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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.

 

 

  • Frugal Simples January 1, 2019, 8:20 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I have just one question, I know that all this situation is very personal, but I start think about this divorce and maybe I´m trying link this with the mustachianism way of life, or even living on very low cost, especially with all the guys that are not retired and are still working, saving and investing. If it´s true, maybe it´s a bad point to mustachianism and frugal life and to the MMM branding at all.

    I´m talking about this because I´m considering the relation between mustachianism or our personal relationships and how this can affect us.

    Happy New Year to you all guys!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 1, 2019, 9:07 am

      That was one of the speculations in the gossipy divorce threads – “Did MMM’s extreme frugality wreck the marriage!?”

      The quick answer is: in general that could be a risk if one partner is being a cheapskate on the other.

      In our case, of course not because we were a multimillionaire family living in a BATH of money (and a $600,000 custom built luxury house overlooking a park in the city’s nicest neighbourhood.) We bought whatever we wanted, but just didn’t happen to want a lot of expensive stuff – plus I built the house so it cost far less than that amount to procure.

      Our problem was more a lack of shared interests, a tendency towards accidental conflict over even things that were supposed to be friendly, and some high-demand life situations that perhaps took a lot of time and mental energy away from focusing on the relationship.

      Reply
      • STBJ January 1, 2019, 9:29 am

        Happy New Year.

        Gossipy blogs or not, its human nature to wonder if FIRE contributed to the divorce by those who have not achieved it. I appreciate your candor. It may be good to know that FIRE does not support relationships by itself. We are responsible for nurturing our relationships regardless of our levels of wealth or poverty.

        Using your blog to support my relationship today involves:

        Taking a walk in the woods near our house with my spouse. It’s free.
        Later I may waste money on a movie at the local theater but at least get matinee priced seats. She’s worth it. :)

        Reply
      • JamsODonnell January 1, 2019, 9:41 am

        Hmm, this constant talk of “focusing on the relationship” makes me nervous. Like, can one ever relax? The relationship is not a baby. Expecting to be passionate and flirtatious over decades isn’t very realistic, is it?

        My feeling is that the durability of the average marriage mostly depends on whether one of the spouses (or both) happen to get to know someone else at the time when the relationship is in a rough spot. And there will be rough spots in a marriage, lots of them.

        No criticism here MMM, it’s just – some things we can’t control as much as we’d like to.

        Hugs,

        Jams

        Reply
        • IronLadyNGaussTapo January 1, 2019, 2:08 pm

          Jams,
          MMM’s blog has always been about making choices, marriage and commitment are choices in the western world. I was with my spouse till the end, he passed away April 2017, married in 2000 and it was a practical marriage by choice.
          It takes two to tango and if one decides that they are out, there is no way to save it breathe it back to life.
          That being said, there are always 2nd, 3rd chances, whatever choice and opportunities you choose to persue.
          Confucius — the famous Chinese philosopher born in 551 B.C. whose teachings in The Analects emphasized the primacy of family obligations — was a rumored divorced single dad.
          https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/08/18/meet-chinas-most-famous-single-dad/

          IronLadyNGaussTapo formally Zorronqueen.

          Reply
          • JamsODonnell January 2, 2019, 12:07 am

            IronLady,

            I think we are agreeing.

            Staying married for a long time is a lot of work, how could I disagree? I’ve been married for a long time too, after 15 years and 3 children (and 2 jobs) staying married totally has to do with a choice and a commitment.

            I only resist the notion that a long-term relationship needs day-to-day babysitting. I find life hard enough without having to schedule weekly date nights. And I wonder if it is healthy to expect romance to last over decades. In a way it’s a form of perfectionism.(*) What I was trying to convey in my previous comment was: I’m not sure anybody should feel guilty of not having a constant focus on their relationship no matter what else goes on in their lives. Why get married if you have to be constantly on edge about not taking your spouse for granted?

            Jams

            (*) Mind you I’m shooting myself in the foot here, as my husband was still technically married to someone else when we met, and he had no other reason to leave than being nagged a lot.

