Four days after their wedding, Nicolas Cage has filed for an annulment from his wife Erika Koike. His impulsive marriage was a mistake no one should make, and not just because it's embarrassing and may be expensive to undo. A spontaneous marriage can be bad for your relationships with your family, friends, and co-workers. And it can destroy a budding relationship before it has the chance to turn into a solid one. It's an important lesson for everyone, but especially for entrepreneurs and business leaders accustomed to taking quick, decisive action. This is one situation where that approach can really backfire.
It was a humiliating series of events even for a Hollywood celebrity. Earlier this week, the actor Nicolas Cage was caught on cell phone video walking behind his then-girlfriend Koike into the Clark County Marriage Bureau in Las Vegas. Off-camera, he reportedly announced that she would take all his money. On the video he can be heard complaining loudly that her boyfriend (presumably an ex) is a drug dealer. Cage seems like he might be drunk. "I"m not doing it," he says.
Koike faces him and responds calmly, "I never asked you to."
Just then, a Marriage Bureau employee appears and invites them to complete their paperwork in a private room. Koike, understandably, hesitates, but Cage says "Come on, let's go," and urges her gently through the door. They reportedly left the office shortly thereafter with their marriage license, and apparently they immediately put it to use. Four days later, Cage has filed for an annulment and if that isn't granted, for a divorce.
The drunken Vegas marriage followed shortly afterward by a sober divorce is a common event in sit-coms. When it happens in real life, it isn't so funny. Cage may be immune to embarrassment by now--he has been arrested for drunk driving and public intoxication. He's being sued by the Internal Revenue Service and a variety of creditors for unpaid taxes and loans. He's already been married and divorced three times. Considering all the other things that have gone very publicly wrong in the Con Air star's life, a four-day marriage may not seem like that big a deal. And since Cage appears to be deep in debt, there may not be that much money left for Koike or her lawyers to wrest from him, his reported rant in the Marriage Bureau notwithstanding.
But there's a lot more than dignity and money to be lost when you jump into marriage too quickly. Chief among the potential losses: The chance to actually do it right.
Consider Cage's history. Most of his relationships seem to have come and gone relatively quickly--until he married the one-time waitress Alice Kim. Thar marriage lasted 12 years and when it ended, he seemed to be bereft. The split-up came as a surprise he told interviewers. "I'm 54 and single again, I didn't see that coming! It's pretty grim."
Right around then, or maybe a few months earlier, Cage had started dating Koike. By the time they tied the knot, it seems they'd been together for at least a year. That's just a guess, since , Cage isn't always open about his private life and no one seems to know much about Koike, beyond the fact that she is or was a makeup artist. However, the fact that they've been together for a while, along with the fact that she remained composed at the Marriage Bureau suggests that maybe she was good for him.
What happens to that relationship now? There are not many couples that could go through a public event like this one, a four-day marriage and then annulment or divorce and go back to wherever they were before. And if Cage seems to treat the whole thing as mainly an occasion for drama, her demeanor suggests that she took the prospect of marriage more seriously.
But even if a couple is sure about getting married (and sober when they make the decision) there are still good reasons for not doing it on the spur of the moment. For one thing, you both have other people that you care about in your lives--parents, children, siblings, friends, or all of these. To me, one of the great pleasures of getting married, and part of its purpose both in ancient and modern times, is the public and official blending of two families, and two circles of friends. That requires a large or small wedding, and some time to let the people you care about know about it.
I recently attended a Vegas wedding where the bride and groom picked up their marriage license the day before the ceremony. But they'd planned the event well in advance and they chose Vegas in part from nostalgia and in part because much of the bride's family lived in Southern California and drove over from there. The groom's family gathered at a reception in the Midwest a few days later.
A quick elopement can seem romantic and carefree. And marriage can be and should be fun. But it isn't carefree. It's a serious undertaking that means blending households and lives and finances and families. It's intended to last a lifetime. As Cage just learned, if you don't give careful thought to that undertaking before you do it, you can wind up being very, very sorry. And you can destroy a good partnership before it has the chance to get started.