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The Economics of Divorce

Image result for heart break emojiEven in the most carefully run and financially independent of lives, there will be some wrenching twists and turns.

Friendships and businesses will fail. You or your loved ones will get sick and some of them will die. Kids will have plenty of trouble on their long road to adulthood – if they even make it. And all around you, there will be a sea of fighting and breakups and divorces and mismatched relationships that you wish would end, for your sake or that of your best friends.

With all of this happening, it’s a wonder that we can remain happy and productive and even thrive as humans. But we can. And we do. Because sometimes life just serves up a shit salad and we don’t have a choice in the matter, but we always have a choice of how to respond to it.

So if you haven’t already heard through the rumor mill, the former Mrs. Money Mustache and I are no longer married. Although we had been drifting this way for a while, the formal change of our status is still less than a year old, so it’s still a topic that deserves some quiet respect*.

The downfalls of our own relationship are personal and not something we choose to make public, but you’ve heard it all before anyway. Sometimes people just grow apart over the decades and no matter how much they work at the relationship, find that they want different things from life. And when this happens, not even the greatest advantages of a lifetime money surplus or a supportive network of great friends and family or living in a beautiful place can save you.

Update: Some of the negative speculators have assumed “your wife dumped you because you were too frugal.” This part may be necessary to address because of the money theme of this blog.

The answer is NO. I was the one who asked for the separation so you can blame me for it. And no, there were no frugality issues because earning and accumulating money was always extremely easy for us. We spent whatever we wanted, we just happened to have finite desires. Plus I was not the “boss” of the house. Mrs. MM has always been an independent-minded person who is good with money and decides on her own spending.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that we have had about the most amicable separation that one could hope for, we all still spend plenty of time together and our son is still in the same loving environment he has always had. And I would venture to say that both of us parents are going to come out of the experience much better off than we were before.

See, even the harshest moments come with a little golden key taped secretly onto their side, which you can use to unlock personal growth and greater future happiness. But only if you choose to accept that key and put it to use.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that there weren’t plenty of harsh moments for both of us, both before and during this experience, with plenty more still to come. Because divorce, especially with children and family and traditions involved, is really fucking hard. 

But guess what? There are a lot of things in life that are hard. Being born and going through childhood is hard. Having babies of your own is even harder. School and jobs are hard, and money is really hard for most people. Relationships and friendships and dealing with bossy or dysfunctional friends or family or parents, personal habits and addictions, and everything else. Life is full of hardships.

But throughout all of it, we always have a choice about how to deal with them.

We can choose to focus on how unfair the situation is, how we were right and we tried our best and the world still mistreated us. And we can fight back, chasing the unfair person or company or situation and get revenge. We can make sure they know exactly why they were wrong and every way in which they were flawed.

And we can collect bathtubs full of sympathetic tears from our friends. And burn years on reliving the past, with a mixture of regret and vengeful self-righteousness and self-pity.

– OR – 

We can get right back to work on positive things to rebuild our lives. Improving ourselves through better habits and health. Building new relationships and nurturing old ones, and making sure we put out only positive energy to every person in our lives, including our ex-spouse. Building everyone up and never, ever tearing anyone down. Because they already do that plenty to themselves.

Like almost everything else in life, human nature draws us to the easier but more destructive of these paths, and only self-knowledge and self-discipline can lift us out of that rut and place us onto the more productive one. And even then, our human nature will keep pulling us back and we’ll make mistakes. And then we’ll have to drag ourselves back out of that rut again. And put the happy face back on, and start behaving like an adult again.

As one friend puts it, “Being a divorced coparent is like being the co-owner of a business. Except it’s the most important company in the world and having it fail is not an option. So you have to treat your business partner accordingly.”

It has been a hard year. But at the same time, I feel we have both already learned so much, that it seems almost impossible that the experience won’t help both of us live better lives in the future. We are both doing well in forming new relationships and supportive of the other’s success in that important aspect of moving on.

But this is usually a personal finance blog. What does my romantic life have to do with your financial life? Not too much in the specifics, but quite a bit in general, because about half of all marriages end in divorce, and I have found it can be quite a tricky minefield to navigate.

First of all, there is the effect on your child raising, which is a parent’s most important job in life. In the best scenario, the end of a marriage is just a change to your love life, and you can continue to collaborate with your former spouse in a wonderful and open way. But the more conflict you have with that ex, the harder it is to cooperate, which leads to a worse experience for everyone – especially your children.

Then there is the social shame attached to divorce in our culture. While it could be looked at as the natural and peaceful end of an arrangement that has just run its course, other people will see it as a failure or a betrayal or a sin. In fact, when rumour of our separation got out, multiple gossipy and negative and downright distasteful discussions formed around the Internet – on Reddit, other bloggers’ websites, even right here on my own forum. People who don’t even know you, will speculate on your character and your motives. It adds pain to an already difficult situation. The only way to survive this is to ignore it and focus on your own internal compass.

And finally there is the famed financial cost of divorce. It is legendary for destroying lives and fortunes, and indeed this is sometimes accurate. This is because conflict is a form of war, and war is the most expensive thing humans have ever invented. And if you hire lawyers and other specialists to fight on your behalf, you just multiply the damage and the cost and stretch out the timeline.

But fortunately, like everything else, going to war is almost always a choice.

And if you don’t choose to fight, a divorce doesn’t have to cost much at all. Two people can peacefully collect up their financial and physical belongings and go their separate ways, and the only cost is in any duplication of possessions you choose to do, to replace things you formerly shared.

So the former Mrs. MM and I (mostly under her guidance!) worked through the do-it-yourself paperwork and paid a $265 fee to the county court for the divorce. I bought the lowest-cost house in the neighborhood, just a 2.5 minute bike ride down the hill from the family house, and I’ve already fixed it up and started hosting Airbnb rentals to help make it carry its own weight. I left the Nissan Leaf behind and chose not to buy a car of my own because I already have bikes.

We share plenty of time with our son and he is doing amazingly well – because we are choosing to make this new life about growth rather than conflict.

