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Missive #82

Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the English bar.This is the first book in a trilogy which I’ll read. Then decide if I want to read any of the other works by this author. She is British so there is some British English that may be off putting to some readers but I’ve become accustom to the ‘language’. It is a good read and I recommend it. Yet through it all he has carried with him the wounds of a difficult and emotionally hollow childhood. Now an eighty-year-old widower living in comfortable seclusion in Dorset, Feathers is finally free from the regimen of work and the sentimental scaffolding that has sustained him throughout his life. He slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, Feathers approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away.

Borrowing from biography and history, Jane Gardam has written a literary masterpiece reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s Baa Baa, Black Sheep that retraces much of the twentieth century’s torrid and momentous history. Feathers’ childhood in Malaya during the British Empire’s heyday, his schooling in pre-war England, his professional success in Southeast Asia and his return to England toward the end of the millennium, are vantage points from which the reader can observe the march forward of an eventful era and the steady progress of that man, Sir Edward Feathers, Old Filth himself, who embodies the century’s fate.— Book promo @ goodreads.com

It [The Biden Administration] has succeeded so far in avoiding that a major banking crisis occurs in the United States, thereby affecting also the global economy, but the worse has yet to come, particularly with respect to those households that are going to lose their subsides because of the US government decisions to cut a number of social benefits and tax credits for clean energies. The negative spiral that already exists as a result of different economic and financial issues is going to be aggravated thereby. There is also a major issue concerning foreign trade and financial flows, which are going to be much reduced by the ongoing de-dollarization of them by an increasing number of countries, both in Asia and Latin America. — Sergio Rossi, professor of macroeconomics and monetary economics at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Ask the Assassin: Thoughts on Marriage II, or
Would You Go on a Cruise Ship that Didn’t Have Lifeboats
 on a Cruise Line Where 60% of the Cruise Ships Sink?
By John Ross

Copyright 2005 by John Ross.  Electronic reproduction of this article freely permitted provided it is reproduced in its entirety with attribution given

My last column gave suggestions for steps financially successful men could take to increase the chances for a happy, lasting marriage.  This piece is focused on disaster management–steps these same men can take in advance that will reduce the awfulness of a divorce if one occurs despite their best efforts.

    Note 1: The usual disclaimer about my generalizations not applying to 100% of the female population.  If you are (or are married to) one of those women who don’t do any of the things I’m about to describe, great.  Keep up the good work.  Just don’t bother emailing me with complaints.

    Note 2: Most of the following does not apply if your wife is the breadwinner and your job is to sit around the house during the day and drink a case of beer while watching TV.  I say this in all seriousness, as there is a section of South St. Louis (Cherokee Street and thereabouts) where this is a common set of gender roles.

    Note 3: I am not a lawyer, and state laws vary anyway, so you should be reading this mainly for entertainment, and if any of these issues actually apply to you, print a copy of this piece and have your own lawyer review the ideas before you implement any of them.

    Note 4: There is a fair amount of “Divorce Advice for Men” already out there, in the form of books, websites, and e-books.  Many of these explain how your ex will lie in court, lie to her lawyer, hide money, clean out joint accounts, do other unethical things, etc.  Unfortunately, some of these advice sources then go on to advise the man to employ exactly these same tactics, often in advance as a pre-emptive strike.  If you are getting divorced and have no kids (and no sense of decency), go for it if you want.  But if children are involved, this is one of the worst things you can do in the long run.  Read on and you’ll see why.  And if you take the right preventive measures, most if not all of these unethical things will not be possible for her to accomplish.

    As I’ve said before in other columns about women, you should never think of American-born women as screwed-up men.  They are built from a different blueprint.  Reread my 11/5/03 column, particularly the sections on emotional sensitivity and integrity to feelings.  Realize that in a divorce, your wife will likely not be able to help herself.  Her emotions are going to be raging, and she is probably going to say and do horrible things.  Accept this.  She can’t help the fact that during an emotion-charged divorce she can’t think or act in a way that you would call honorable or rational, any more than most women can avoid shrieking at the sight of an unexpected mouse. 

    However, if you follow her lead, your actions will hurt you forever with your children.  Unless she’s in prison, your ex is going to get primary custody, period.  She will also eventually return to a more calm state of equilibrium, and will be relatively reasonable.  But if you have engaged in the same kind of reprehensible behavior during the divorce, she will never forget it, and her corrosive attitude towards you will be constantly evident to your kids.  This is not good.  Remember what I’ve said before about men remembering good things and reliving them mentally, while women focus on the negative events in their lives, and relive them over and over again?  That’s what will happen here.  So take the high road on this one, and plan to take a serious financial hit.  That’s the price you pay for your kids growing up without constantly being told what a bad person you are.  With some precautionary measures, you won’t be hit nearly as hard in a divorce, even if she engages in unethical behavior.

    1. After your health, your most valuable asset is time, and the cheapest way to pay for anything is with money.  Never forget this.  When in doubt, bail.  This goes counter to everything we’re bombarded with about marriage, such as the women’s magazine columns with titles like Can This Marriage Be Saved?  and constant reminders of how “a good marriage takes a lot of work.”  No, it doesn’t.  Bad marriages take lots of work.  Good marriages are easy.  When was the last time you heard a guy with his cute girlfriend sitting on his lap tell you “having a girlfriend takes a lot of work”?  The divorce rate is high, but most divorces only happen after years of unhappy marriage.  That means they involve children, and are expensive.  Those are bad things.  First marriages without kids are like practice frames in bowling.  They don’t count, and then you can get on with the real thing.  This is going to be hard for some of you, because you said those marriage vows, and you meant them.  In that case, you should have written your own vows that reflected reality.  Or just realize that when your bride vows “‘To love and to cherish  ’til death do us part,” she’ll only honor the words until she decides not to.  Don’t be too surprised if that moment comes a lot sooner than you expected.  Read on…

    Ross’ Rule of Successful Men’s Financial Restoration After a Divorce: Barring inheritances, winning the lottery, personal injury settlements, and other unpredictable one-time events, the number of years it will take for you to get from where you are on the day after your divorce is final to the same point you were financially on the day before you proposed will be approximately the same as the number of years you were married.  For example, if you proposed at age 31, married at age 32 and divorced after 9 years at age 41, you will be 50 by the time you’re back to where you were at age 31.

