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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.

 

 

  • Lisa Dempster January 1, 2019, 1:28 pm

    You are so generous to share a painful life experience for the sake of helping others. I love your realistic and yet positive outlook, as well as the valuable reminder that relationships need work to stay alive. THANK YOU.

    Reply
  • Effsysbreak January 1, 2019, 1:31 pm

    Mr. Money Mustache,

    I can’t imagine how hard this is for you, but I’m sure if anyone could come away from such an emotional trial as divorce stronger and smarter, it’ll probably be you. I wanted to reach out and thank you personally because 2018 ended in separation for me as well. We were not married, but had been dating for almost four years. 2018 was the year I found Mustachianism and I’ve already moved my savings rate well above 50% (but alas, still so much more work to do!), mostly thanks to the changes I have made from finding this more sensible lifestyle.

    However, this new philosophy was a driving wedge between us. We talked it out and knew we had irreconcilable differences. She wanted to stay down here in small town Texas and settle down to raise a family, while I don’t think I’m ready for kids yet (if I ever will be). One of the changes I gained from Mustachianism was to rediscover a love of cycling, walking, and running that I had lost when I was a teenager, and it turned out that this was not a love we shared. I’ll probably be taking on additional challenges in 2019 to move to an area of the US that fits a more active, cycling-friendly, low-consumption lifestyle, and part of the reason I am so confident I can do this as well as cope with my break-up is that Mustachianism has helped boost my self-esteem enough to where I realize that while I still suck, I can take on the challenges that life throws me to better myself and enjoy the challenges along the way, even if I fail. What’s more, the separation will allow me to sell/donate/throw away so much more of the clutter I have accumulated in my life and live much more minimalistically, which allows me more of the ultimate freedom that I’m chasing: to do whatever I want, whenever I want.

    I guess where I am going with this long-winded spiel is that this article (and so many of the ones you’ve thrown up here in the past) spoke to me. I want to sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart because you changed my life. I am sure you have changed countless other lives as well, and if you feel saddened or hurt because of this divorce, at least you can console yourself with the fact that you have done a tremendous amount of good for so many. May you continue to do so in 2019. God Bless You, and if I’m ever trekking through Longmont, I owe you a beer. Thanks and Gig ’em.

    Reply
  • Ben January 1, 2019, 1:36 pm

    I appreciate you sharing your experience, Pete. My wife and I have been separated for almost three months and it’s heading for divorce. Your story gives me some hope.

    Reply
  • Zoronqueen January 1, 2019, 1:37 pm

    Dear Mr. Money Mustache,
    You are entitled to your privacy and time of grieving. This article comes at a good time since I am about to be remarried. I’m a therapist by trade but have a nursing degree and now my 2nd husband is a mathamatician and now learning to navigate the Canadian immigration.
    I have been a fan of your principles for years, since learning about you through greaterfool.ca since 2008. However choose not to live a frugal life, but what I miss about my late husband was the resources he had the (DIY) energy that he contributed throughout the years in “unpaid work”.
    I am 42 years old woman with 2 kids, widowed in April 5/2017. Never managed any of my finances, husband did it all, even though I am well read. I went through a tough time and still dealing with financial losses I have yet to overcome. But being open and honest and learning how to deal with little things with life and having a different outlook so call contrarian is what is appealing about your writing. My late husband was a Civil Eng-transportation and then IT manager so I didn’t learn any of the skills required to “manage a household” as he did it all, construction(building the basement, decks, yard ect), maintaining and renting out our house when we left Edmonton for Vancouver, managing the day to day (electrical,plumbing, washing the car, fixing the car ect). Although I made for a great silent ‘foreman/woman’.
    I have since learnt 1) I can’t put up a shelf on my own. Took 3 hrs to drill 3 holes in the wall and I gave up.2) I can paint and fix drywall. 3) Still financial mess but can hire an accountant and slowly learn to do finances. 4) Bought a scooter 50cc/no I don’t bike even though Vancouver has great green lanes for biking. Scooter aves $$gas–$7 a week instead of $75.5) Gave my mini Van 2007 Kia Sedona to my sister family who need it.So don’t have to maintain and look after the Van. 6) Cooking at home and eating well. I got 2 weeks worth of groceries on my scooter.
    My scooter is https://www.topspeed.com/motorcycles/motorcycle-reviews/piaggio/2015-piaggio-typhoon-125-ar168797.html, –paid $2500 for it in April 2018, I rode it for 3 months, with my 11 year old daughter at the back to take her to school-12 km away at that time, insurance was $550 for the year, gas $6-$7 a week. Compared to my 2010 Rav4, which I did not put insurance on it as the Rav4 insurance expired in my late husband name so I parked it for 3 months. RaV 4 insurance was $1900 a year, $75 gas a week; I broke even with my scooter in 3 months.

