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MITCH ALBOM: Win the big lottery, spoil the marriage

Editorial / OpinionEditorial / Opinion: MITCH ALBOM: Win the big lottery, spoil the marriage

I'm sure winning the lottery is good for something. But that something obviously isn't marriage.

Take the recent case of Robert Swofford, a postal worker in Florida. He had been separated from his wife for three years. That's a long time to be separated. That's longer than many marriages. You figure that much time apart, you might as well finalize it. But they never got around to it.

Then Swofford won the lottery. A fat $60 million. And wouldn't you know it? Just like that, his wife served him with divorce papers -- and claimed half of his prize.

In New York, a woman booted her husband out after months of arguments. They had been married nearly 20 years, but she was tired of him. Done. She didn't divorce him. Why bother? He was bankrupt. Had 78 cents in the bank. Not much to split up there.

Then he won $149 million in the lottery. And wouldn't you know it? She filed for divorce -- and half of his winnings -- before the check was cut.

Sometimes, you don't even need to be married. In Canada, a lottery winner already had divorced his wife -- after never living in the same place during their marriage -- and yet she still sued for a chunk of his winnings, claiming that, yes, they were divorced, but they were still having sex.

So, you know, the relationship was intact.

Who really needs a spouse?

I've often wondered why the divorce rate has skyrocketed the last 50 years. I once asked my mother, who was born during the Depression, if she thought couples argued more now, or had bigger issues with one another.

"No, we had all that," she said. "I think we were just too poor to get divorced."

Lottery winners seem to prove that true. Suddenly, it seems, the belief that you can be taken care of by a windfall of money trumps the belief that you need a husband -- or a wife -- for your happiness.

Suddenly, men envision a carefree life of younger women and endless parties, and women envision a life unburdened by the fat slobs they've been putting up with for years.

Of course, the world is full of examples proving otherwise. In Scotland, a 76-year-old widower became that nation's oldest lottery winner. With millions in his bank account, he married a woman 30 years younger, whom he had met at a singles club.

Within a year, he'd filed for divorce. He even banned her from his house. He finally paid her an undisclosed settlement.

At 79, he was back where he started. Single.

"She was a gold digger," he told reporters. "Now I've learned my lesson; I'm never going to marry again. ... The next thing I'm going to do is book a holiday to somewhere sunny and warm."

Here's a tip: Stay away from Club Med.

Will someone ever say no?

It seems like every few weeks, you hear some rags-to-riches story about a lottery winner. And a few weeks later, you hear a riches-to-rags story to counter it.

None is sadder than that of Jack Whittaker, who, a few years ago, won the richest undivided lottery jackpot in U.S. history -- $315 million. At the beginning, he was joyous, boisterous, promising to share his good fortune with the church and the poor.

Two years later, he'd been arrested, sued, ordered into rehab, accused of causing trouble at racetracks and nightclubs and -- worst of all -- he'd seen his 17-year-old granddaughter die of a drug overdose. Her body was found wrapped in a plastic tarp.

Whittaker won his fortune on Christmas Day of 2002.

His granddaughter was buried on Christmas Eve, 2004.

"I wish all of this never would have happened," his wife said. "I wish I would have torn the ticket up."

You wonder, one day, if someone will do that. You wonder if someone will come forward, winning ticket in hand, look at the swath of ruined lives, crushed marriages, exploded families and down-and-out former millionaires, and say, "You know what? It's not worth it."

Maybe. Then again, if they were capable of saying that, why buy the ticket in the first place?

Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press Columnist

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15 comments. Last comment 12 years ago by tg636.
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lottoshlep's avatar - super 7-top-over.jpg
BC
Canada
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Posted: January 11, 2005, 1:14 pm - IP Logged

 

Quote: " You wonder if someone will come forward, winning ticket in hand, look at the swath of ruined lives, crushed marriages, exploded families and down-and-out former millionaires, and say, "You know what? It's not worth it."  ----------------

We tend to hear about the problem winners, probably because that is deemed more newsworthy. There must hundreds of others who had few if any problems adjusting to their newfound wealth. But, that's gotta be the lotto-quote of the year, LOL ... I can't see see anyone doing that ... not in this lifetime, but then again you never know

if at first you don't succeed ... destroy all evidence you ever tried  Cool 

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    United States
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    Posted: January 11, 2005, 2:41 pm - IP Logged

    I don't disagree with his analysis, but in the cases he cited, the couples were already in the process of breaking up...the lottery just greased the skids and speeded up the proceedings.  Yes, the wives wanted millions, but if they had bought the ticket the husbands would have wanted millions. I would interested in hearing about couples where everything was going fine before winning and lottery money caused the break up. 