And most notably from the perspective of early retirement and financial independence, having enough money in advance has made this part of the split much less painful. Both of us can remain retired and continue to live in mortgage-free houses with investments easily covering our living expenses, while sharing child raising expenses. Although I chose to buy a house, nobody had to compromise on quality of life or sell the expensive family house.

Because I enjoy moderate living for its own sake, my own cost of living will go way down. And because I continue to enjoy writing and working, my income may continue to stay high through this next stage of my life. I’ll continue to use the surplus for projects and philanthropy just as before, but the point here is that one’s relationship status does not have to affect their financial status.

As a long-time reader said to me in a recent email as we discussed our shared fate, having a solid financial cushion and low expenses and lifestyle flexibility, has made the best of an otherwise difficult situation – especially in not having to disrupt the lives of our kids.

Still, having been through it, I would not recommend divorce as a decision to be taken lightly. If you’re still married and there is even a chance that you want it to last, you might consider the following steps.

How to Stay Married

Read about how to stay married – early and often. Peruse the bountiful relationship advice section at Amazon and definitely check out the 5 Love Languages book that resonates strongly with so many people.

Most of us (myself included) drift through the years, assuming we are doing a perfectly good job at being married, while unintentionally making all the same mistakes that everyone else makes.

Bad idea.

You need to proactively nurture a close, loving relationship before things get too dire, and never take it for granted. Because many bits of damage you do to a relationship are permanent. You cannot nag or criticize your partner for years and expect them to forgive you when you eventually see the light. And for those being nagged: you cannot ignore the requests of your partner for years, and expect them to forgive you for that either.

There are so many things, like being on each other’s team in times of hardship, and being genuinely excited and greeting your partner warmly at the door if they’ve been away, that fall to the side in marriages as they get stale. Every time you let this slide, you do a bit of permanent damage. The effects are cumulative like erosion, not temporary like moods or weather.

So the bad news is that there is definitely such thing as “too late.” At some point, the idea of “working on” a marriage sounds like hell because you have been waiting for so long to be able to escape it.

But the good news is that it might not be too late for you, if you do want to stay married. And the benefits begin immediately – if both people are working at it, every positive gesture from one side will be met with a positive one from the other, and they can reinforce each other into a beautiful upward spiral.

But if You’d Rather Not Stay Married

The flipside of all this is that many, many people are currently married, who should not be and don’t want to be.

You may be two perfectly great people with irreconcilable differences, or there might be one great person stuck with an abusive user or loser, or any other combination in the grand spectrum of possible humans. And it is important for these people to hear that although divorce is always difficult, sometimes it really is the best choice and there should not be shame or blame associated with this choice.

Every human needs and deserves to be accepted and loved – even the people who drive us crazy and even those who treat us poorly. They are who they are and while you can’t change them, you can’t make the world any better by spitting venom back at them. So your best strategy is to carve them out of your life, while keeping your words as kind and respectful as you possibly can.

And heed the wise words of my own relationship and coparenting counselor, who noted that the first months after any divorce are the times of greatest conflict. And then it gets easier. And easier. And mellower and friendlier. And after a few years, many former divorcees have moved on so happily that can’t even believe that they were ever angry at each other. That’s entirely possible, and it should be your goal.

So lean on friends, talk to a relationship counselor even if it is just by yourself (yes, it’s really worth it!), read books, laugh, cry, learn mindfulness and meditation, eat salads, get outside and exercise, write more new things and build new things and new businesses and new relationships, and you will come through it better than ever.

That’s what I’ll be up to in 2019.  I hope your new year is even better!


In the Comments: I have found it so helpful over this past year to share with others and realize that I am not alone in this. Feel free to share your own experiences and hopes and fears anonymously.

My comment form allows you to use a pseudonym so you can be anonymous while you let out the truth. And read the other comments, to see what other people around you are feeling.

And for those who have been through this and gotten through the other side and found happiness, go ahead and share your message of hope.


* A bit of social approrpriateness that seems to be lost on certain forum participants and even other bloggers, who we won’t call out here. Please don’t be like them – using the Internet to publicly gossip about strangers helps nobody.

 

 

  • Jen December 31, 2018, 8:15 pm

    I recently got out of a 20+ year miserable marriage and, because we had been on the FI path for so long, I realized I didn’t really have to work anymore once we divorced. Being smart with money and investing allowed us to accumulate a lot more than most people, which made divorce so much less painful. So instead of thinking that divorce might ruin your FI, consider that FI might make a divorce much less painful. For me it was, and because I was the frugal one to start with divorce actually made me unexpectedly FIRE when we divided our assets. It’s not what I would have chosen but I am so happy I didn’t end up like most divorced people I know.

    Reply
  • Vanessa December 31, 2018, 8:20 pm

    Beautifully written and heartfelt post, thank you for sharing. I wanted to chime in and say that for each of the individual buttheads that gossiped and flung shit on this subject or others involving your personal life in the various forums, there were at least 100 people who wanted reach through their screen to punch them in the face for their rude and shitty antics. I’ve never commented on anything before, just wanted you to know that you’re loved by your readers (except the buttheads who are jealous or dweebs or jealous dweebs), and you have our support. Also, we think you’re cool. Go forth and prosper!!

    Reply
  • Frederick Atwater December 31, 2018, 8:35 pm

    My empathies to you sir. I don’t know you or your (ex) personally, but it sounds so common. Divorce is not to be taken lightly, but once it is entered into, it is a business decision, devoid of emotional context.

    And a little vent…

    My former spouse created a relationship outside of ours while I was at war (Iraq era). Her behavior was extraordinarily destructive to our marriage and friendship and she wanted out, so she got it. But once she chose that path, it was clear-cut cold business. I look back to those turbulent times and she actually believed in her heart and soul that we were still to be life-long friends. I’m not sure what color of fucked up crayons she colors her world with, but when you break your promises and do that, it’s over.

    I am extraordinarily blessed to be remarried to my beautiful spouse now whom I see as awesome and we have been blessed with our son, who is now 7 and in 1st grade.