            Reply
      • Jeff January 3, 2019, 4:53 am

        I am amazed at your ability to be even remotely polite and positive while everyone seems to be picking apart your personal life, criticizing, blaming, etc. You are a strong person Pete. I think that is what people don’t understand. You have to be strong to do anything in this world other than surrender.

        Reply
      • EJ January 4, 2019, 2:08 pm

        First, I am sorry you had to go through such a difficult time. Divorce is hard and horrible no matter what, even without kids, and I am sorry you, Simi, and little MM had to go through it.

        Second, thanks so much for sharing. I haven’t felt a compulsion to speculate on your marriage with online strangers, but it has been a spark on the home front as we both enjoy and respect your advice and lifestyle and were surprised by the news. We both definitely had an OH Shit moment just thinking if MMM can’t do it what hope do we have. The news has sparked some useful conversations and it is a good reminder that having a bunch of money is not a panacea for all life’s ills. I appreciate the lack of specific (and as you already pointed out, useless) detail. Better for your cult o’ mustachians to explore their own relationships without added bias of some specific things to watch out for. 2019 will have some renewed focus on the relationship and communication, as well as personal growth (no need to wait for a major trauma).

        Finally, congratulations on being able to move on relatively amicably and both finding healthy new relationships. I look forward to additional posts on any topic and in particular to some insight into the badass Mustachian life of a single person.

        Reply
    • Sarah January 14, 2019, 9:18 pm

      Consider:
      How many marriages end in divorce? LOTS.
      How many mustachians are there? Very few.
      So, the Venn diagram where “marriage” and “mustachian” intersects includes but a small subset of the human population.
      Therefore, mustachianism does not cause marriages to fail.

      Last week, it was widely reported that Mr. Amazon – Jeff Bezos – and his wife are divorcing. Uh-oh – does being ultra-rich cause marriages to fail?!

      As someone else up-thread already pointed out, half of US marriages end in divorce, and plenty (they speculated half) of those that don’t end aren’t happy anyway. Even if all marriages are happy, a 50% failure rate is still huge. Isn’t it time we stop blaming “reasons” for ruining marriages and instead face the reality that “ending” is a viable built-in possible outcome to this entrenched human habit?

      If a couple is determined to stay together, and puts in the time and effort to do so, more power to them. If kids are involved, all the more reason (with caveats). But beating ourselves up about it and speculating on other people’s private lives is pointless.

      Divorce can be a heartbreaking, angry, negative experience, and very complicated. But let’s stop treating ourselves like failures when a relationship plays itself out.

      (And perhaps let’s also stop promising to spend our lives with one other person and signing paperwork vowing to do so… And stop expecting one person to “complete” us, and then being disappointed when they don’t.)

      Reply
  • Jubileegirl January 1, 2019, 8:46 am

    MMM- I found this blog in April 2017 and it has turned my world and future upside down in a positive way. I am so very grateful to you for showing me a future that I previously never thought possible.

    FI in 2028 is my target and the path there still isn’t clear, but the driving force is a desire to be able to be home with my family. Given this mindset, I was really sad to hear your news but I am glad things played out amicably.

    Thank you for the many valuable bits of advice in this post. Best wishes for the new year,

    KLE

    Reply
  • STBJ January 1, 2019, 9:17 am

    Sorry to hear about your divorce. Your blog has been an inspiration to me and still is. I know that I still need several face punches going forward and hope you will keep writing in spite of your divorce.

    Reply
  • CalLady January 1, 2019, 9:23 am

    MMM, I am sorry to hear your sad news.

    On the topic on finance, I would be interested to read thoughts and data on the occurrence of divorce amongst the financially independent and retired (whether FI/RE folks, typical 60+ retirees, or the upper class). What special problems, if any, does “financial freedom” or the pursuit thereof create in marriages?

    Reply
  • Arrgo January 1, 2019, 9:32 am

    I’ve never been married but appreciate the great advice and perspective. Very insightful and well said. I think it can apply to other challenges and aspects of life also.