    What I enjoy about your blogs is your positive outlook on life, your ability to be involved with the community and principles of healthy living. You have helped me through some tough times, used your blog to look up:
    money mustache recommends, Staying away from Ivy league mentality, Getting fit without a gym membership Ect.

    https://www.greaterfool.ca/2008/11/30/pump-dump/ (Back in the day)

    Keep the blog up….

    Reply
  • Joy January 1, 2019, 1:38 pm

    Mr. MM, Thank you for sharing this time in your life. My spouse told me about the post this morning and I didn’t want to read it, I didn’t want it to be true. Because I know how much divorce sucks. I did read it and I am sorry to hear about the change and do wish you both strength and energy for the next phase.
    My forever marriage is the product of two (1 his and 1 mine) amicable divorces from others and the process with which we both learned to be better. We learned to recognize when the other is making a sacrifice, to deeply understand no one has it easy, and how not to hurt each other. I have no regrets about my first marriage/divorce. It was the catalyst I needed to take charge of the direction of my life. I will say that no matter how amicable my divorce was, it still felt like failure. But, as you mentioned, we learn from failure and grow. I’m hoping nothing about the process feels like failure and it sounds like you’ve both found ways to move on to the many upsides of moving on.

    Reply
  • Russell January 1, 2019, 1:41 pm

    My girlfriend and I are pursuing FIRE together; it’s been something that’s brought us together and been a wonderful source of bonding. We don’t often hear or think about what to do when one part of things don’t work out. A few months ago we heard about your divorce and decided to plan for more edge cases like that, just in case (50% of outcomes is hardly an edge case, I know). It’s definitely a less fun conversation to have than “We’re going to be in love forever and be free from jobs after twelve years” but no less essential.

    Reply
  • Kenneth F LaVoie January 1, 2019, 1:46 pm

    Mr. MM
    Thanks for your humility and openness, and I’m terribly sorry you have had to endure the online gossip and banter during a time that’s hard enough on its own. I’ve been married for 16 years, and the only reason we’re still together is that she’s one in a million on the forgiveness scale. If marriages are like a bank account that two people deposit and withdraw from, we’re mostly living on “her contributions & earnings”, having spent the first few years making nothing but withdrawals.

    Stay well, and I hope you stay motivated and full of purpose.

    Ken in Maine

    Reply
  • Mick January 1, 2019, 1:48 pm

    Sorry to hear the news, sometimes even the best people go through the wringer, no right, no wrong or advise, your son is blessed to have such smart caring parents and as such you’ll take the pain so he doesn’t have to, respect to you all !!

    Reply
  • Spartana January 1, 2019, 1:49 pm

    I’m sorry to hear the rumor was true but am very happy to see you guys handled it so well. I’m a long time reader of your blog, forum participant and early retiree myself who went thru a similar divorce (no kids) at the cusp of my FIRE journey. Amicably, DIY, and very inexpensive. No acrimony but of course deep sadness and sense of loss coupled with a feeling of anticipation of a great new life ahead of me. I was still able to FIRE at 42 despite the divorce and believe following a MMM-like lifestyle made the transition easier for both of us. Dating as a single frugal FIREee in consumer hell of SoCal is a whole ‘nother thing though ;-).

    Reply
  • DuckReconMajor January 1, 2019, 1:50 pm

    Aside from the usual condolences and well-wishes I just want so say I’m so glad you’ve embraced meditation and counseling/therapy. They’re like barbells and salads for your mental/emotional well-being.