    My ex sued me 3 times after the divorce (for more money of course) because just about 5 seconds after the divorce was finalized, I was free and became more successful than I ever imagined.. multiple 7 digit type successful… and you know what the court did with her lawsuits? Garbage. Thrown out. Good riddance.

    Ok, vent over…

    MMM, you have to grieve this one out brother. You’ve lost someone immensely important to you. Take your time, everyone grieves different.

    R
    Fred Atwater

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 1, 2019, 8:53 am

      Wow! Sorry to hear about that previous marriage – it’s tricky enough to split up with a genuinely kind and pure-hearted person. But to have a troubled person willing to embark in basically criminal dishonesty in order to steal from you, that would take a lot more mindfulness and focusing on the breath ;-)

      Still, on those few times I HAVE had to show someone to the proverbial door of my life, I have felt such incredible gratitude when they were gone, it gradually repaid me for the shittiness I endured. By making the present that much more enjoyable by contrast.

      Reply
  • Janet December 31, 2018, 8:40 pm

    Sorry to hear about your divorce but I’m glad it ended on amicable terms. Sometimes divorce is the best solution and sometimes it’s not. I am a fan of the love languages and it helps me to understand my boyfriend because he has a different love languages than me.

    Reply
  • OutDad December 31, 2018, 8:47 pm

    Thank you so much for the post MMM.

    When I came out as gay a few years back, my now ex-wife (I prefer “former spouse”) was just about as supportive as anyone can imagine. We have two kids together, and I can’t imagine going through a divorce where things are combative.

    The only two pieces of advice I would offer would be this: 1) consider a professional mediator if you have a lot of assets, even if (maybe even especially if), things are very amicable. It’s their job to make sure both parties feel like everything is fairly divided, and to be thorough. They can also help draw up a memorandum of understanding, which the court will need. They may cost a couple hundred or perhaps a thousand dollars, but for this process especially you do not want any lingering resentment.

    2) if you have kids, especially young ones, consider nesting for a while. Nesting means that the kids stay in the family house, and the two parents take turns leaving. Yes, this means maintaining two (or even three) households. However, it’s much much easier on the kids. They never have to worry about what toys are at moms vs dads, where they’re sleeping each night, etc. even if it’s only for a while, it will ease the transition and also give you some empathy for when the kids do start moving between households.

    Thanks again for the blog mmm, and for sharing such a private part of your life!

    Reply
  • Petunia100 December 31, 2018, 8:53 pm

    Oh, this post caught me completely by surprise. I am so sorry to hear that your marriage has come to an end. For all of you.

    Divorce IS hard; it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I knew it was the best path forward given the situation, but even so, incredibly difficult. I don’t think we grasp just how difficult until we go through it ourselves.

    I was married for 18 years and have been divorced now for 11. My children were almost 16 (daughter, the subject of one of your M180 blog posts a few years back BTW) and almost 11 (son) at the time that I moved out of our family home. My ex-husband and I agreed that we were going to co-parent and agreed on some parameters. I can’t say that it went perfectly, but we did a lot of things right. No matter what else, we both still had the same desire to see those children reared to the best of our abilities. Divorce does NOT change that. Both children are adults in their 20s at this point.

    While we did not have anywhere near the net worth that you and the former MrsMMM have, we were in the fortunate position of dividing assets rather than debts, which certainly made it easier for both of us to begin new lives. (Especially for me, as I was earning 46k per year at the time of our split). Like you, we did not use attorneys. We used a paralegal service to file the forms which cost $575 (including filing fees) if I recall correctly. It was another 1k to file the QDRO (all court fees). So not quite as efficient as you (no surprise there), but not outrageously expensive either. We agreed to legal 50/50 custody which kept the court system out of our arrangements for our children.

    For us, the divorce was far more successful than the marriage.

    Having been where you are now, I advise you to just be patient with yourself. It takes time to process your feelings, grieve, and adjust to your new normal. But life will continue to hold amazing things for all three of you. Best wishes to you all!

    Reply
  • Steveark December 31, 2018, 9:03 pm

    I hate that for you and her. I got lucky,not smart to marry my bride 40 years ago. Her strengths offset my myriad weaknesses so we survived, no thanks to me. It’s so random, only idiots claim credit for success in marriage . And you are not one of those. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Chris Roane December 31, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing. A few years ago my wife told me she was thinking about leaving. I was shocked. I knew we weren’t great, but I wasn’t aware of the emotional distance we had with each other. I always loved her but didn’t do a good job showing it. I was able to win her heart back, and after 14 years of marriage, we are closer than ever. You are right in that sometimes it is “too late”. But even if you think it is too late, if you truly love that person, try to make things right… if possible. I know that sometimes that can’t happen, and past hurts can add up to mountains of separation. But even if it doesn’t work out, fighting for your marriage can lead to unexpected outcomes.

    But with that said, sometimes divorce is the right move. And it sounds like you guys are handling it as best as you can.

    The one thing I learned is that I always have to fight for my marriage. Communication is key and showing how much you love and cherish your partner needs to be top priority. I want to pursue my wife like I did while we were dating and know that she is the love of my life. Does this guarantee things will last? No. The only thing I know is that this is the woman I want to be with and I will do anything for her.

    Reply
  • Jesse December 31, 2018, 9:21 pm

    The one and only time I met you (August- popup business school) I was going through a breakup and we have a child together, 9 years of age. It was definitely the tough in the beginning. But like you said, things have mellowed. Thanks for sharing and I hope you and your son enjoy the new year!

    Reply
  • Paula December 31, 2018, 9:24 pm

    Well, nuts. So sorry to hear about this. Steve and I married a few months after 911 and felt the need to write into our vows the notion that we have to cherish each other every day like it was our last, and so far, we’ve been able to do that. We also do things to stay close, like shower together. No hanky panky, just a great way to be intimate but not have sex. And get your back washed. And instead of growing apart, we’re starting to share more activities together. He got an acoustic guitar for free with brownie points from work, so we’re taking turns on it to teach ourselves how to play. Then he read that electrics are actually easier to learn on for beginners, so he got one of those and an amp. But he’s big and I’m little, and his guitar is too heavy and the strap is too long, so I’m getting my own.