    If you are a man who aspires to a healthy, lasting marriage, actor Ernest Borgnine should be your role model.  He has now been married to his wife Tova Borgnine, a cosmetics entrepreneur, for over three decades.  I suspect they are happy with each other. Why do I suspect he’s happy and hasn’t been enduring a bad marriage as so many others are? Because Borgnine’s earlier marriage to Ethel Merman lasted less than five weeks!  What if he had stayed married (unhappily) to Ethel for a decade or so? I suspect his life would be worse than it is now.  If you are unhappy with the things your wife does, it’s not going to improve.  End it now and have more time left to find the right woman and have a good relationship with her.

    Most men would balk at the idea of filing for divorce a few weeks or even a year after the wedding.   They’ve spent all that money on the ring, the wedding, and the honeymoon, and now Ross is advising them to give up after a month or two? He must be crazy!  Guess what, Bunkie–you are never getting any of that money back, ever.  It’s gone.  Were you forgetting that?  Whatever memories of the wedding, reception, honeymoon, etc. are what they are, good or bad, and you’ll have them whether you divorce in six months or stay unsatisfied for ten years before giving up on her.  And as to why you might want to seriously consider divorcing soon after the wedding, let me let you in on a little secret: A large number of modern American-born women have little to no interest in sex after marriage.  There’s the old joke: Q: What food causes women to lose 98% of their sex drive? A: Wedding cake. 

    This “joke” is no joke.  Few men realize how pervasive this phenomenon is.  The not-yet-married men don’t have any personal experience with it, and the married and/or divorced men think they just got unlucky with their choice of wife, keep their mouths shut, and expect to do better next time.  I get email after email from men asking me to write a column explaining to women just how important sex is for most men.  The fact is, I think the women already know that, but don’t much care.  In any event, I know exactly one man who tells me that his wife has sex with him as often and with just as much enthusiasm as she did before they were married.  And his wife is Jewish! I’d like to think he’s not lying to me.  (And to be honest, I don’t know how often his wife was “in the mood” before their marriage, but he says the frequency hasn’t diminished in 19 years and he’s happy.) There are also a handful of men that tell me their wives’ sex drives have declined, but fairly gradually, and it’s still frequent enough that they’re satisfied or at least not too unhappy.

    On the other side of the coin are the dozens and dozens of confessions and emails I’ve received.  I got the following email about five minutes after posting this Ross in Range column, which is a record.  It’s a little worse than most, but by no means atypical, so I added it immediately.  Think about a bride saying her wedding vows, and then guess how long it takes her to break them. Read at your own peril…

    Mr. Ross, you are right about how if your wife does things you dislike, it will never get better, and dead on about the sex-after-marriage stuff.  You’ll love my little story, and feel free to print it without my name.

    Our wedding day was a typical big deal that cost me $9k for the ring, $4K for the reception, $2K for the dress, and $14K for the honeymoon and other stuff like the limos.  Remember, this was in 1995 dollars.  I was 32 at the time and decently established. Anyway, after our wedding reception, my wife was changing out of her wedding dress and into other clothes for our trip to the airport to start our honeymoon.  I was grinning at how sexy she looked (she was 5’8″ and 120 lbs, BTW) in her skimpy panties and no bra.  I gave her a look that said ‘let’s have a quickie.’ She said, “No way. We’re married now.” I was stunned. We had been married less than four hours! Four hours!  In that span of time she changed from the adorable woman I loved (with a great sex drive) into this person I didn’t recognize, who planned to have me buy a big house, remodel it constantly, and entertain her friends in it, all with my money.

    I put up with it for two years, then when I finally realized it was never going to get any better, started to make my own plans for divorcing her.  She must have sensed it because she started wanting to have sex again, even though by this time she was over 200 lbs.  Stupid me, I’d gone so long without I was actually grateful, and didn’t stop to think logically. I guess you know the reason: She wanted to get pregnant, and that’s exactly what happened.   I’m ashamed to tell you the overpowering sense of relief I felt when she miscarried two months later.  I’m not proud of that, but there it is.  I never risked sex with her again, and after what I felt was a decent interval (but probably wasn’t), filed for divorce.  Had to borrow to make it happen, of course, but it was the best $90,000 I ever spent.  If I’d had your advice earlier on, it would have been less, but as you would probably say, so what?  As you so accurately point out, I can always make more money, but I can’t get back the time.

    Been with a great woman going on seven years now.  Like your friend in Colorado, she’s stayed the same dress size, makes a good income, is nice to me, and likes sex as much now as she did when we first got together.  Whenever she mentions wanting to get married, I tell her she’d better find a man who wants to also.  I showed her your last column and she went “Hmpf!” and appeared to pout.  I’m sure you know what happened about 5 minutes later, without me saying a word: World-class BJ.

    Love your column.  Keep telling it like it is.

    I’m not a sociologist, and I have no idea why this happens so often, only that it does happen and it is the rule rather than the exception.  Be aware of it, and realize that when a woman loses her sex drive after getting married, there has never been a documented case of her getting it back with the same sex partner.  It just doesn’t happen.

    2. Courts favor women in divorces. Get over this and stop whining about it.  You know this going in to your marriage, so it should be a non-issue.  It’s not like a man’s disastrous results in divorce court are unexpected.  Suck it up and realize that overall, you are the one in control of your life, and things can start getting good again as soon as the legal proceedings are over.  Employ a mediator and avoid the court altogether, if your wife will go for it, but if you like the idea, she probably won’t.  My ex asked if I would allow her first ex-husband (a lawyer) to mediate our divorce.  I thought about it, then said yes, as he is a good and decent man.  She then decided she didn’t want to go that route…

    3. Taking protective steps is nothing to be ashamed of.  Buying insurance policies is universally seen as a good thing, and no one thinks you’re planning to burn your house down just because you have fire insurance.  Keep this attitude as you implement some of the ideas in this piece.

