more leeway. Actual marriage is different; with the divorce rates soaring, it is obvious that the bonds between a husband and wife are often as tenuous as those with the people we have casual contact with. It shouldn’t be that way, but we live in a disposable world today; paper cups, cell phones, cameras and utilitarian unions between two people. When it no longer makes us feel good, rather than struggling to make it work, we’re just done with it.
So how do we make marriage work for both today and tomorrow? If I knew that answer I could replace Dr. Phil, making his kind of money. Relationships are hard; marriage is hard. Why not just move on when it gets rough?
We tend to thrive when our relationships are rooted in honesty. Anyone without the moral courage to just deal with the truth and trust that it will serve his interests best will eventually get caught in his own web. Without fail, we see it every day. In politics, for example, we witnessed the fall of the former New York Governor, Attorney General and pursuer of truth and justice, the mighty Eliot Spitzer. Congress members, senators, mayors, and presidents alike have all fallen because the lie they told became too broad and deep to cover.
Businessmen too have fallen; take the executives at Enron and more recently with Société Générale, when a young futures trader Jérôme Kerviel lied about $7.18 Billion in losses for years, trying to maintain his status of looking good, driving nice cars and impressing the women.
Watch E! Entertainment just once to see how the rich and famous marry and divorce one another. It’s like they’re swapping Topps Company’s Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. Personal unions fail everyday because of dishonesty; not necessarily cheating or adultery at first. Sure, there are those who are just impetuously attracted to every pair of legs that walk into a room. But for most, whose marriage starts with a genuine will to make it work and an understanding that we leave the urges and lusts behind us at the alter, the straying in those often begins after the romance and warmth have eroded over time due to smaller infractions, usually little white lies that grew.
What we often fail to do is truly be honest for fear that the hidden truths may scare away that perceived love of your life. So we date, we court and we present an image that attracts. We keep at bay the darkness we believe will cause a tipping point, tipping the wrong way of course.
That is the first mistake. Someone may be smart, pretty, and loving, but if you believe she will turn on you if ‘she really knew’ whatever nefarious piece of history you’re hiding, than I am afraid that you’re in for a rude awaking. You are also either underestimating your ‘true love’s’ ability to love you, or in-fact, deluding yourself into believing that she is that love. If you don’t have enough trust and faith to share, it is hard to expect much in return when you’re in dire need of the same.
Cleary there are always minor exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, if your relationship is not built on trust, perhaps it is not the relationship you want to believe it is. The lines between success and failure can often feel fragile as an eggshell and as easily broken as a child’s heart. The ability to walk that line rests on one’s own sense of right and wrong.
Honesty is crucial. Goodness is necessary. Business relies on it. Deal honestly and in time, those you were upfront with may become your closest business allies. When people spend their money to make money, they want to do it with people whom past positive experiences shone bright. The adage of being nice to those you meet on the way up because they’ll be the ones you may see on the way down is right, but not enough. They’ll also be the ones who help you continue rising.