    I can’t wait until we’re good enough to jam with each other!

    Also- have lots of sex. Studies seem to show that couples that have regular sex are much happier together. I have a friend who reported that it’s sure working for them!

    Reply
    • SBR December 31, 2018, 10:56 pm

      Paula, I love your message. It makes me think of so many people i work with who are so unhappy and greatly due to the lack of intimacy; to the point that they share openly the fact that sex is something absent in their lives and they accept it as the new normal.
      Good for you!

      Reply
    • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 6:30 am

      I am a woman and mom who completely agrees! Have lots of sex. It makes you feel so connected, bonded, and loved. Be flirtatious and be eachothers boyfriend/girlfriend like when you were dating. I learned this after my first divorce and was truthful with myself on the many ways I contributed to its demise. Now I am married to a rock star husband who is so easy to love. Like MMM mentioned, meet your spouse at the door with a kiss every day when he/she comes home. I am sending your whole family a virtual hug, MMM. You two sound like people with an unwavering moral compass centered around your son.

      Reply
  • Keeping Perspective December 31, 2018, 9:31 pm

    Timely post, as the judge signed our own separation papers today. Your second paragraph under How to Stay Married was me. I was completely blindsided. The hardest part for me has been that I was not offered an opportunity to improve our marriage once I was informed there was anything wrong.

    Keeping the situation in perspective has been helpful, though no less painful. On the spectrum of terrible things that can happen, for me personally I would rather have gotten cancer. On the other end of the spectrum, though, both of our kids are healthy and alive and nothing terrible has happened to them.

    After becoming a father myself, both a relative of mine and a friend’s sibling accidentally crushed their own toddlers with their vehicles in their own driveways. Anything terrible happening to your kids is as bad as it gets, yet that is a whole other level of pain. Not that I wasn’t very careful before, but even more so now with my own wee ones I try to be as productively paranoid as possible around automobiles.

    So… though separated… I still get to be the best dad I can be to *both* of my kids.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 1, 2019, 9:10 am

      Thanks for sharing KP! It sounds like you are in a painful part of the process right now, but the bright side is that it’s only upwards from here (okay, it will be a wavy but upwards trajectory).

      I can’t wait to hear how much better you feel in just one year, and best wishes to your Fatherhood role and your kids too.

      Reply
  • WantNot December 31, 2018, 9:44 pm

    So very sorry to hear the news. And congratulations to you and your ex for having the courage to move on with your lives.

    Divorce—-Been there, done that (amicably also). Divorce is never easy. It will hurt for longer than you can imagine. On the other hand, it also is freeing. I felt grief and relief simultaneously. Embrace them both and you will heal more quickly.

    Best of luck to all three of you in this life transition. With every step, there is something to learn.

    Reply
  • KidsPerspective December 31, 2018, 9:48 pm

    My parents divorced when I was about your son’s age, and it was amicable. They worked so hard to never put me in the middle of disagreements (I don’t think I even ever saw them argue), they were always civil to each other, never badmouthed each other, and I split time pretty equally between their two houses. As an adult, I can really appreciate that it must have been tough on them at the beginning when it was still an emotional time for both of them, but by putting my well-being first (as you two are doing) it was easier on me than on many kids whose parents who don’t. (I realize also that many divorces are not mutual decisions and are based on very tough things.) Of course my life changed, and I was sad, but I was also eventually happier to see them both happier. At this point they are warm friends (my mom and stepdad came to my dad and stepmom’s wedding reception) so I just wanted to affirm that from a kid’s perceptive the way you and your ex-wife are behaving are really going to help him in the long run. Hang in there!

    Reply
    • Alyssa January 1, 2019, 3:29 pm

      In response to this: my parents should have separated when I was a teenager. I could tell they were not happy together but they stayed without putting work in (because of me and my brothers I think). It was not a good environment to live in, my father started having affairs (they came out a few years ago and finally led to the divorce), and everyone was strained and miserable. I wish they had taken your road when it was time and that everyone could’ve been happier. If there is any doubt in your mind in regards to your son, please know it will be so much better for him this way, I’ve lived the sucky alternative.

      Reply
  • Micah December 31, 2018, 9:48 pm

    This is cool of you to share. I am a big believer in vulnerability and truth even if the outcomes don’t match the original intent or narratives. It took me a long time to learn this as my separation pretty fucking hard for a long time. Even in the crazy of my experience I still discovered that once you anchor to amicable as possible you are only talking about yourself. You retired early, I raised kids early, now I am in the process the former. Just stopped paying Child Support this year. Which is a accomplishment. Cheers to 2019.

    Reply
  • Josh December 31, 2018, 9:52 pm

    Hey Mr. MM,
    I stumbled across your site almost two years ago when i first became a dad. Since then, I’ve devoured most of the articles on this site, and you’ve been a real source of encouragement and inspiration to me as I’ve tackled the challenges of caring for a family and living with joy as so many life changes have come. I’m so sorry to hear about the difficult time that you and family are walking through right now. Please know you’re in my thoughts and prayers in Fla, and keep up the great work! I look forward to every article.

    Reply
  • Carl Milsted December 31, 2018, 10:01 pm

    Very, very sorry to hear this!

    This is the sad tale of our times. I am going to throw in some words that may seem harsh, but they are not directed at either you or your former wife. They are directed at our current legal system.

    * Marriage is very much a financial arrangement. It always has been. It has never been about merely “romance.”

    * Passion varies for all couples. It goes negative at times. Invariably. It takes a certain amount of social/legal pressure to keep marriages together at these times.

    * A large stockpile of money — such as early retirement — is a danger for marriages. Just ask the ghost of Johnny Carson.

    Marriage is supposed to be CONTRACT. It is supposed to allow women to safely forego career aspirations to focus on raising young children; and allow men to be assured that the children that they support are their own. No Fault divorce is a violation of basic contract law. (Then again, the no divorce standard of old locked people into truly unworkable arrangements!)