    4. Have a secure place inaccessible to your wife where you can keep all important documents, hard-drive backups, etc.  This may sound like paranoia but it is a not-uncommon practice for a wife to decide to move out on you when you are out of town and take EVERYTHING with her. 

    This happened to me.  I returned home from a 3-day visit with my best friend from college, and for every room except my study, it was like moving into a new apartment.  Not a single fork, plate, roll of toilet paper, curtain, drape, salt shaker, napkin, bar of soap, nothing.  She even hired an electrician out of the Yellow Pages to take down some ceiling light fixtures she liked.  (Our regular electrician refused.  I think he had visions of me skinning him alive.) When I’d tell people what had happened to me, their eyes would get big and they’d invariably tell me of two or three other friends they knew whose wives had done exactly the same thing. 

    Men don’t talk about it but it happens often enough to plan for–at least as often as having a fire at your house.  Prepare yourself mentally for the possibility that one day you’ll walk in the door to find your home has been stripped.  The hardest will be when you find your kids’ rooms empty of all things.  The message is they will never come back.  This is not true.  Focus on the fact that after the divorce is over, your kids are going to see you and stay with you regularly.  Now that she’s bolted, it can only get better from here.

    While the lack of furnishings is a visual shock, it is a reality that furniture, rugs, dinnerware, kid’s beds, etc. are as close as the nearest store.  Business records, tax information, deeds, and legal instruments are much more difficult to reconstruct.  If your wife (as mine did) takes every scrap of paper and every computer disk that she can lay hands on to give to her lawyer, you will be very glad you followed my example and had all the important things in a bank vault, and had no joint accounts for her to loot.  Within three days of coming home I had the house refurnished enough to comfortably live in, had restocked the kitchen with serviceable items from Sam’s and Linens ‘n’ Things, and moved my cannons (Krupp, Hotchkiss, and Gatling) and elephant tusks from the garage and basement into the living quarters for improved decor.

    5. Place very little faith in prenups for preventing messy divorces.  This may vary from state to state, so I might be wrong in your particular jurisdiction and you should not take this as legal advice.  However, here in Missouri, prenups are challenged regularly.  Example: A client of mine got married in his late 20s.  He had about $5 million in inherited wealth (parents both dead), and had one of the biggest and oldest law firms in St. Louis draw up an 80-page prenup before he got married around 1988. 

    I have no idea what words you use to construct an 80-page prenup, but my client told me the gist of his was largely a restatement of Missouri State law, saying that any and all assets owned before marriage (and listing these assets, I presume), were not to be considered marital property, nor was anything bought from proceeds of the sale of any of these things to be considered marital property.  Only assets purchased with passive income from these inherited assets, and assets purchased with earned income were to be considered joint property in the event of a divorce.  In the event of a divorce, his ex was to get maintenance for some period of time based on some listed formula.  I don’t know why you need 80 pages to say that, but I’m not a lawyer.

    Anyway, after she had a baby, his wife didn’t want sex any more and he did, and so after six months or so he started getting it from his secretary and some other hotties.  Eventually, the wife found out, got upset, and they separated.  I told him to IMMEDIATELY implement the action I’m going to explain a few paragraphs from now. He waved me off and told me he was well-represented by a fine lawyer at the silk stocking firm that did the prenup, his wife had a similar fine lawyer, everything was amicable, yada yada yada.  I told him that wasn’t enough, and to spend $1,200 on what I advised.  He waved me off and told me I worried too much about the wrong things.  I was the one who ought to be worried, he said, since I had married with no prenup at all.


    Her lawyer looked at the terms of the prenup, and then at the husband’s tax returns.  The husband was involved as a principal in a start-up company that was not yet making money.  His salary and unearned income totaled around $300,000 a year, but his wife liked to buy clothes, go to the Golden Door Spa, entertain her friends at country clubs, etc.  All the husband’s income went for these and other living expenses, so they had no joint savings or property since getting married.  He had invested in the company, using some of his inherited assets, not income, and that investment was clearly not marital property. 

    The wife’s lawyer told her that under the terms of both the prenup and Missouri law, the only marital property in their situation that might be there for them to divide was about $90,000 in home appreciation that had occurred since they’d bought the house (with his inherited money) a few years before.  A judge would probably rule that the appreciation was separate property since she’d put up no money, paid for none of the upkeep or expenses, and her name was not on the deed, but they might have a chance at getting her a piece of it.  Legal fees would of course come off the top and reduce the amount accordingly.  Her lawyer advised her to negotiate with her husband, settle the divorce, and not try to contest the prenup as it was drafted by a good firm and didn’t have anything in it that raised any red flags.

    She immediately fired that lawyer and went looking for another.  Not at a silk-stocking firm, but at a one-lawyer firm that only does expensive, high profile divorces of people with lots of money at stake.  I knew the man she hired, and his reputation.  So did her husband’s lawyer, and he advised his own client to hire a different lawyer, as this was going to be war.  The husband did.  I knew the man the husband hired as well, and for the same reason.

    What happened?  The proceedings were drawn out, seeming to take forever.  The husband had his secretary move in with him.   The wife was very angry, and her lawyer never advised her to settle.  They finally went to trial, where the wife had a parade of her friends lie on the stand about the husband’s behavior (more on this pointless tactic later).  She got her sister to testify he had attempted to have sex with her, which was a real stretch.  When they put the secretary on the stand, she took the Fifth on every question.  This circus of a trial lasted a week, then the (female) judge gave her ruling:

    “The prenup stands as written.”

    The wife got nothing except the state-mandated level of child support (about $1400/month at his income level) and three years of maintenance at something like $2000/month as laid out in the prenup.  Good for the husband, right?

    Not exactly. 