    If I won $90 million and my wife wanted divorce and $45 million, I would give it to her rather than wake up every day knowing I was with someone who was staying with me just for the money.

    I sympathize with the Whittaker's tragic loss, but they have to face up to something: just because you have millions does not mean you have to give a 17 year old a Hummer and endless cash from the ATM.  Those decisions weren't the fault of the money - they were made by her parents and grandparents. But I can see not wanting to feel partly responsible for such a sad dvent.

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      Posted: January 11, 2005, 4:55 pm - IP Logged
      Quote: Originally posted by lottoshlep on January 11, 2005



      We tend to hear about the problem winners, probably because that is deemed more newsworthy. There must hundreds of others who had few if any problems adjusting to their newfound wealth. But, that's gotta be the lotto-quote of the year, LOL ... I can't see see anyone doing that ... not in this lifetime, but then again you never know




      --winner2b

        Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
        Clarksville
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        Posted: January 11, 2005, 5:29 pm - IP Logged

        I agree with the general idea but I don't for once think that ALL lottery players go through these changes.  The faults that I see were already well on their way to becoming reality.  The Wittaker family forgot about "community" and "family".  You have a responsibility to take care of them  and not to use money as a pacifier to those who are not used to it.  To some people, money is just as dangerous as a loaded gun.  If you play with a gun without the safety on, dventually someone will get hurt or killed. And then some people are just greedy and want their share...the same way the wives did, I am sure there are some examples of the opposite out there...maybe not just lottery winners but people in general..how about the woman who works her fingers to the bone and helps to put her husband through one expensive school or the other..he becomes successful often making millions.. and when she turns 50, he dumps her and the kids and starts his second childhood with a 20 year old..it is the same thing.

        If you know your number is going to hit, have patience and then KILL IT!

        You never know when you will get another hit.

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          USA
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          Posted: January 11, 2005, 7:57 pm - IP Logged

          Money, obtained overnight is difficlut to appreciate because you can have it all now. What that mean is that value object now becomes distorted. A hummer for any kid under 18 is absurd but if you have the money, why not? I guess the one thing we can all try to take from this it that it's not all free and easy. The path to true wealth comes from hard work and labour. Giving a child something they never earned is very dangerous, I know I would have probaly hurt someone with a SUV or Hummer at age 18, it was something I could not handle or appreciate.

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            Columbia City, Indiana
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            December 9, 2003
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            Posted: January 11, 2005, 9:08 pm - IP Logged

            I'll take my chances.

            Tg636 is right; in each example, the couple was already having problems, so to blame their respective marital troubles on a lottery windfall is ludicrous.

            While I agree the article is well-written and somewhat informative, I resent the fact that it's written with such an obvious bias. The message here seems to be, "Don't play the lottery because, if you win, it will ruin your marriage and there's nothing you can do to stop it." As a writer, I understand that every story needs a "slant" but, as a reader, I like to have all of the facts, and then make up my own mind. I don't like it when people (reporters in particular) assume I'm so stupid that I can't think for myself, and then take it upon themselves to tell me how I should think and feel about an issue by omitting choice bits of the story. But that's just me; if everyone thought and felt the way I do about everything, it could get pretty boring real fast, although it would make my life much less stressful, so I'd appreciate it if everyone reading this would consider doing just that.

            But I digress... 

            On December eighth of last year, LotteryPost published a news item detailing the experiences of a woman named Faris-Cifelli. She and her husband Steve run the Garden of Angels, a non-profit infant cemetary in California, supported mostly from donations and fund raising activities. They were interviewed on CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show and several daytime and late-night television talk shows. After playing only three times, they won the California Lottery jackpot and walked away with nine million and change after taxes. Some of the money, they said, will go to their seven grown children, but the bulk of their new fortune will finance their crusade for abandoned infants and to expand and fund the cemetary.

            Notice that they're not fighting over the money. They're working together toward a common and honorable goal which also benefits their community. And their marriage isn't breaking up; they're very devoted to each other and to their cause.

            We need to hear more stories like this one.   

            Come, Pinky; we must prepare for tomorrow night...

            Jim

              Maverick's avatar - yinyang
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              Posted: January 11, 2005, 11:35 pm - IP Logged

              Yea I was gonna say the relationship was already rocky to begin with, so don't blame the lottery win.