    The law should allow divorce as some marriages are truly unworkable. But it also should make divorce expensive for the initiator, as preserving marriage during temporary difficulties is a Good Thing.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 1, 2019, 8:43 am

      As harsh as that concept sounds when you lay it out, I kind of agree: going into the project of having kid(s) together is a HUUUUUGE and life-defining thing, and I think that people still do it too lightly (especially in their decision to have multiple kids even when the marriage is already showing cracks).

      Plus, we men have a tendency to do the easy part of helping to create these kids, and then take off and leave the woman to the raising. It is a messy age-old genetic battle that both female evolution and social rules have been working to try to clean up forever, with only limited success :-)

      So, marriage is deliberately quite binding to help make staying together the default option, and that should indeed be the default option when kids are around.

      Reply
  • anonymous December 31, 2018, 10:08 pm

    As another long time reader of your blog I too was shocked by this post. I recently divorced after almost 40 years of marriage. Most of those years were truly wonderful. Mental health like physical health can deteriorate with age. You wrote with great empathy and intelligence about something which must have been deeply personal and painful for you. All the best for the future.

    Reply
  • Just Me December 31, 2018, 10:25 pm

    I just want to say a word of thanks. You shared a comment on twitter a bit back about how a marriage ending doesnt need to be the end of a friendship or signal the end of cooperation. It was a comment I needed to read in that moment.

    My spouse and I have spent the last few months discusing the ins and outs and whatifs that surround separating, mostly amicably and respectfully. After fifteen years we have finally come to terms with the fact that while we are great friends, we just dont “every day” together very well and it is negativity impacting our family.

    I think that the word divorce carries a heavy negative connotation in our culture. I know for me, coming from a religious background, it carries an unnecessary weight. I’ve always defined love as wanting good things for another person and taking steps to achieve that good. I still love my spouse. I always will. Realizing we both can be happier living separately and opening that up as an option removed a lot of that negative weight. If making that change is positive for us, allows for self-care and personal growth for all involved and for our family as a whole, then the rest of the world can judge away.

    We aren’t quite there yet though. The whole experience has been a bit like stepping up to the edge of a breathtakingly steep cliff in a wingsuit. The feeling is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. The internal questions loom. Can I jump?
    Do I really want to? Willl I have the confidence to take that irreversible step off the edge? Will I plummit and crash? Will I open my arms, catch the wind and fly? When the flight is over will I look back on that one irreversible step as a positive or will I long for the known terrain of the mountain top again? There’s really no way to know.

    For today I’m going to hang out at the edge and contemplate. Maybe I jump on my own, maybe I get a strong shove, maybe we jump together. Maybe the leap loses its appeal once the adrenaline wears off and we retreat together and find a way forward. I guess there is much to discover in the coming year.

    As always, thanks for putting yourself out there. You matter to your son, to your ex, to your friends, to all of us and to all the people your future holds. Keep up with the positivity, even when the days weigh heavy.

    In the words of Dirk Gently from Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul,

    “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

    May you, and all of us as well, spend 2019 realizing that no matter where we are in the journey
    that we are right where we need to be.

    Reply
  • Michael December 31, 2018, 10:25 pm

    Ever watch the most amazing video on Youtube and see the downvotes? Like, who in the hell would downvote this?

    My hope for MMM and former MrsMM would receive no public criticism from those who know absolutely nothing about why. But the world of social media can be cruel and vindictive as we all know.

    MMM has been a guiding beacon in my life since he first started this blog. He didn’t have to share this most personal of all losses. Thank you for sharing. In a way, we’re not only a “cult”, but a family. I wish the best for you both and of course, the youngster.

    Reply
    • lurker January 5, 2019, 11:41 am

      Likewise. I must concur. And get right on my honeyedo list!

      Reply
  • Kyo December 31, 2018, 10:31 pm

    For the interested, The Five Love Languages is a good first step for some self-reflection and self-awareness, and partner-awareness.

    For even more research-based approach to long-term relationships (especially marriage), check out the Gottman Institute. A great place to evaluate warning signs and healthy signs within your current/future intimate relationships.

    John Gottman does an amazing job at looking at relationships through the systems, that is, through the patterns — the healthy tells of thriving couples, and the tells when the system is taking a nosedive.

    I highlight what he labels as the “Four Horsemen” behaviors that signify a declining relationship — Criticism, Contempt (the worst of the bunch), Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

    Not that healthy relationships exist without those, but Gottman covers the patterns in which lasting relationships differ in how these appear and are counter-balanced by other behavior habits.

    It’s been some good thought and reflection for me.

    And on a personal note, my wife too decided to end our marriage about 4 years ago, also very amicable. It f*cking sucked, but that pain also broke me out of years of codependent living I had been blindly stuck in, and I can say now it was one of the healthiest events that ever happened to me, and I think for her too. But that took a few years to get there…and to any at this point, it’s OK to not be there yet, to be just where it sucks…

    You remind me of this MMM: “Man was made to lead with his chin: He is worth knowing only with his guard down, his head up, and his heart rampant on his sleeve.”

    Reply
  • Frank December 31, 2018, 10:39 pm

    I went through a divorce when I emigrated to the US from the UK. I can honestly say its the worse thing I have ever experienced. Your best friend turns into your worst enemy, it was awful! But life moves on and you learn so much about what to look for going forwards. I have now been happily married for the second time for 18.5 years so far. I hope that 2019 brings happier times and that you will both be stronger and more fruitful for the experience. Bravo on maintaining a good working relationship in order to raise your Son to be an awesome human being.

    Reply
  • Peter stock December 31, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Sad to hear. But hey! That’s life sometimes. Glad to hear what a priority your son is.

    But what i missed from the post was what practical advice (if any) you might have for a couple who have subscribed to the MMM philosophy, have finally scraped together the minimum stash they need to “retire” early only to then have as divorce slash their stash in half.

    The sum of two people living apart is far greater than the expense of 2 people living together. Not everyone can just buy a 2nd house.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 1, 2019, 8:18 am

      That IS a good question Peter. If you are starting from a very frugal place with an inexpensive shared home, and you don’t want to increase your housing costs, you would just have to be a bit more creative. Invite a friend to share a place with you, do some Airbnb as I have decided to try, or go for a smaller or even mobile/van living dwelling if you feel adventurous.