    Reply
  • Kiwi January 1, 2019, 10:02 am

    Good wishes in the new year to you both MMM. I found your blog a couple of weeks ago and have been reading from the beginning but saw this today. We have already made massive changes based on the Mustachian philosophy so many thanks. I had already done a search on the choose FI forum on division in relationships when one person wants FI and the other spends more impulsively. My habits are much more geared to FI than my hubby of 20 years and I wondered if that was a cause of rift for others. I realize that wasn’t the case for you but money habits and goals are so key in a relationship. I think this will be good for us as we will have to confer and compromise more! Thanks for the posts.

    Reply
  • Despondent Millionaire January 1, 2019, 10:08 am

    Well Damn!!!

    I’m the guy you wrote a piece about sometime ago. I had really been through the ringer and was at my lowest. Your piece and the blog helped me through one of the roughest times of my life. I mean I was literally lost. Your guidance and straight talk really did me a lot of good. I appreciate it so much.

    So sorry to hear about this. In my world guys like you have this whole thing wired and I could never imagine you having any issues like this. However as we all know things can change. You certainly don’t need advice from me but I would just urge you to keep on being who you are and this as all things will take care of itself.

    Stay strong and remember all the folks you have helped. You really have no idea.

    Reply
  • JP January 1, 2019, 10:24 am

    Thank you for sharing something so personal in a public place for the benefit of others. For one thing, it helps to know that all people (even the ones who seem to have it all figured out) share in our same struggles. I consistently feel that I am not measuring up in my relationships, finances, career, time management – everything. In reality we are all doing the best that we can, and no one is getting it all exactly right. Thanks again.

    Reply
  • SlackerMan January 1, 2019, 10:30 am

    The effects of a global financial crisis over early retirement are only minor if compared to the destructive potential of a divorce. Apparently both of your portfolios have survived this event. Hats off ! Best of luck and keep posting!

    Reply
  • Michelle January 1, 2019, 10:34 am

    That’s rough. Love your blog and thank you for sharing this and totally making yourself vulnerable. Best of luck to you and your sons mom.

    Reply
  • Chris January 1, 2019, 10:45 am

    Thanks for sharing this personal and painful moment in your life. Best wishes to all three of you and no judgement or shame towards the MMM house.

    PS-Just started week #3 of FI due to your influence!

    Reply
  • Shareena Hansen January 1, 2019, 11:02 am

    As a divorced mom with 3 kids this post really hit home. We did our divorce ourselves and have remained good friends and great co parents for our kids. He’s getting remarried this month and I’m so happy that he is happy. My kids thrive when their parents are happy. I hope to find a partner again someday, but certainly not a priority. Dating in Denver is hilarious at our age and I might start my own blog about it😂 Cheers and here’s to an awesome 2019

    Reply
  • Sarah January 1, 2019, 11:11 am

    You certainly do put a frugal spin on every aspect of life. While divorce can cost a person millions I love that you spent only $265. Best of luck to you and the former Mrs. MM

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 11:14 am

    I read this post yesterday right before the New Year, and I just read it again. Man, it brought back some memories. You’re showing a lot of courage through the pain MMM, and that ain’t easy. Like others have written, you don’t know what a punch in the face really feels like, ’til you’ve been punched in the face.

    My starter marriage separation was 20 years ago, and I wouldn’t wish the emotional turmoil on my worst enemy. However, getting the financial piece right was key. Despite our youth, we handled it better than most twice our age, our lawyer said. We had used the same lawyer just a year earlier on an unrelated transaction, so it was the obvious and most cost effective choice (< $500). We liked, loved, and respected each other, amidst the sometimes heated drama. Made all the difference.

    My current marriage is basically for the kids, and we do our best to keep it civil, but don't always succeed. We lost our youngest a couple of years ago, and that statistical speaking should have ended our marriage. However, it was a wake up call which helped us focus on the stuff that was working,the stuff we could agree on, and f$&@ the rest. It ain't pretty, but neither of us had any remote semblance of civil co-parenting growing up, and that is the one thing (in addition to FI) I want for our kids. Good luck on your continuing path, thanks for all the fish, and you do you.