              Well at least I got a good laugh out of one line in the article: women envision a life unburdened by the fat slobs they've been putting up with for years.

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                beltsville, md
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                Posted: January 12, 2005, 12:06 am - IP Logged

                players,



                mitch uses the example of less than half a dozen people from three countries to suggest that

                winning the lottery isn't such a good idea after all. he never tells us the total number of new

                lottery millionaires generated each year and what happens to them or their new found wealth.

                if you ask me, mark twain was right; there are lies, damned lies and statistics!



                hitchaser...


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                  Posted: January 12, 2005, 5:43 am - IP Logged




                  "I wish all of this never would have happened," his wife said. "I wish I would have torn the ticket up."








                  Well, it's not too late to give all of it away and go back to a minimum wage job somewhere. Everybody will suffer a misfortune, like a death in the family, at some point in our lives. But the pity-me-because-I'm-rich crowd don't deserve special sympathy from anybody.

                    konane's avatar - wallace
                    Atlanta, GA
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                    Posted: January 12, 2005, 8:11 am - IP Logged
                    jim695 and hitchaser both make excellent points that we rarely hear good stories about how lottery wins have benefited people ..... because bad news sells and the MSM has been stuck in the rut of sensationalism and tragedy for years.   




                     




                    Seems that winning the lottery puts the winner under a magnifying glass amplifying both good and bad in their lives ... winning any amount merely provides a different set of lessons to be learned. 




                     




                    Just another chapter of life on center stage.   

                    Good luck to everyone!

                      RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                      mid-Ohio
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                      Posted: January 12, 2005, 12:26 pm - IP Logged

                      MITCH ALBOM: Win the big lottery, spoil the bad marriage





                      RJOh

                       * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                         
                                   Evil Looking       

                        konane's avatar - wallace
                        Atlanta, GA
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                        Posted: January 12, 2005, 12:41 pm - IP Logged

                        Quote: Originally posted by RJOh on January 12, 2005



                        MITCH ALBOM: Win the big lottery, spoil the bad marriage





                        RJOh












                        Good luck to everyone!

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                          New Member
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                          Posted: January 12, 2005, 1:59 pm - IP Logged

                          You know, this article, while slanted, is really remarkable and brings up quite a few problems I have with the world today.  First off, people need to understand that just because you win the lottery, all your responsibilities won't go away.  If anything, you have more.  I worked in a stock broking firm for quite a while and the one thing that I took from there above anything else is this:  the rich stay rich because they don't spend frivolously.  They are cheap.  One of the broker's there was worth close to $50 MILLION dollars, was 92 years old, and still worked!!!  He still drove to people's houses to talk about their finances.  He only worked 3 days a week, and had another broker at the office to help him, but it wasn't just for the money.  He charged these people close to nothing, only what the company's minimum charge was, which meant he made almost nothing.  His son was a great man, worked there as well.  He wasn't one of those spoiled brats as a child that got anything it asked for, and he made his own money.  On the flip side, another broker spent money like it was water, and she'll need to work until she dies just to stay afloat and her daughter, at the age of 36 hadn't held a real job her whole life, was still in college (and still without even an associates degree) and mommy gave her anything.  The only reason she's kept her job is mommy got there the job (against company policy).  Second, the problems with marriage these days isn't that people were too poor to get divorced, but now it's exceptionally easy to get a divorce and people don't respect marriage like they used to.  People now look at marriage like, "well, if it doesn't work, we'll just get a divorce".  Instead of trying their best to make things work.  People are so selfish these days, they expect everyone to accept their quirks, but shouldn't have to put up with anyone else's.  It's like people don't understand the who "Through thick and thin", like their mind is just going through the motions at that part.  I mean, yes there are instances where it's just not possible to work things out.  It seems to me like the world has progressed in intelligence, but taken a step backwards in maturity.  When someone says, "I'm not getting married until I'm thirty and not having children until I'm 40!" only says to me, I'm too stuck on myself right now to do anything that requires responsibility to take on one of the two that requires the most.  And it is bad for someone like me, because I'm now closing in on 30, and I can't find somone who's ready to shoulder the responsibility.  Even some of the ones that say the are, aren't, and it's really sad.  Alright, well I'm done with this rant for now.  Who knows, may I don't know what I'm talking about, but it's how I feel, right?

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                            USA
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                            Posted: January 12, 2005, 4:13 pm - IP Logged

                            good points, I agree with both. Commitment went out the door once women felt to the need to sleep with every guy they met JUST BECUASE THEY CAN.