    You see, his lawyer’s bill was over $250,000.  Fortunately, he had convinced his lawyer to do something that divorce lawyers hate to do: Put in a statement that since the wife’s lawyer had failed to make their case at all, and wasted so much of everyone’s time, that the husband should not have to pay the wife’s legal bills.  This is very unusual.  The judge ordered the husband to pay $10,000 of the wife’s legal bills, but not the rest.  The husband was elated, as the other lawyer’s bill exceeded $300,000.  (The wife refused to pay this and threatened to bad-mouth the lawyer to all her wealthy friends if he tried to collect from her.  He ate the charges.)

    Wife gets child support and $75,000 over 3 years, husband pays child support of $17,000 a year and $75,000 over 3 years to wife and $260,000 immediately to lawyers, and barely escapes paying another $300,000 to the wife’s lawyer.

    Hardly an example of a reasonable and well-written prenup saving you any money.

    In my opinion, this case illustrates the virtues of following the next four pieces of advice.

    6.  There are lawyers that your wife must NEVER be allowed to hire.  In every major city, there are a few lawyers who are tremendously expensive and tremendously effective at getting large settlements and/or awful terms in divorce cases.  These are the guys that will, if they have to, convince your wife to claim you molested your own daughter.  When these kinds of lawyers meet in court, the legal fees, as above, are astronomical, even if the resulting settlement isn’t.  You must never allow yourself to ever face one of these people in court, especially without his counterpart on your side, and there is a very simple way to do that:

    Hire all of them first.

    I mentioned I knew both of the men involved in the just-described case.  That is because I had hired both of them years before, as well as three other men of the same standing in St. Louis.  At the point that my own marriage’s future looked uncertain, I made separate appointments with these five men.  I did not lie.  I explained to each that I wanted to stay married, but that my wife was unhappy and since it was possible we would get divorced if things didn’t get better, I wanted to find out what my options were and what kind of things I could expect to have happen during a divorce proceeding.  I said to each I had heard he was very good, from conversations at the club.  All these were true statements. 

    In addition to getting some very eye-opening answers, I had divulged information about myself and my finances, and now all of these men were prohibited from working for my wife.  This cost me $200 each except for one lawyer who charged $400.  That was the lawyer later hired by the husband in the above story.  During my consultation, the lawyer who later got stiffed by the wife found out I knew about guns and asked if I could get him a bolt for his semi AK, which he had lost.  I delivered one the next day for my cost of $68.25.  It’s been over a decade and he’s never paid me.  He’s also the one whose women clients most often accuse their husbands of molesting their own children.

    I should point out that doing what I’ve described above is called a “fashion show” and it is something high-powered divorce lawyers absolutely hate.  The St. Louis “divorce cartel,” as we call them, is down to four (I think) lawyers as one of the five went up the river for fraud.  They are on to this technique, and each of them now requires a $2,500 retainer before they will talk to you for a half hour.  This means a $10,000 tab, which is still dirt cheap when compared to what you are avoiding.

    If you do what I advise, your wife will then have to hire either a decent and ethical lawyer, or one that her girlfriends have talked her into because he/she has a reputation as “tough” or “a real fighter.”  The latter is what you want.  “Tough” in this case really means that he/she is very abrasive but sloppy and/or lazy, and rather than making powerful legal arguments for making more things joint property, will focus on running up your wife’s legal bills, which you will have to pay.  Believe me, padded legal bills from a lawyer like this are a great trade for true competence.  This kind of lawyer HATES going to trial, and will advise your wife to settle right before trial.  It will be at the last minute to get more hours billed. More on this later.

    7. Take the high road, and never adopt an abrasive, “screw the bitch” attitude when going through a divorce.  First of all, you picked her, she just turned into something very different from what you picked.  Secondly, she can turn back (mostly) into the nice person you liked so much, but only if you are not married to her.  Keep this in mind as you endure the divorce proceedings.  You want to regain the easy rapport you once had, because your children are going to be listening to her at least until they turn 18.  Focus on the goal: You want your life back, not retribution.  You want to be happy again, have regular sex with a person that’s nice to you, and have a minimum of financial land mines in your life.  You can have these things again, but you don’t want the price of that to be a bad relationship with your kids. You want your ex-wife to have as little reason to hate you as reasonably possible, and that won’t happen if you’re at each other’s throats during the legal proceedings. Remember: It’s hard to have a real fight if one party refuses to participate.

    Realize that if you are basically a decent man, your heart will want to break when you read or hear her lawyer’s words of all the awful things you’ve allegedly done.  It’s all smoke.  If it comes to trial (and it never will, if you do what I advise) you will have dozens of character witnesses and she will be forced to admit to some lame version of “Well, when I said he was abusive, I meant that sometimes he ignored me and just wanted to read a book all night” or something equally trivial.  Most importantly, never let lies get to you, because they don’t matter.  Lawyers are not under oath when they’re talking to judges, and the judges know it.  When the judge in our case made a ruling in my favor in the preliminary (PDL) hearing, he told my wife’s lawyer her demands were ridiculous and my offer of maintenance and child support during the months of the proceeding itself was more than fair.  My lawyer came out of chambers with a huge grin on her face, telling me we’d gotten everything we asked for.  Then she laughed and said “I think [name of the other lawyer] was terrified she wasn’t going to get paid, so she stammered ‘Well, you know he’s abusive.’  It was hilarious.”

    When I heard these words, I thought I might never see my daughter again, and I felt something let go in my head.  Suddenly my speech was slurred and I felt off-balance.  I thought I might be having a panic attack.  I didn’t know what a panic attack felt like as I had never had one. 

    It turned out my blood pressure had spiked to 230/145 and I’d had a stroke right there outside the judge’s chambers.  A few hours later, my entire right side was paralyzed and I was lying in a hospital bed, idly wondering if I’d ever walk again.  Don’t let a divorce lawyer’s lie that no one believes, least of all the judge, throw a monkey wrench into your life.  Don’t do what I did.  It’s all smoke.

    And don’t get pulled into the same lying trap.  Bad-mouthing your wife is not productive, nor is detailing every little (or even big) shortcoming.  Keep it simple and non-hurtful.  “She wasn’t happy, and the things I thought might change that, well, none of them seemed to work.  We just aren’t right for each other.”  Don’t lie and say she’s a bad mother if all she was was a dismal wife.