    Reply
  • Tonya January 1, 2019, 11:34 am

    I’m really sorry to hear that Pete. Thank you for your honesty. And you’re right, life will give you challenges no matter how prepared you think you are, and it reveals the kind of person you are in how you handle it. I’ve seen a lot of comments over social media about people who are so happy 2018 is out of the way, then list all these things that are external that they can’t control that “made” them unhappy. When the real growth happens when you learn how to effectively handle challenges that come your way. I hope things remain calm with future communication with your ex.

    Reply
  • A.B January 1, 2019, 11:41 am

    “Sometimes people just grow apart over the decades and find that they want different things from life.”
    This is so true… After our child was born we realized that our old lifestyle wasn’t sustainable without sacrifice one of us. During the last three years we have been planing a life change in order to accommodate our personal dreams and keep our marriage health. A friend told me some years after her divorce: I feel nothing but love for my ex husband, we did so much together, we have so many good memories. And we realized we made each other better.
    I wish you can heal in peace and love each other in a different way.

    Reply
  • Cathy January 1, 2019, 11:57 am

    I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through this…my divorce five years ago was similarly amicable, and while we certainly did have some heated conversations during that time, I was set up in my new life having spent less than $2,000 over the course of the separation. I was lucky; we didn’t have any children to worry about or any debt, the only thing I was really sad about was that he got our cat…but he was so close to that cat that it would have been outright cruel to take it with me.

    I admire that you guys were able to work out the paperwork, as half of the money I spent was on a legal document service once our paperwork had bounced back to us because of mistakes we made filling it out. That was honestly the messiest part of the whole thing.

    I’m happily remarried now and your post was timely for me as I’ve hit a rough patch emotionally and after reading this I realize that I’ve been taking it out on my husband. Time to pull myself together, especially since we’re hoping to get pregnant this spring.

    Reply
  • lark Kelly January 1, 2019, 11:58 am

    Wow! I was shocked when I read your news but certainly got something out of your post. I have been separated for 3 1/2 years and our divorce will be final this month. After 32 years of marriage and 6 children I decided the stress was far too much for me and I left with my then 13 year old son. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. My husband stayed in our home with 2 of our almost adult children. He paid me an amount from the house that enabled me to purchase a 3 bedroom town home in my very expensive neighbourhood about 4 miles from him. He refused to communicate with me and didn’t see our son for a year. He and I were both devastated. Fast forward to this year. He invited me to come to Christmas dinner with our son at his place. He has since moved out of the family home. We didn’t make eye contact but made small talk. It has been a hard road but I think he is finally ready to move forward. I always feel lonely. He was the love of my life but I realized we were just never going to get along. I was the frugal one who always had to make the money stretch and he was the spender. I am now able to be myself without being criticized on a daily basis. I live well below my means and have everything I could ever need. I don’t think that this option was the best option for me but at the time it seemed like the only option. I believe that stress is a slow killer and I didn’t want to die from it. I will continue to take care of myself and build my relationships. I am blessed to have great friends and wonderful supportive children. I am glad you guys didn’t wait as long as I did and that you were able to separate amicably. It is so much easier on the children. Good luck.

    Reply
  • Jamie January 1, 2019, 12:05 pm

    Shit Pete, sorry to hear about this for you and your family, man. Hope it goes as well as can be expected and that opening the new chapter in all of your lives ends up being a positive experience. Heavy hearts man, heavy hearts. Keep being awesome

    Reply
  • nightrite January 1, 2019, 12:07 pm

    Yep, divorce sucks – especially when children are involved. You and your ex will survive and maybe even flourish, but your child will pay the real price. And there is no getting around that.

    Good luck.

    Reply
  • Des999 January 1, 2019, 12:07 pm

    Sorry to hear about the divorce but glad you both are looking at positives to make The best out if it. You have the right attitude.

    Would you say that the 4% would be hard to survive a divorce? Meaning, if u didn’t have the extra financial means outside of the common 4%, would divorce be something to take into account when leaving your job with only 25x expenses covered ?

    Thanks for taking the time to share, marriage is hard, I plan to take your advise and go tell my wife how much I appreciate and love her. Thanks again.

