The Pandora’s Box of Marriage

What a juxtaposition – reading a book called Gold Digger Nation, Why You Should Remain Single while the country has just hit an important milestone in the courts regarding same-sex marriage.

“This is what American justice is all about,” said attorney Ted Olson in a post-trial press conference after California’s Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban, was overturned.

Olson -- the former United States Solicitor General under President George W. Bush who successfully represented candidate Bush in the contested 2000 presidential election before the Supreme Court -- also summarized last week what experts had said during the Prop 8 trial about the value of marriage, citing “love, respect, honor and decency.”

The court’s decision was simple common sense and puts the country on a track that President Obama might want to embrace with regard to same-sex marriage sometime soon -- equality for all citizens.

But getting back to the aforementioned book, it was jarring to read a scathing indictment of marriage while so many Americans are fighting for the right to even consider the institution. Author Hal Roback, while potentially making some legitimate points about the lopsidedness of divorce laws, should have hired editors who would tell him the truth: Part 2 of his book is laced with so much bitterness it’s hard to take it seriously. (I mean, pulling out the cliché that women are sitting around eating bonbons all day?)

In the interest of full disclosure, Roback wrote me recently to commend my Game Plan column called “Gold Digging Is Alive and Well” and asked if he could send along his book. I said I’d be happy to read it, and true to my word, I devoured it cover to cover.

What troubled me about the book is not so much Part 2, which is designed to provide cautionary information to people considering marriage by outlining the realities of alimony, custody and child support and how the laws are skewed to favor women. Even through Roback’s residual anger at his own situation and the “feminists” and “liberals” who fought to create the current laws, there is some value on the pages.

However, Part 1 is nearly 75% of the book and in it he tells the story of Bobby Lakeland, a divorced restaurateur in his early 40s who fails to win custody of his 7-year-old son. Understandably shy about re-entering the dating scene, he winds up falling hard for a beautiful 23-year-old waitress-turned-hostess at one of his New York City restaurants. Lisa is unquestionably the worst kind of conniving gold digger. That’s a given.

Where the story of Bobby loses me is how he considers himself a victim. He was clearly raked over the coals financially when it came time for the divorce. But as I read Roback’s account of how Bobby and Lisa got together, each time I turned the page, I was increasingly astonished at Bobby’s level of gullibility and denial about who this woman was at her core. She revealed it to him over and over again. His ego didn’t care. Make no mistake about it, theirs was a dance with two willing partners.

The lesson of their courtship seems less about looking out for one’s financial well-being, and more about learning what does and doesn’t make a relationship.

“Never had I experienced sex like that,” goes Bobby’s first-person account. “If that was heroin, I understood addiction.”

Addiction, yes. Marriage, no.

Good sex is not a reason to get married. Neither is security. Or societal pressure. Roback actually addresses this in a blog post about why he thinks Tiger Woods got married: “I believe Tiger got married for all the right reasons except for what was right for him. I believe he felt society expected him to get married, his parents would want him to get married, and it seemed like everyone else was either getting married or was married. This is a very common scenario for men of his age.”

While this is probably an accurate assessment of why Woods got married, what in the world is right about it? Getting married because “it’s time” is not only a misstep for the parties involved, how about the children that come from that union?

In Part 2 of the book, Roback writes, “ … [W]hat we’re saying to people is this: ‘You don’t have to try and make it on your own when you can latch onto a good ‘plow horse,’ divorce the dupe, and get all the benefits of easy street.’ Who does the divorce industry blame? They’ll blame the dupe with the catch-all phrase, ‘Well, it’s your fault – you married her.’”

Again, this would actually sit better with me if the book wasn’t premised on Bobby’s story. He ignored counsel from friends and his attorney, forgave Lisa for unilaterally changing her mind about using birth control and subsequently getting pregnant, reneging on her willingness to sign a co-habitation agreement and stealing $10,000 from him (not to mention lying about it and then blaming him when she got caught). To boot, one day he found their baby daughter left in the car alone needing a diaper change with flies swarming around her when she was supposed to be in Lisa’s care. He married her after all of this massively large writing on the wall.

Gentlemen, please. I already wrote an entire column about my disdain for the gold diggers. But in so many cases you guys are eating it up and letting them run rough-shod over all you’ve worked for because you’re having fun in the sack or you’re all about the arm candy. As Roback details, the laws will not be kind to you when it doesn’t work out.

There are many marriages out there based on those things Olson cited last week -- love, respect, honor and decency. We can only hope that’s most.

I suppose it remains to be seen how such gender-based marriage and divorce laws will play out when couples are of the same sex, but I’m guessing most homosexuals will be more than happy to get the right to tie the knot and take their chances.

Marriage is, after all, an awfully optimistic leap no matter who is saying “I do.”

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is Please direct all questions/comments to