    8. Sexual misconduct and other marital misbehavior is usually a tiny part of the divorce equation, but documentation of finances is HUGE.  Many people are under the erroneous impression that if your spouse has an affair, then you automatically have a big advantage in divorce court.  A good divorce lawyer will explain all the factors a judge takes into account before reaching a decision of how to split the marital assets.  Here in Missouri, sexual conduct counts for literally about 2% of the equation. 

    It’s not worth spending any time on, because the important thing is not whether you or she gets 52% of the pot instead of 50%.  The important thing is to not let any of your separate property get thrown into the pot in the first place.  It doesn’t matter if your wife cheated on you weekly*, focusing on that won’t save you more than pocket change.  The husband in the above example had lots of extramarital sex when he was married (just not with the shills his wife put up.)  He’s fun and handsome, and a great guy to be with, and the women he had affairs with wouldn’t testify against him, so his wife had to get her friends and sister to lie. But it didn’t matter, because the entire time his wife was focused on making him look like a cad, he was busy putting together what did matter: Ironclad documentation that no separate property was ever commingled, and testimony that it was never commingled for the specific reason that he wanted to keep it separate. 

    If your wife has not proven to you that she might be a good long-term partner by being a good wife** for at least three years, then you are an absolute fool to commingle any assets you owned before marriage.  No joint ownership, car insurance, checking accounts, credit cards, anything. Pay for everything and give her a big monthly spending allowance if you must, as these things will only up the alimony.  You DON’T want to lose half or more of everything you had before you ever met her. Talk to a lawyer about the best way to do this. 

    If your bride or bride-to-be accuses you of being unromantic with no joint accounts or ownership of things you owned before you met her, point out that she has the use of everything while you’re married, and will inherit everything when you die. Joint ownership while you are alive only makes a difference if she decides to bolt and cash out on you early, and you’re not too keen on that.  Judge her reaction and you may save the cost of everything: wedding, honeymoon, marriage, and divorce.

    BTW If you live in a community property state like California, you can either place all your hopes in a prenup, or just shoot yourself now.

    9. Prepare as if you are definitely going to trial and you almost certainly won’t have to.  Something like 5% of divorces go to trial.  The other 95% are negotiated and settled before the judge makes a ruling (sometimes minutes before), by mutual agreement.  The way this works (if my experience is any indication) is your wife’s lawyer will suggest a ridiculous figure, like a huge lump sum far in excess of all marital assets, child support that’s triple what the State mandates for your income level, and alimony forever, at a level exceeding your entire monthly income.  The plan here, I assume, is to terrify you into counter-offering with some high, but doable set of figures, and then you’ve committed to a figure that you can never back away from.

    I didn’t do that, and you shouldn’t either. 

    Instead, send back the simple message that the proposal is so ridiculous that there is no point in discussing it, and you want to go to trial, where given the heavily documented facts of the case, the judge’s ruling will be a tiny fraction of the proposed amount.  If you have never commingled any of your separate property, then your accumulated marital assets are probably next to nothing because your wife spent every dollar that came in on herself (which, along with being unhappy and never wanting to have sex, is why you’re getting divorced, right?)  This will drive the other lawyer batshit because you have seen through his (or in my case, her) scheme.  Going to trial is the last thing she wants, as there won’t be any marital assets to pay her bill.  My wife’s lawyer ended up sending four ever-smaller proposals.  All were still ridiculous.  I never counter-offered, and just said I was eager for trial. 

    The sixth proposal from her was different.  Instead of alimony forever, it was for five years, and the child support level was exactly at the State-mandated level, which was what I was planning to pay.  The lump sum was still ridiculous, as there were few marital assets, but we were a lot closer to what I thought would be a reasonable overall deal.

    My dilemma was this, and yours will likely be the same: Most judges, in this area at least, are reluctant to limit alimony payments to a fixed number of years.  If you don’t want to risk the possibility of having to pay alimony 20 or 30 years from now, you’re going to have to come up with a lump sum attractive enough to make your ex agree to an alimony period that is reasonable, or roll the dice in court. I counter-offered, we went back and forth a few times, and settled on alimony for 3 years and a lump sum big enough to buy her a nice house for cash. 

    Final points: Don’t let your lawyer put in the standard clause about ending alimony if she cohabits for 6 months with some new guy–you want her to get on with her life and be happy again.  And even though you may have 30 or 45 days to come up with the money, do whatever it takes (within reason) to get her the money quickly, say a week or ten days.  These kinds of things cost you nothing and go a long way towards getting the two of you back on friendly terms that will be so important to your kids.

    *Just so we’re clear, I believe that my wife had no extramarital sex at all from the time of our engagement until after she initiated divorce proceedings.

    **Define “good wife” any way you want.

  John Ross  4/22/2005

4/27 Update:  Yow! The emails are pouring in already, and it’s even more pervasive than I thought.  A few examples:

Boy, have you hit the nail on the head!  My wife’s sex drive lasted through a wonderful two-week honeymoon.  She turned me down every night for a week starting the day we got home, and I quit asking.  She finally told me she didn’t think of herself in the same way now that she was married.  Put up with this shit for eleven years, then one day I get served with divorce papers.  Your Rule for Financial Restoration is pretty accurate.  I’m almost back to where I was at age 29, and I just turned 50.

    Ask your married male friends your own age if their sex lives are even a fraction of what they were when they were single.  You’ve got lots of company.

In my case the sex was good for about a month, then she just lost interest.  It was the damnedest thing–she was very good in bed, always climaxed at least once, was very skilled at giving me pleasure, great oral skills etc., but didn’t seem to care that we slept in the same bed every night but only made love once every 2-3 weeks.  I never understood this.  Was resigned to this as the way it would always be but then one day after eight years she decided to cash out, as you put it.  She’s married to another guy now and I hear he got the same treatment: Good sex ended a few weeks after the wedding.

    I tell you, Ernest Borgnine…  For what it’s worth my Colorado friend said this was the exact situation he had with his ex-wife: Always good in bed and her body always responded, but she seldom had any interest.