      Meanwhile, your other costs don’t need to increase, and they can even drop (for example I like to keep my house much cooler in winter than my former wife liked the shared house! ;-))

      If you later meet the right person and decide to move in with them, you’ll be right back to the same efficient situation.

      Reply
      • Stoneman January 2, 2019, 8:31 am

        Tellingly you are not revealing the numbers. Moreover, how can one class themselves as “financially independent” if they are forced to bunker down in a mobile home if they decide to ditch their other half?

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache January 2, 2019, 11:40 am

          Your financial independence is equal to your wealth minus your material desires.

          So, for some people on this planet, $1 million per year would be a painful pittance to live on and they would never be content. For other people (including several multimillionaire good friends of mine), choosing to live in a van they converted themselves is a joyful adventure and they feel incredibly lucky to have found this simpler life.

          I don’t choose to make my own numbers public. But they are nothing to be proud of compared to the badass van dwelling example, because both my former wife and I EACH have far more than even a US middle-class level of wealth and luxury and “stuff” and comfort, even after splitting it in half. While I’m proud of my own work ethic and astounded at my good luck in life, I’m not particularly impressed with my own frugality. My lifestyle is just slightly less ridiculous than average, given the context.

          Reply
          • PLS January 2, 2019, 10:56 pm

            Wow! This comment of yours is really a gold nugget for me. I always try to be frugal and don’t really think I’m cutting it compared to you. I guess we always compare ourselves to others in some form or another. It’s nice to know you can be a financial badass and still not be happy with your performance. It tells me I should keep working on it but be happy with where I am. I guess this is true for every part if our lives.

            Reply
  • SBR December 31, 2018, 11:21 pm

    Wow! Never thought of this happening to you. As you said 50% of marriages fail. I would add also that money is probably the greatest stressor and cause of conflicts between couples. On the other hand, just like sometimes people retire and find themselves without purpose in life, it’s difficult not to wonder if the lack of regular life struggles left such a void between you guys that ended up causing stress or at least more of a space to reflect on your affinities. Please no need to answer.
    I do wonder sometimes the what if’s when I reach FI at a relative young age. Life and family make our lives so busy that we really don’t have much time to think about the subtleties of our relationships. Like a lot of empty nesters that find themselves living with a complete stranger because life and kids have consumed them so much that they forgot about themselves…
    Anyway, brother super sorry for you but as always you turn a shitty moment in life into a lesson and share it with everybody.
    I have been following for sometime and truly appreciate your writing and what you do, bringing this wonderful message of independence to the world.
    Stay strong. More squats, dead lifts and more writing; so therapeutic.
    Peace.

    Reply
  • Raul December 31, 2018, 11:31 pm

    hey pete, sorry to hear that you went through hardship. life does throw curve balls, and it seems that even our all-powerful-can-do-no-wrong MMM is vulnerable too. big virtual hug from your unknown virtual friend from Spain.
    Thanks for sharing, as always your advice is gold.

    Reply
  • WTK December 31, 2018, 11:33 pm

    Hi Pete,

    It is with respect that you take it positively in your stride. This goes to show that you are a positive-minded person. I think that this is the best approach which you have take in respect of your views on this unpleasant circumstances.

    All the best to you, ex Mrs MMM and your son.

    WTK

    Reply
  • Heidi December 31, 2018, 11:43 pm

    Wonderful post albeit with very sad news. Divorce is hard and it takes a lot of maturity to take it as a growing opportunity. What you mentioned about relationship counseling is so valuable. Had I heard and taken this advice in my early 20s, I could have been $100k wealthier. There’s absolutely no shame in having someone help clear the cobwebs so the next relationship can truly prosper. Best of luck to you MMM and cheers for a better 2019.

    Reply
  • Nancy Nelson December 31, 2018, 11:57 pm

    Sorry to hear about the divorce. My former spouse and I went through the same thing 14 years ago. The best thing we did was go to a divorce mediator to address the issues and draw up a separation agreement prior to talking to lawyers (who, of course, tried to convince me the agreement was unfair and we should fight it out in court – I refused). While we weren’t FI or wealthy, we had lived frugally and avoided stupid financial decisions so we were able to divorce with dignity.

    That, in itself, was the main reason our divorce was so much more amicable than those of the other folks we knew. As you said, being a parent is the most important job I had. Our joint financial stability was a big factor in neither of us resorting to name-calling or bad-mouthing the other. Demonizing the other parent in a court of law in order to get more money would only have hurt our kids.

    When we talk about FI on this forum, there really isn’t much discussion about how being fiscally responsible adds to the quality of life during divorce – both for the adults and for any children involved. Yes, I took a financial hit. But the simple fact that we weren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck and that we had no debt were key in making our (separate) paths forward much smoother.

    Reply
  • RebelStache January 1, 2019, 12:01 am

    Sorry for your loss. And congratulations on moving forward.

    Reply
  • 2019MMM January 1, 2019, 12:05 am

    I did hear about it couple months back thru the rumor mill and it did shake me and a another mmm friend of mine. MMM keep up the great work! Cheers to 2019! May it brings all of us a lot of happiness and growth!

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 1:32 am

    As a Software Engineer, geek, cyclist and about the same age… I really could relate a lot to your MMM persona very easily. Now with this we have another thing in common! :)

    I really hit rock bottom 3 years ago but managed to get a relatively amicable divorce from my wife. We had a daughter and wanted to put her first.
    I knew it would get worse before it got better and it made me look inward and focus on my weaknesses. Now I’m in a much better place, with more awareness and meeting some amazing new people.

    Thank you again for this well written, upbeat and wise post.

    The upside to this is that you have more freedom and positive mental headspace to concentrate on MMM stuff to spread the benefits of FIRE and it’s well-being benefits to a wider audience.

    All the best for 2019 Pete! :)

    Reply
  • Jim McG January 1, 2019, 1:35 am

    Sorry to hear that, wish you and your family all the best for 2019.