    Reply
  • Bonnie January 1, 2019, 12:08 pm

    Dear MMM,
    I am a physician and have followed you a long time now. This piece you have written here is one of the absolute best summaries of the most helpful relationship advice I have ever seen.
    As a geriatric primary care doc, I can tell you for certain that this is going to help a lot of people. I hope all your readers head the advice and share it with loved ones. You clearly have a good soul. Your son is going to be more than fine, he is lucky to have parents with high EQ to work through things so well.
    Thanks for sharing your excellent relationship knowledge and learning experience.

    Reply
  • The Vigilante January 1, 2019, 12:08 pm

    “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.’”

    Your friend had some wise words. I might adopt them for my own divorce clients.

    I already tell people that marriage is a financial partnership: You can have all of the other features of the relationship without signing a state-issued marriage license. But once you involve the state, you are making a financial commitment not easily broken. If you didn’t like the terms of it, you should have gotten a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. That tough “come to Jesus” talk seems to have the intended effect on certain people – helping them realize it’s not a time to complain about things they can’t help, it’s a time to pick up and move on and cooperate with the other person to get both of them set up for the future as effectively as possible. Expanding that logic to coparenting isn’t something I had considered, but it resonates with me. Perhaps it will resonate with clients who have a sort of Mustachian mindset, as well, and prevent the “I need to be the better parent” trap that so many fall into.

    One other thought. I got a slightly anti-lawyer vibe in the “you choose to go to war” section of this post. Yes, you can choose to go to war or not in most situations, and divorce is often no different. Most divorces do result in settlements, not extensive litigation and the increased emotional and financial stresses that go with it. But, sometimes people are truly forced into war. Sometimes, the party to the marriage who would rather cooperate, wind up the business aspect of the marriage, and focus on effective coparenting finds him or herself on the defensive from an overly aggressive party or attorney on the other side. I have one current client in mind at the moment – nicest guy in the world, great intentions, and a wonderful dad, but if he went along with what the wife wants, he would quite literally not be able to keep a roof over his head. More importantly, if he hadn’t fought in the custody arena, he would not be seeing his children at all. Because he fought, he has 50/50 custody. It’s not the typical case, but sometimes there’s so much damage done in the relationship that no amount of counseling or anecdotes can persuade a party to be even the least bit reasonable. At that point, you need a lawyer, and you need to go to war. (And trust me, I cringe saying that, because most people who charge in looking for an attorney to “go to war” truly don’t need it and do more harm than good.)

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  • JC Webber III January 1, 2019, 12:10 pm

    20 some years ago my wife and I got divorced. Some 12 years ago we reconnected and remarried. It’s been a very happy 10 years since!

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  • shelley murasko January 1, 2019, 12:16 pm

    I greatly admire your courage in not only sharing this post but once again sharing your experience in a light that we can learn from. Because of your words, I hugged my husband a little closer and cuddled more with the kiddos. As far as all the negative comments out there from others, one word…Petty. “Fault finders will find fault in paradise” -Thoreau….there are just too many out there who take the low road. Your piece is so enlightening that I plan to share it with many friends and clients who face not only divorce but other “shit salads” as you put it. You hit the nail on the head with choosing to make this a period of growth. I admire your and your prior spouses will to not only go on but to pivot into a stage of greater growth and happiness. Happy New Year to all!

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  • Tyler January 1, 2019, 12:17 pm

    Are you renting out the entire house or just rooms? And how long do you think you’ll do that? Just curious!

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  • Kristi Helvig January 1, 2019, 12:18 pm

    I wish the best for you and the former Mrs. MM and it sounds like you are handling everything very well. For the other married readers of this blog, as a clinical psychologist, I can tell you the number of couples I’ve seen in the past 15 years who came to marital counseling when things were going well for them–because they wanted to keep it that way or get tips on communication–TWO! Just two in 15 years. While many folks go to the doctor for an annual check-up to make sure things are running smoothly, it is rare to see that for relationships. Much more typical is that I see couples when they are at a crisis point and one, or both, of them are ready to call it quits. I really encourage people to get therapy–if you do it as a preventative measure, it can actually be fun and rewarding rather than painful. Happy 2019! :)

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  • Clarice Streets January 1, 2019, 12:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. Six years ago as my family was navigating the divorce thing, I found your blog in my search for ways to live a financially smarter life as a divorced co-parent. My situation is non-mustachian in many ways, because my children and their father live across the country from me and I travel every month to spend a week with them at my ex-husbands house. But I apply the principles of mustachianism a lot, and have increased my net worth by 300% in those six years, so it’s working. This situation would not be possible without a huge commitment from my former husband and me to make it work, to be kind to one another, and to keep our love for our children at the forefront of everything. It’s hard, but worth it.