You recommended marrying laterally, never going for a partner with considerably less or more money than you have.  I think that sometimes a man is better off with a spouse with less money.  My wife and I made more or less the same income throughout our marriage and we had many fights about finances.  I think if I remarry I would prefer to make most of the money, pay most of the bills, and therefore call most of the shots.  More to the point, I want to be independently wealthy of any future wife.  If she starts making demands and ultimatums (“Stop doing fill-in-the-blank or I’m leaving you!”), I want to be able to say “go” without having to worry about the loss of her income.

    It rarely works that way.  If you had two gotten divorced (this man’s wife died), her equal income would have reduced your share of what you had to pay, and increased your share of what you two split.  If she’d made a lot less than you, she would likely have had the same spending habits, or maybe worse, so you’d have been worse off.

Mr. Ross, I wouldn’t marry a woman significantly poorer than me without a bulletproof prenup.  I’d advocate the kind of prenup where a woman gets a divorce settlement at the beginning of the marriage.  I’d set aside about $25,000 (or whatever, depending on the guy’s income) to give to a woman on the wedding day.  I’d tell her, “Here. This is yours.  My recommendation would be to invest it in something safe and accessible in case you need it, but ultimately you can do what you want with it.  Invest it, save it, blow it on clothes, I don’t care.  But be sure that the first thing you do is put it in an account in your name only, because if you decide to divorce me, it’s the only money you’re walking out of the marriage with that you didn’t bring in.”  From what you know of divorce law and finance, would such a prenup be feasible?

    Dream on. Pre-funding his divorce for a fixed, known amount of money is every successful man’s Holy Grail.  Such a prenup would always be challenged and found to be unfair.  I’ve often felt that there should be a way to sit down with a judge before marriage and have him or her rule on what is going to happen in a divorce.  I don’t think any judge would do this.  Any lawyers out there able to tell me if this is even possible?  I assume that the wife would just appeal the judge’s ruling anyway, when she decided to cash out. 

    Next best would be to pay all the family’s expenses and say “You keep 100% of all your earnings, and in addition I’ll give you $30,000 (or whatever) a year.  From those monies, I want you to build savings in your own name.  If you ever decide to leave, that’s your asset base.”  This doesn’t work because when the wife decides to bail, she won’t have saved a dime and will probably have maxed out her credit cards, all the divorce money has to come from you, and you have less marital assets in total because you’ve been throwing away $30,000 a year on clothes, new-age bullshit seminars, spa treatments, and other things with no residual value, instead of using it to build your joint assets. 

    My advice is to use this “Wife stipend” policy as an ongoing test.  If, at the end of a year, she has savings, stay married.  If at the end of two years her savings are about double the year before, stay married, and so on.  The first time you find out she has no savings and has maxed out her credit, file for divorce, even if it’s only two months after the wedding.  Remember Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Mermen.  If she has spending problems, she will NEVER get better while she’s married to you.

Liked the www.dontmarry.com site.  You might enjoy a similar site, www.nomarriage.com. It’s less coherent and less lucid but a lot funnier–it must hold some kind of record for using the phrase “ass raped in divorce court” the most times on the same URL.  It also recommends foreign women for marriage, especially women from Asia, Eastern Europe and anywhere south of the U.S. border.  Your old buddy Fred Reed at Fred On Everything recommends the same thing.  You’ve traveled the world some, do you have an opinion on this?

    Nomarriage.com makes many valid points, and as you say, it’s amusing, but my complaint with them is that they use pejorative terms for women far too often, like “My wife turned into this total bitch as soon as we got back from our honeymoon.”  I’d prefer to hear only about the specifics of her actions, not name-calling.

    You are correct, I have been to Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central and South America, and am in agreement that women from those places appear much better suited for satisfying, long-term marriage than are Western women.  However, there are two problems not addressed by the “foreign women” advocates: First, few of these women are truly fluent in English.  My late uncle and his son (my cousin) were and are very good at becoming fluent in foreign languages in a short time, but I am not. I am a decent mimic and am told by native French-speakers that my accent and vocabulary are excellent. These folks play down the fact that I’m always having to get them to speak more slowly, and am struggling with verb tenses, genders, and other realities of the language.  As a writer, communication is very important to me, and being with an otherwise wonderful woman that I can’t really talk to would be less than satisfying over the long haul.

    Second, I worry that a woman from any of these places would, upon moving to the U.S., eventually become like the Western members of her gender.  This may not happen often, but I know two men whose Asian wives eventually became every bit as bad as any home-grown choice they might have made.  I do not know if these women were born here, came to the U.S. as small children, or were recent immigrants, so the jury’s still out.

        Keep those entertaining tales of betrayed male optimism coming!  And for a chuckle, go here to see a list I compiled off of various Internet websites (and then added my own contributions) of  “50 Things Men Will Hear Women Say When We Die and Go to Heaven.”

5/2 Update:

    The emails keep pouring in: How about this high-speed train wreck? (heavily edited for length):

I met this girl, Mary, moved in with her, started a life in Seattle.  After four years, I came back to the house and found her shacked up with her new man.  I start crying and begging her to take me back. I do this for a couple of weeks. She concedes to dump the fellow and try again.  You can imagine, our new relationship lasted a week or two.  Of course she had a reason.  Mary was pregnant.  She didn’t know who the father was. I said even if it wasn’t mine I would help.   

    This doesn’t sound promising…

My new job requires traveling a lot.  When the child was born, I was in Singapore for four and a half months.  I return and resume the status quo. Then one fateful night, I go to the pub to have a drink.  Can you guess what is coming?  Yes, I met a woman, Kate.  Oh, my God.  I took her back to her apartment and voila, five weeks later we married.  Happier than I thought possible. 

I told her everything about my life as it was.  She looked at everything, found solutions, accepted how screwed up I was. Then the other shoe dropped. Mary began a series of harassing events that defy explanation.  Horrible phone calls, messages, sometimes fifty or so a day.  Non-stop.  The most wretched lies you can imagine.  They started just as soon as Kate and I began taking steps to making the situation right—not before.  Things like initiating a paternity test, when the results came back positive, filing for joint custody, visitation rights, and child support.