    Reply
  • Kate January 1, 2019, 1:45 am

    Yes! All of it- YES! My divorce will be finalized within the next month or two. We have 3 children and are working hard to co-parent with kindness and respect. Some days are harder than others but it is the goal because the kids deserve that.
    I stayed in the marriage far too long after it was “too late”. My ex spent ridiculous amounts of money on new cars, business schemes that never worked out, etc. As the primary breadwinner, I was killing myself trying to keep up with the bills. We sold the house and I kept a condo that I bought before we married as a rental. Now I’m trying to get my feet back under me and be in a position to retire by 55 (I’m 46 now).

    Thank you for this. Divorce is not about guilt and shame. It’s about growing and changing- and for me, it has been about learning who I am, what is important to me, and being a positive role model for my kids.

    Reply
  • Pico January 1, 2019, 2:23 am

    Interesting. In theory, the ‘retired’ lifestyle would have enabled you both to spend more time together, a thing which so many other couples say they lack… time together.

    I split from a profoundly pretty lady some years back. I didn’t fully recognise it at the time, but my strong introversion meant I needed time away from her. She on the other hand wouldn’t leave me alone, believing we should perpetually behave like lovestruck teenagers. There were plenty of other issues as well, but I have relished my freedom since then. Time to be alone is so fundamental to my being.

    We were opposites financially. I’ve always been frugal, and have achieved my FIRE. She on the other hand has a ‘live for now’ attitude to money, and will live her entire life fighting to pay of the last months credit card. However, she is cursed with the burden of looking after older family members in the decades to come, so I cannot realistically object to her enjoying some freedoms now, albeit at the cost to her future self.

    You’ve indicated that you and your ex are both seeing other people. It would be interesting to study how the possibility of future seperations could impact on a persons FIRE, especially so if it meant dividing the pot of assets in half once again (and maybe again in another decade…).

    Reply
  • Salim January 1, 2019, 4:31 am

    I am very sad and sorry for your troubles. Your courage, kindness, and determination to make the best of the situation and help your family at every step are inspiring. It must have been hard to write about it to us, your followers, but you did it with enormous grace and a gentle and helpful spirit. I hope 2019 is a good and prosperous year for you and everyone in your life.

    Reply
  • Ohio Teacher January 1, 2019, 4:42 am

    I’m really sorry to hear about your marriage. Reading your article prompted me to apologize to my wife for nagging her earlier. I don’t do it often, but having Asperger’s can lead me to be more hurtful than I realize. We then had a great conversation and went to bed happy. I’m going to try to be more mindful of the “little things” going forward.

    Reply
  • Matt January 1, 2019, 4:46 am

    Thank you for sharing. I remember as a child, around 10, my parents divorce and how difficult that experience was for me and my younger sister. It wasn’t pretty, but eventually we made it through. It’s good to read your son is still in a loving environment and having that is important for the children who go through these difficult times. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Reply
  • Nothing but Respect January 1, 2019, 5:08 am

    Being a long time reader, I have nothing but respect for former Mrs MM and yourself. Even through the most difficult times you both continue to be great role models and the tenants of Mustachianism hold strong. I look forward to your future projects and the badassity you continue to share with the world. Much love and respect.

    Reply
  • JamsODonnell January 1, 2019, 5:25 am

    Sorry to hear that, MMM. Having been through my parents’ divorce in my late teens, and having been unwise enough to hook up with a freshly separated father of two small children (now my husband of 15 years and father of my children as well), I cannot stress enough how much energy this situation can and will suck out of your life.

    It’s not your case of course, but most people going through a divorce still need to show up at work and be as productive than before or even more – heaven forbid you should lose your job in that situation – and then they rightly want to be even more available, physically and emotionally, for their aching kids, and then quite possibly they feel the need to pamper their new relationship, AND they need to heal their own wounds without even knowing how bad they are. Each one of these tasks would be strenuous enough if tackled on its own. The regular freshly-divorced parent tackles the whole load at once.

    I for one greatly underestimated the toll divorce took on my parents – but well, I was the child, THEY were supposed to take care of ME – and especially the toll it took on my husband, although he found himself in a happy and stable family situation within a short amount of time. It is a haunting thought, looking back at all these years we spent together, that he probably only started recovering one or two years ago, not just from his divorce but especially from losing his older children’s day-to-day presence.

    So what I’m trying to say is: take care of yourself, MMM. And take your time. And still, Happy New Year.

    Jams

    Reply
  • Nope the Pope January 1, 2019, 5:30 am

    Very brave of you, for sharing this MMM. All traumas will slowly regenerate, depending on your mindset and behavior. I’m but a 22-year old student, yet I have had to close quite a few links to my past as well. Eventually we enrolled in the same university and the same study program. During this time I felt we drifted away, he eventually decided to go to Oxford for some courses in English. There he met an Italian girl, with whom he now lives in Italy. While nothing is wrong with this, he just became too erratic for me in the five years I’ve known him. In the second half of 2017, I got hit by a depression and had suicidal tendencies due to a variety of factors, including a lack of a coherent vision of my own future (during the period I found MMM’s blog and it helped me to see life in a new way). I decided it should be better if we separated our ways. For the period afterwards, I slowly felt more and more peaceful not having such an energy drainer around anymore. I managed to recover from my depression in 4 months (from the time I reached out to mental health services), which is seen as a very short time or so.

    Just like some people before me in the comments, I don’t create deep relationships as much or as easily as others. Due to past experiences (bullying and such) I have become deceptive and good at hiding my true self. I’m emphatic, people barely parry through my ‘mind shield’ due to tendencies of filling all conversational bandwidth. This causes that I understand most people far better than they understand me. If you ask people what kind of music I like, then most wouldn’t even know what to answer or they will guess and hit miss.

    What is to come to my future? Some time abroad is one thing, as I feel like I need a break from my parents some time soon. Currently a Dutch student in Logistics and Economics, I’m planning to spend the second half of this year in Norway. I have tried to get an internship in Finland, the attempt was unsuccessful and I lost three months of time. Valuable lessons were learned, so I continue to find some place I can be on my own for a while and experiment with life keeping MMM’s frugality lessons in mind. People shall keep fretting about, I will learn and observe from a distance.