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  • Nancy January 1, 2019, 12:27 pm

    Your personal story interspersed with advice and resources is a gift to all your readers — thank you. Clearly this has been a difficult year for you, your wife, and family. How generous of you to share what you have learned. I love you all the more for this thoughtful piece and wish you all the best in 2019!

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  • Vegard Dahle January 1, 2019, 12:28 pm

    All the best to you, your former wife, and your son.

    Thank for having been, being, and in all probability, continuing to be, one of my foremost role models.
    Thank you for sharing and rearticulating and reffining countless unconventional truths.
    Thank you for your candidness concerning these personal matters.

    All the best.

    Reply
  • Sarah Sherman January 1, 2019, 12:28 pm

    Eloquent and brave to openly share your experiences intending to help others. The advice you share is excellent and considered. If only others could approach this process as level headed and kindly as you have. I work as a relationship counsellor myself and your positivity would be very useful for the often warring couples that seek help – in some cases too late.
    Best of luck to your whole family for the future but it sounds like you’ve got it working just fine.

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  • Ken January 1, 2019, 12:29 pm

    First of all, I’m so sorry to hear this news. My divorce several years ago followed a very similar process as yours. Once the decision was made to separate and later divorce, there wasn’t a need to continue the negativity for the sake of our only son. We used one lawyer and came up with the terms on our own, only costing us about $1,000. A friend of mine went through his divorce and shelled out over $20,ooo fighting for everything tooth and nail. We were determined not to let that happen.

    It helped me so much to find others also going through divorce, so I’m glad that you are able to share your experiences publicly and know that you aren’t alone in your journey. In the years since my divorce, I have traveled more and focused on being as great a father as I can be, especially since our son was approaching high school at the time of our split. The parenting light at the end of the tunnel was quickly approaching, so I wanted to make the most of the remaining time I had left with him before he leaves the nest.

    I’m glad that divorce hasn’t ruined you financially or emotionally…I’ve seen many people destroyed on both counts. I wish you continued success and have a great 2019!

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  • Heather J. January 1, 2019, 12:31 pm

    I’ve been following your blog for many years, and I’m just a weird internet stranger, but I think this is one of your top 5 posts of all time. I am really sorry that you and your family had to deal with the tumult (and gossip) that comes with a divorce, but it sounds like you all are making it work and adjusting well.

    Best wishes to you and your family, and thank you so much for sharing your experience and advice. I’m gonna go give my husband an extra long hug.

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  • Ckarion January 1, 2019, 12:31 pm

    The two of you are clearly handling the separation as well as anyone can hope for. Being the child of parents that did not handle their divorce well at all, I can only applaud your attitude.
    As a side note, I would like to mention that I found your blog July 2017 and it changed my life, opening up a whole new set of possibilities. Thank you.

    Reply
  • John Torres January 1, 2019, 12:34 pm

    Great article that will definitely provide help to those who need it for years to come. It’s nice to see everything is working out well for both of you and I think I speak for all of us when I say that I can’t wait for your blog in 2019!

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  • Alex January 1, 2019, 12:39 pm

    I wish you and the former Mrs. MM the very best. Your writing has had a big influence on me and my family. This story inspired me to go do something for my wife.

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  • J January 1, 2019, 12:41 pm

    I don’t see the point of marriage when you see shit like this happening left and right. Marriage and divorce can be expensive and complicated.

    I have found it best to remain single and share some living expenses. Keeps things as simple as possible.

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  • Jake January 1, 2019, 12:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing MMM. Sorry to hear the news but glad you both are able to get a fairly peaceful transition/arrangement.