        He goes on for six pages explaining how he travels around the world on business, sometimes his wife comes along, she has his email password, Mary sends threatening emails and phone calls, everyone’s lying and making accusations…

…my wife loses it, kicks me out, I have no where to go. I crash at Mary’s.   I beg my wife Kate to let me come home.  She does.  I can’t stand her anger and my guilt over what I did, so I left one day to get my oil changed and never went back. 

    That’s always a nice trick…

Kate filed for divorce, I didn’t even go to court. Five times I left her.  Three on me, two on her. 

    He’s stopped mentioning Mary and his child.  They’re now out of the picture, apparently.  But he’s not done yet…

Then Kate calls in November 2004, would I like to have dinner?  Hell yes, I reply. We start over, I try to be cool, try to resolve the problems that drove us apart.  She tells me she had been dating different people and had met this guy, Jim, from Australia. They had spent a week together while he was in Seattle on a job interview with Microsoft.  She says he snapped her out of her funk and made her realize she loved me and couldn’t imagine a life without me.  I feel the same way.

    Spending a week with a guy from Australia makes her realize she loves you…?

Then in February, I find my wife has been in an affair with him since he left.   I confront my wife and she fesses up.   She agrees to cut off all contact.  I forgive and forget.  Two weeks later I find she’s opened another account just for him. His first email was something to the effect of “I assume this email is safe to use.” I read these and my heart breaks.  I print them out.  I have to go to Montana for a week.  I ask her before I go if she is in contact with Jim.  She says no.  I show her the emails.  She cries, says she doesn’t know why, she is sorry.  I forgive and forget.  I don’t care really. But I snoop. 

     “I forgive and forget. I read these and my heart breaks. I don’t care really.  But I snoop.”  Do you hear how you sound?

On the Thursday after Valentines Day, 2005 she dumps me.  I found out that Friday was the day Jim flew to the U.S.  She tells me she loves me and doesn’t love Jim.  She just needs time.  She shows up at my apartment one Saturday night and crawls in bed with me.  Every time I can see her she gives me hope.  I can’t take it any longer.  Her words say me, but her actions say Jim.  She spends all her time with him.  I call her and talk to her, she calls me.  It seems like we are making progress. I know how badly I screwed up.  I honestly have turned into a changed man.  A better man.  I have the clarity of a monk.  I know, I mean I know I want her in my life.

     The “clarity of a monk”…?

Here it is finally, on the phone one day while I was at work, she tells me she knows she can’t see Jim anymore.  Did I mention he is married?  She agrees to cut off all contact, to try with me.  I am elated, not bitter or judgmental or anything, just blissfully happy.  I tell her I will cook her dinner and celebrate, we’ll take it slow, but let’s have dinner to celebrate.  Ok she says, after ballet class—she teaches—so I get dressed up, by some flowers, juice, her favorite water and go to ballet class to wait for her.  Only I get there, and the door is locked.  And I remember, the week before I had met her after class and the students were filling out registration cards for next quarter.  There is no ballet.  I call, nothing, I drive by her apartment, nothing.  Nothing until Sunday night she calls to see how I am.  I am devastated. She says she is sorry but she needs time.  Yes, she spent the weekend with Jim.

    Best indicator of future behavior is past behavior…

So I start my own consulting business.  I sign my first contract and am headed to China for three months.  I call my ex and tell her I won’t go if she wants me to stay.  She comes over in the middle of the night.  As we are having sex, I tell her if she wants me to stay I will.  She says to stay and make babies with her.  In the morning she says that was just selfish of her and she didn’t mean it.  I put her on my bank account, name her VP of my company, sign a power of attorney.  Everything. I buy her lavish dinners, expensive gifts, I redecorate her apartment.  I do this after she sits in my lap one night and slips my wedding ring on my finger. 

    You made her VP of your company and signed a power of attorney?  Are you INSANE?

We make plans for the future.  The new business has a chance after China at another contract in the same factory in Spain, the same town, the same people.  We literally are having a second once-in-a-lifetime chance. We make plans for a real wedding and talk with the University to see if she can finish her Masters on-line.  I take her school loan that was in default and I pay it off so she can go back.  I tell her the money is good enough she can fly back once a month to meet with her professors.  On top of the world with plans and hope.

     I think I can see where this is going…

I go to China, I have to, I signed a contract.  I left 4 April.  On the 14th, I call her at home.  Nothing. Nothing the next two nights, either. So I call her a few days later just before she gets off work, and I can tell by her tone. I put it to her and she admits she has been seeing Jim.  That she took her ring off. I ask her if I should take mine off.  She says that would be best for now. 

I don’t understand what happened.  I email and call her and every time, she affirms she loves me and not Jim.  She now says she is confused.  I ask her if she can imagine a life without me, she says no.  I tell her that she is jeopardizing that, she says she knows.  I ask her if she has had sex with him, she says no.  Then today, she calls me. She admits she is having sex with him.  That she is not ready to come back to me.  I asked her why she put my ring on me.  She said she didn’t know. 

Here is the rub, I love her and want her in my life.  I don’t care about anything or anyone else.  I have found new tools to cope with life, to handle things better. I am better, stronger.  She harbors a lot of ill will for me for what I did, but I can’t get angry with her for doing it to me.  Even though I never had sex with anyone.  I don’t care about sex, it is her heart I care about.  Don’t get me wrong it hurts to know she is having sex with anyone but me. We have a sex life that would make most men ashamed and most women jealous.  We have sex at least 3 times a day except the weekends.  I don’t know why but she turns me on.   

I would appreciate your thoughts.  You probably get this kind of mail a lot, but I am not psycho or crazy, just in love and alone. 

        Okay, here’s the deal: Your wife likes having sex with other men.  The married guy from Australia is probably not going to leave the picture any time soon, but if he does, there’ll be a replacement.  When you are away on business, she’s going to be in his bed, or someone else’s.  That’s the way it’s always going to be with her.  Think of her as a female version of the Kennedy men.  She is not going to change. You have shown her by your actions that you will tolerate anything she does.  

