Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happily Ever After

In my opinion one of the most realistic shows on television is "Divorce Court". Many people including myself have an unrealistic view of marriage. Growing up, I believed that once you get married, you can live "happily ever after." This is not the case. As a divorcee, I can testify that "happily ever after" is a myth perpetrated by Hollywood. When we go to the movies, we want to see a happy ending. We want to watch the characters resolve their issues and end up happy. When I was in London, I watched a play "Blood Brothers." It was an excellent play. The ending was tragic. There wasn't a dry eye left as we exitted the theater.

Many of the couples in Divorce Court were only married for 1-3 years. You rarely see a couple that was married for over 20 years and decided to divorce. I have seen episodes where a couple split just one month after they were married. The point is that people are not staying together. So what happened to getting married and living "happily ever after"? Reality bites. When you get married, you change. Your spouse changes. Having children change your marriage and your relationship with your significant other. Your weight changes. Debt, finance, unemployment, drastically alters marriages. Lack of communication and finances are two of the biggest reasons couples divorce.

It is not one spouse's fault that the marriage changed. It takes two to tango and two to make a marriage work. Divorce Court demonstrates this. Oftentimes petty differences may cause a couple to part. A couple may argue over dishes in the sink and one may want out. Many times there is an underlying issue that is bigger than the dishes on the sink. Oftentimes the woman may gain weight due to having children and the husband cheats or indulges in porn via the Internet. This can ruin a wife's self-esteem which has dire effects on a well-intended marriage.

Lynn Toler is the judge on Divorce Court. At the end of every episode she gives the couple a lecture. She calls out cheating spouses and gives them a piece of her mind. She doesn't solve their problems, but her advice is very good.

There is one other divorce myth that I would like to set straight: Most people do not get married wanting a divorce. Divorce is hard and takes a toll on your personally and emotionally. Going through a separation and a divorce were some of the darkest days in my life. I have a lot of single friends who often tell me "When I get married I will never get a divorce." Never use the "n" word. Life is ironic.

Singles who want to get married should watch Divorce Court. I know that there are many shows on the WE channel and The Fine Living Channel that focus on the wedding day. But Divorce Court can fill you in on what happens during the marriage.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sign O' The Times

I just noticed a realtor putting up a "House for Lease" sign next door. This has become the norm in my neighborhood. Today our subdivision held it's semi-annual garage sale. As I drove through my subdivision looking for bargains, I couldn't help but notice all the "For Sale" signs on the houses. They are hard to miss as my neighborhood is littered with these signs. On one block, there were three houses for sale right next to each other.

I live in a master-planned neighborhood in Katy, Texas. Our house is four years old. They are still building new homes on our block. The oldest homes in our community were built in 1998. All around Katy, there are signs of development. Two major hospitals will be built in Katy within the next two years and more and more businesses are moving here. Home foreclosures did not hit Texas as hard as it hit the rest of the country. Last week they debuted 31 model homes in nearby Cinco Ranch, which is the largest master-planned community in our area.

What does all of the "For Sale" signs say about the viability of our sub-division? Why is everyone moving out? One reason could be our taxes. Katy, Texas has one of the highest property tax rates in Texas. Another reason are the oil companies. Houston has more oil companies than any other cities. Recently, ranked Houston as one of America's top ten "recession-proof cities". They cited the oil companies, an increase in manufacturing companies and a relatively low level of unemployment. Many of the residents in my neighborhood work for oil companies. Many of these oil execs have to move every three to four years. The house across from me was built in 2005 and has been on the market twice.

What to make of all of this? My gut feeling is that the abundance of houses on the market is attributed to today's unstable economy. The Houston Business Journal ran an article back in February titled "Population plus Job Growth equals Prosperity in Lone Star State." As much as the authors may tout Texas as the fastest growing state, no where is recession-proof. Home prices in my neighborhood range from 150K to 600K. This is relatively lower than many parts of the United States. However, like the rest of the United States, the price of gas and groceries have steadily increased. Most of the residents in my neighborhood are made up of families with small children. The cost of childcare alone can equal to a separate mortgage bill each month. Property taxes have risen at an exponential rate. This year our property was appraised at $30K more than it was last year. Unfortunately, wages have not caught up with the higher cost of living, thus forcing more and more families to move out. Looking around me at all the houses for sale, I wonder if this is just the sign of the times.