Just what do people think statistics are, anyway? They are a collection of data which gives us a picture of “what is.” They often give us a tool to predict. And this applies to people, too, who are, after all, only sheep—the Lord was right when He called us that. Yes, we follow paths just as a predictably as sheep. Sorry to be the bearer, if this is news to you.
Oh, you may think you’re different. In fact, you do think that you’re different. That is common to us all. We want things to be the way we want them to be, not as they are. We want to be different—special. We have our little individual differences, true, but in the big, broad-brush things, humans are pretty predictable.
This is why marketing works and doctors can make educated guesses and why those high-falutin’ FBI experts can do criminal profiles without ever seeing the bad guy. See? Here we are:
I try to tell folks this: The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Yes, some of us manage to break bad habits, and some of us turn over new leaves (but how many times have you made that promise?). Those successes do not come without a lot of effort—they are not the norm. Rarely do we really change—our predictor is our past.
Recently a client sat in my office sobbing over the fact that her husband insists on staying out all night “with the boys,” (What boys? She thought she knew all the boys he knows—they’re married!). He was ready for that one: “Guys from work—you don’t know them.” That was his story, and he stuck to it.
I told her what she already knew: There was another woman. We just do not know who she is—yet.
Husband indicated no remorse, shame or willingness to change. She and her two little ones were basically without husband/father. It was a shocker to her that her previously-devoted husband had turned into this nightmare. This had gone on about four months, so she was ready to take action.
During our conversation, here is something she said:
He was married before. He cheated on her—not with me—I found out about that just before we were married and first wife told me. When I confronted him, he admitted it, saying it was not something he was proud of. I thought he was changed, he seemed ashamed. Our relationship was wonderful—I thought it was special, different.
Right. We’re all “different,” aren’t we? Reckon his first wife thought she had a “special” relationship with him, too? Yep, I reckon so.
Client probably had a deep-down hesitation about his character (remember my post on Elvie?), but their relationship was “different,” you know, “special.” So she disregard any such sensible misgivings.
Look at these statistics, below. If client had know them before choosing to nest her babies with this creep, would she have listened?
- Men who have once cheated are statistically-proven to be much more likely to cheat again. (Best predictor of future behavior is past behavior). Apparently, once one starts cheating, it’s easier to do it again.
- Furthermore, second marriages are statistically less stable anyway than first marriages. Again, studies show that second and subsequent marriages are easier break-ups emotionally than are first breakups, so you are at greater risk second go-around than first—and the first marriage failure stat is at 50 percent! Call it a toughening of the skin in case of subsequent marriages…
- In this client’s case, not only was this marriage a repeat for husband, she had several other statistically-risky factors in their relationship. For example, she was more than ten years younger than him and she—but not he—had a college degree. Both of these situations put up statistical marriage caution signs.
So Client had to beat the odds in at least three ways:
- She had to hope he had changed (big hope because the thrill of cheating becomes engrained once it is done;)
- she had to defy the odds against their age difference;
- she had to hope their educational difference did not spell the doom that the statistics predict.
That’s a lot of odds to beat.
If she had thought about these factors and known about the statistical dangers, would she have chosen to marry him?
If she still decided to marry, ignoring the warning about his character, would she still have given up her career, choosing to stay home with her babies and putting herself at great disadvantage?
She has the education, but she quit work—he has been the major bread winner since the first baby. As it is now, she had to take a job at less than a third of what she would have been making if she had stayed in the field these years. She is going to suffer financially for that decision. Her husband won’t.
Would any of this have made a difference to her? Would she have taken the care to maneuver in the most fiscally-responsible manner as a hedge against the odds she was trying to beat?
When I bought my car two years ago, I researched. I checked Consumer Reports, I googled different cars. I did everything I could to overcome my desire to simply buy “cute” or “plush,” and I concentrated on longevity (ah the luxury of driving a paid-for car!) and low maintenance. I was looking at statistics to predict the future with whatever car I chose to spend the next few years with. I paid attention to reports of past performance as an indicator of what might be a reliable car.
Why don’t people do the same for marriage? Don’t answer—I know: Love. Love is an emotion, it is romantic, it is billowing—it makes us all “different.” We want to be the special ones. The odds don’t seem to apply to us.
Well, if not to “us,” then to whom do they apply?
So, back to my question: If some one (me?) had trumpeted to this woman all the risk factors she as she entered this marriage, would she have done anything differently?
My guess: No, because they were “different.”
‘Fraid not, honey…I feel like I’m bangin’ my head against a wall… C