    I’d be curious to know how you agreed to split the finances and how it effected you both. Do you need to start relying on income from the blog or did you have enough savings built up to where it didn’t matter?

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  • Ace January 1, 2019, 12:44 pm

    Next to my family and close friends, nothing has contributed to the upward trajectory of my life as much as your blog. That feels weird to type, but it’s probably true.

    You speak with more optimism, kindness, and sincerity in undeniably trying times than most people can manage when everything is going perfect.

    Best wishes to you and your outstanding family.

    Happy New Year Pete.

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  • rmaslon January 1, 2019, 12:44 pm

    Thank you for writing about this. I just found your blog (thanks to a podcast with Chris Ryan) in September, a couple weeks after my husband told me he wanted a divorce. It was great timing because it’s made me think about how to structure my life moving forward. I’ve been working part-time for his company, which I will continue doing, but I’ve now also found another full-time job. I just found a house to rent that is about a 15 minute drive to work (I know), but it’s walkable to the grocery store, post office, library, wonderful parks, and great restaurants. I have a 2008 VW Rabbit that is paid off, but over 100k miles and starting to have some issues. I’m contemplating a used EV purchase, which I have the cash to buy. And I’m being very thoughtful about what I actually NEED to purchase when I move out – not much.

    In terms of splitting assets – I think he feels guilty so he told me to take whatever I needed. He wanted me to keep the house, but he’s been doing all the work renovating it over the last 3 years and it is far from done (I don’t know how to do the work myself, have no interest in doing it, and hiring others would be outrageously expensive). It’s on 5 acres, so he had purchased a mower/tractor (on credit). Leaving him with the house means I have absolutely no debt (once we’re done with the fun process of getting my name off of it). Oh, and the house is in the burbs, so nothing is walking/biking distance. We had quite a bit of cash because his business did really well this year (good timing), so I’m taking that in lieu of making him sell the house to split equity (which might have been difficult anyway with the condition the house is in right now). We don’t have kids so thankfully we don’t have to deal with that. I’m also leaving him with the dog. It’s amicable enough. As I mentioned, I’m going to continue working for him. We didn’t hire lawyers, I did hire a paralegal just to make sure the paperwork is done correctly, but that’s minimal. And then there will be the county filing fee.

    I will definitely be seeking out counseling in the coming months. I was more invested in this marriage than he was. Neither of us were great communicators, though. He thought I could read his mind, I just didn’t speak up because I didn’t want to rock the boat. We met when we were 21. We were young and naive. We grew apart. It’s really for the best, even though it sucks right now. Onward and upward!

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  • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 12:53 pm

    Thank you for this post and thank you for handling such a difficult topic with integrity! I am a long time follower and I feel like the public side of your life is always portrayed as easy because of the wealth you have built and that was the main focus of your message. You do have money in your title :). But, I always felt like that missed the point and the true message of your posting was to have integrity in EVERYTHING you do in life. Your message is so much bigger than money. Thank you.

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  • HAK January 1, 2019, 12:59 pm

    I’m reading this on January 1st, symbolic of fresh starts. I wish you and your family all the best in the coming year. One day, you both will be at your son’s graduation, wedding, and so on. It sounds doable!

    But not for everyone. I agree with your comparison of divorce to war. Unfortunately, sometimes you are forced to engage in battle if the other party is hell-bent on destruction. My husband was like this and it’s amazing how his family has continued to keep me engaged in litigation even though I settled for 10% of my former spouse’s estate, after his death (serious complications related to chronic alcoholism). They know that the money goes legally to the children 100%. And for over a year, they’ve tried one expensivie trick after another to claw back that small amount of money ($55K).

    If all parties involved can be sensible, fair, focused on the kids… everyone can come through the experience reasonably well in the end. If not there will be life long scars to bear.

    As things stand, my children have half a family tree denying they are even on it. Huge amounts of money have been handed over to lawyers. My children and I live in public housing, while their paternal uncle (the opposing side) lives in a million dollar home, ready to enjoy his old age, improved considerably by his brother’s early death. (He’s a lot like Scrooge… but without the redemption.)