        So you have two choices: You can accept the way things are and stop complaining about it.  You can stop snooping and wondering about what she’s doing because you already know what she’s doing when you’re not around: having sex with other men.  You can be glad that you’re getting taken care of along with these other guys.

        Or you can end this cycle of exhilaration and despair by ending your involvement with your “wife.” 

        I think you are getting some kind of drug-like “fix” from her actions, and you won’t end things with her.  If that’s the case, then be honest with yourself about it and admit that the price of being with her is that she’s going to have sex and relationships with other men.

        My strongest piece of advice is that you NOT get her pregnant.  It would be a crime to bring children into this dysfunctional situation.  Get a vasectomy, and if she gets pregnant, you can take care of another man’s child.

    Some men will tolerate just about anything if the sex is good enough.  This next letter is a bit more promising than the last:

    Mr. Ross: I can honestly see my wife saying 30 of the 50 things on your list of things we’ll hear women say when we die and go to heaven.  She’s sexy as hell, craves a woman’s touch, loves to see me with other women, and would much rather hang with the guys than the girls.

    Our divorce will be final next month. She has financially devastated me.  I have a very low six figure income and can’t afford to spend a hundred dollars on flying.  My only passion (flying) is beyond my reach.

    That is bad–Make over $100K a year and can’t drop a C-note on an hour of flight time.

    I wish I’d been more of a man before our wedding.  She knew I never wanted to get married.  Marriage is a contract with the government or a church.  I have little use for either.  She agreed with me in principle, but had residual religious and cultural yearnings to be married, and feared her parents’ judgment.  I loved her, but only wanted to be committed and unmarried.  She was depressed.  I proposed.

    After a violent, alcohol-induced episode landed her in jail, I kicked her out of our house four months ago.  I filed for divorce.  She agreed to not contest.

    Well, since she financially devastated you while married, there wasn’t anything to split, and no kids means no child support, and you weren’t married long enough for alimony to be an issue.  So agreeing not to contest is no big sacrifice, but I suppose it does say a little something positive about her.

    We’ve committed to building a healthy relationship. That’s right – I’m not letting her go.  She has absolutely ruined me for other women.  She has a blossoming career (she’s a talented stylist) and has been aggressively dealing with her problems.  She hasn’t touched alcohol since the day she moved out.

    We didn’t see each other for a couple of weeks after she moved out.  Then, we began seeing each other in a controlled manner.  We were both afraid to fall back into the pattern.  We were open and honest and agreed that we would not even consider living together again for a year.  Marriage, we agreed, was bullshit.  Our marriage had been a crutch to her and had prevented her from achieving independence.  Our sex life is fulfilling.  It is recreational.  We don’t want children.  Perfect.

    The future is so promising, it is tough to stop writing.  I think that’s enough to tell the story, though.  There is work to be done and success is not certain.  My marriage and divorce have been relatively cheap and the outcome looks promising.

    Okay, I’m one of the few people who won’t bust your chops for trying again with her.  When you’ve got a woman with that much sexual energy, you can’t just walk away.  I realize that.  What you are doing is right, so long as you keep doing it forever: You must maintain your set of circumstances so that she cannot damage your life (other than leaving you and making you miss her): No marriage, no joint anything, no cosigning, no loans, and above all else, NO KIDS.  Since you say neither of you wants them, get a vasectomy.  Good luck.

    And some letters from women:

I have been seeing a guy who is doing ALL of your suggestions on how to deal with women. I agree with most of what you say about women being emotional and all, but I am wondering if this guy is just using me or testing me.  I like him but “I don’t get him.”  If I want this guy, what would you recommend I do?  Treat him as if he were one of my friends?  Chill?  I have not talked to him for a week because he makes me insecure. (Emotional woman).  Anyways, I hope that you mail me back with some advice.  I like spankings, by the way! Crazy gal!

    He gets it.  It’s not a test, and he’s not “using” you.  He knows how to create attraction.  You are attracted to him.  That is a good thing for both of you, no?  So tease him back.  Flirt with him.  Surprise him with good things, like calling him and telling him you might need a spanking next time you see him.  Or flash him when others are around but no one else is looking.  If he starts doing things that make him unattractive to you, stop seeing him.  This isn’t rocket science…

And finally:

I’m currently dating a man I suspect is a former enrollee in Women 101 at John Ross University. 
This man calls or emails several times a week but never makes advance plans with me; he has made it clear that he is not looking to be my ‘sugar daddy’ and has not been overly generous, to say the least, (he even let me pay for his cover charge at a bar where it was ladies’ night free); and he has even employed your little spanking tip (which I do confess I enjoyed).
To the outside observer, this man is less attractive and socially adept than I am (almost every one of my friends who met him said he was not “good enough”), but I found him intelligent, funny, and “felt” genuine, raw chemistry when I kissed him the first time. I did notice some jealous, insecure tendencies on his part, but instead of taking advantage of those weaknesses, I sought to reassure him with my actions that I was, in fact, very attracted to him physically and intellectually.
In the beginning, I loved hooking up with him and enjoyed our witty, intellectual banter in bed.  I’m a generous person, so I also found pleasure in paying more than my share.  But after several weeks of his avoidance to make advance plans, I am not wowed by the “mystery” or “lack of control.” Clearly this behavior affected me, as it was a break from the norm–I am used to being treated with more respect.  But now I just think he’s cheap, insecure, and inconsiderate. These tactics have ruined what could have been wonderful, casual sex and fun conversation–which I suspect is all either of us wanted. 

    Your guy wasn’t taking my advice–by your own admission he’s jealous, insecure, and cheap.  Nowhere do I advise any of these things.  And the “no advance plans” advice is only for when you just meet someone and suspect she’ll flake. It’s not for after you’ve been having sex with a woman who hasn’t yet exhibited any bad behavior.  And when I’m with a woman with whom I’ve been having “wonderful, casual sex and fun conversation,” the drinks, meals, cover charges, plane tickets, etc. are on me.  Reread my comments on rewards versus attempted inducements.

    Aside from spanking you, this guy blew it.

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