    Happy new year to all, don’t dare to forsake oneself.

    Reply
  • 218 January 1, 2019, 5:51 am

    “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity… If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength… I am never out of the fight.”

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 5:57 am

    I’m a long time lurker,want to say I enjoy your blog and reading it has changed my life that I have hope of getting off the slave tread mill.Once you forgive yourself and forgive your former spouse ( forgiveness can take some time). Life will get easier and you will move on to accepting one of life’s shit storms. My advice to you is to work on forgiving yourself and keeping your self love high. Remember that your son is watching and learning from you on how to handle life’s shit storms. Namaste

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 5:57 am

    I’m really sorry to hear you are going through this…and like others, when I saw the post subject, I was hoping it wasn’t your personal situation.

    I can’t tell you how timely this post is for me. I’m currently in the midst of going through divorce, and it was the most difficult decision I’ve made, and the most difficult situation I’ve endured. Reading your post, if nothing else, gives me hope that the separation can work out amicably and that the road to financial independence can still be maintained. And given all the thoughts and questions that have swirled through my mind throughout this process…this is huge. Really.

    Thank you, for sharing this experience. It has helped me more than I could possibly express this morning.

    Reply
  • Expat Landlord January 1, 2019, 6:05 am

    Dear MMM,
    Thank you for being so open and direct, in what can be a salacious topic for some. I was inspired by the golden key metaphor, and all that you do for your son. All the best for 2019. Sending out good vibes and hugs.

    Reply
  • Dina Kramer January 1, 2019, 6:43 am

    I just discovered your blog in the last couple of weeks and have been truly inspired by the advice and attitude on display. One of my 1st searches of your posts was “divorce”, a topic with which I am unfortunately familiar, having experienced a financially and emotionally bruising separation and divorce 7 years ago.
    I wouldn’t have believed it at the time, but I now “own” a rental property that nets me ~$500/mo; enjoy living in a beautiful, modest home in a wonderful neighborhood; put 2 of 3 children through college without a single student loan (#3 child has 1 year to go); and am planning to retire in a year and a half, after #3 graduates and is on her way to independence.
    When I was rebooting my life 7 years ago I had a sizable mortgage as well as a home equity line with $65k balance (almost 1/2 of which accrued from legal fees), full custody of 3 teenagers, and no alimony (I had always worked so didn’t expect one). Besides the ongoing and intense attention to the teens, the 1st thing I did was downsize from the mcmansion and into a townhouse within walking distance of their high school. The townhouse has since been converted into the rental. The kids (now young adults) are all doing great with good MMM habits; I have shared this blog with all of them. The ex and I are now on friendly terms, having acknowledged the part we each played in the failure of our marriage and understanding that we will forever be bound by our children.
    I am self-employed and am not retiring with a pension but I am a natural saver. Reading your blog has given me the confidence to believe that I have saved enough…so thanks for that!
    Divorce is always painful but I applaud the great attitude of you and your wife.

    Reply
  • Sofia January 1, 2019, 6:44 am

    I’m sorry that you had to go through this. Thank you so much for your honest vulnerability. It will help so many others.

    Reply
  • Scotty from Detroit January 1, 2019, 6:55 am

    I’m sorry to hear about folks that were extremely negative and gossipy. It’s your life and her life and you are entitled to share as much or as little as you deem appropriate or as you feel comfortable with. I think most MMM fans wish all three of you the best, I know I do. Take care!

    Reply
  • Jim Grey January 1, 2019, 7:01 am

    I’m sorry your marriage ended. I’m very happy, however, that you moved within walking distance of your child! I love the value that demonstrates.

    There are two factors in any non-financially-devastating divorce: (1) cooperation and (2) accepting that you will give up some things and retain others, and that you won’t always like how that breaks down.

    When my first marriage ended many years ago my first wife and I were unable to cooperate, to the point where our divorce went to trial. It was wrenching, and super expensive. The judgment we received set each of us back financially for at least a decade.

    Fortunately, because of the principles you teach here I’m not too old to live frugally enough to still be able to retire well enough one day.

    Reply
  • Matt January 1, 2019, 7:11 am

    Damn. All I know is, you handled this with class. When someone pointed me to Sam’s posts, I thought jesus what an ass. Sure every keyboard warrior always has some justification, but it’s just a stark reminder that if you wouldn’t say it to someones face, don’t say it at all.

    I admire your tact, good-sir!

    Reply
  • P Burgos January 1, 2019, 7:13 am

    I will share a sentiment that I am sure will be unpopular, but that I believe is constructive. I suspect that from here on out, there will be people who say that Mr. Money Mustache’s divorce was caused by his frugality. As a reader of the blog and someone who doesn’t know him, I have about zero knowledge of what actually happened, and no reason to doubt his version of the story.

    Reply
  • Steve January 1, 2019, 7:46 am

    Thank you for breaking down such a difficult topic in such a masterful way, as always. I was sad to hear about your divorce from MMM reader a few weeks ago. I love how you address the public shaming that too often adds pain to an already difficult time. I have friends who are going through various stages of divorce, and I’ll add this post to the list of resources to share with them. People CAN be happily divorced. It rocked my worldview when I met someone 15 years ago who had similarly ended an unloving marriage without an ugly court battle. People need to know this is possible. Thank you for sharing your personal story in a way that can help others show compassion and support when their friends and family go through divorce.

    I would love it if you also added marriage counseling to your list of suggestions for people who want to work on their marriages. I am happily married, and we just crossed our 11 year anniversary. A friend told me recently that he had started doing marriage counseling as “preventative maintenance” and he raved about the process. He was so positive about it that I decided to try it with my marriage. We have been amazed at things that have come out of the process. However, there is almost as much stigma about going to counseling as their is about divorce. This makes it even harder to convince a spouse that it’s the right thing to do. Marriage counseling isn’t right for everyone, but relationships would benefit if there were more positive associations with it.

    Reply

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