    Surprisingly, I’m relatively content with two great kids, a low paying but sastifying job. And I can read blogs like yours to live a meaningful albeit frugal life. I really pray that I finally will be free of all lawyers (even the nice one who works for my kids at a reduced rate)in 2019, even if my children were robbed of their rightful inheritance, monetary and otherwise. It’s been about 8 years of litigation now… which is tough, even if my husband and his brother have outspent me in legal costs about 1:8. I could have risked a lot and had my day in court. (Judges have always been fair and just to me and my children.) However, I do think putting my energy into raising my kids alone is the way to go. (The system is broke. You just avoid it if you are half decent about the whole thing. It’s still there, waiting to suck you in.)

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  • Monique January 1, 2019, 1:01 pm

    I’m inspired by the way you both handled the situation by not choosing to fight. I think it says a lot of nice things about both your character. I went through an unexpected breakup in 2018. We were not married, but we were very close and certainly considered marriage. We took our belongings and went our separate ways peacefully. I feel so much better as a human being to forgive and have compassion for myself and the other person. I love this affirmation, “Only good can come from this situation.” I think you are living it. Peace & Blessings.

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  • Alexis January 1, 2019, 1:04 pm

    This was a very thoughtful post. I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through/are going through. Relationships and divorce are tough. Hang in there, buddy. Thanks for sharing with us. I hope you get back to thriving in 2019.

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  • MrD_123 January 1, 2019, 1:07 pm

    Sorry to hear about the challenges in your life and thanks for sharing the things you’ve learned. Sometimes I wish I could hear more about the reasons people grow apart so that perhaps I can spot my own downfalls. I think everybody feels like “the good guy” when in reality we need a good wack on the back of our head so that we can be a bit more humble and appreciate all the things we might not even be noticing. Happy New Years and best of luck in your new chapter!

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    • rmaslon January 1, 2019, 1:39 pm

      I think you said it right here: “appreciate all the things we might not even be noticing.” Start taking the time to notice. Pay attention to what your significant other does in the relationship that makes your life easier. What would you have to do if that person were no longer there? And then let them know you appreciate those things. You could always ask too. Are there things your significant other would like for you to be helping with? Are there things they have to nag you about that you could work on just doing so they don’t have to nag anymore? Improving communication skills is always a good idea.

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  • Colin January 1, 2019, 1:10 pm

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  • Julie January 1, 2019, 1:13 pm

    MMM, thanks for sharing and thanks for the advice. Cheers to you for choosing to make positive choices. We’re wishing you and your family all the best.

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  • Maggie January 1, 2019, 1:18 pm

    Firstly I wanted to say I’m sorry to hear this MMM – it is a painful time no matter the circumstances but I’m glad to hear everyone in your family is treating each other well.

    I wanted to share that I discovered your blog when I separated from my partner of 18 years four years ago, pregnant and with a 3yo, SO scared about my financial future, about going it alone. But it turned out that I had been married to a spender and that even with two kids, 100% care and a fortnightly child support payment of $16.37, by choosing mustacian ways I can still choose to work only two days while my kids are tiny and still continue to grow my net worth. Your blog made owning and changing my financial future both fun and possible, I still have my trusty sensible car, I own more than half my house and I have savings that are sitting against my mortgage so while I’m not financially independent (because I’m choosing time with my kids instead of working more), I AM financially secure and I have the confidence to look after my kids and myself and much of the credit belongs to the words I read from you. You taught me and uplifted me at the hardest point in my life and I’ll be forever grateful. Thank you.

    I look forward to hearing more of your adventures and if this post generates any more “how to” advice relating to single parenting/low income situations (balancing work and child rearing values) that would be amazing too.

    Thanks again for all the guidance and inspiration. You’ve made such a difference in our lives! Xx

    Reply
  • Teresa January 1, 2019, 1:24 pm

    WHEN can I fix you up with my sister?????

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  • Irwin January 1, 2019, 1:27 pm

    I really just want to express my condolences. It’s tough. It’s really tough. There are better days ahead.

    Reply

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