    Reply
  • anonymous January 1, 2019, 1:56 pm

    This article was perfect timing, thanks for sharing and putting yourself out there. Divorce is hard and it feels like a death. The emotional impact is by far the most painful. I went from a DINK to a SINK and could definitely use advice on how to continue on the path to FInacial Freedom. I’m looking to rebuild my cash since I had to give up a lot of it to keep our mortgage free home.

    Reply
  • Thirsty Traveler January 1, 2019, 2:14 pm

    This post resonated with me for several reasons. I am also Canadian living in the US trying to adopt frugal ways to live and appreciate the creative ways to make a living besides my 9 to 5 job. I can appreciate the ups and downs of a long term relationship and wish MMM all the best for 2019.

    Reply
  • Edie January 1, 2019, 2:19 pm

    I’m so sorry. What an uplifting attitude you have. Very inspirational.

    When my former husband and I split he said our marriage wasn’t a failure; it was just completed. When you leave a job it’s not because you failed in the previous job.

    Reply
  • Colleen January 1, 2019, 2:31 pm

    Thank you for your honesty & humility. Divorce isn’t fun no matter what the circumstances—as I like to say, no one gets up in front of 200 of their closest friends thinking it’s *not* going to work. It took a lot of work on both sides (in the form of patience, tolerance, and acceptance) but we’re both better off for the split. I’m forever grateful for having married someone who could be divorced as graciously as my ex was, if that makes sense. All the best to you and yours!

    Reply
  • Anonymous Fellow Front Ranger January 1, 2019, 2:36 pm

    WOW; Pete; what a great post! I want to commend you for choosing to take such a positive, healthy approach and sharing this with your readers! As a former Social Worker and someone who continually wishes everyone could just see the amazing “gift” of therapy, your post may indeed help so many more people than usual even!

    I, too, went through a divorce many years ago and it is Hell–even though it was my choice in the end to leave, everything you go through is just so difficult and life changing; it is so hard for others (sometimes even other divorced people!) to understand.

    I did the work on myself and went through therapy, which was, like I said, a huge “gift” I was able to give myself and my health and my future, so that I could not repeat the things in the future that I had done in the past that weren’t working for me, so that I could choose a partner in the future that would be a better fit for what I wanted out of life, and ultimately, so that I could figure out who –I– really was independent of any partner; what was going to make me truly happy, what I really wanted my life to look like, how I would recreate my life after 8 years in a whole life with another person.

    I’m very happy to say that, now, many years later, I am remarried to an absolutely amazing man who is just so much more than I ever could have asked for or dreamt of, and so is this relationship, as corny as that sounds. We’ve been together now 16 years and it seems like only 4 or 5, like it will never be enough time with each other! We continually ‘work’ on our relationship by doing ‘simple’ basic things (kinda like all this ‘simple’ wealth building we’re all talking about) like being happy to see each other each day, talking to each other regularly and consistently, feeling and showing gratitude for each other, spending TIME together, having each others’ “backs” on everything, knowing we can discuss anything we need to, keeping similar schedules, doing lots of fun things together, etc.

    All this b.s. about “all relationships are hard/all couples fights, etc.” is really a bunch of crap; if a relationship isn’t pretty darn easy between two people from the start, it sure as hell isn’t going to get easier! And no, all couples do not fight; that is just a societal justification for all the toxic family crap that goes down all around us and a way for no one to deal with the horrible behavior that goes on.

    Relationships should be easy and simple just like the financial approaches you, Jim Collins, the Mad Fientist, and so many others talk about. If they’re not, you might want to look at why they’re not and think about “going back to the basics”, whether that means keeping within a current relationship or leaving one. Life is hard enough (like you said); why make love hard when it doesn’t have to be? Life is short and we all deserve to have love and happiness in our lives!

    Reply
  • Miri January 1, 2019, 2:37 pm

    Mr. $ Mustache,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I was deeply humbled by my own divorce and it swiftly pushed me off my high horse. I hope those who posted negative comments get off their high horses and do some self-reflection themselves.

    Kudos to you both for putting your child first and splitting amicably. It’s so so hard and I wish you all the smoothest road forward.

    Sending positivity your way!

    Reply
  • Dave January 1, 2019, 2:37 pm

    Good on you, Pete, for sharing your personal business here. Happens to the best of us (and, also, me), and it’s so relevant to your central mission here — promoting all-around happiness, not just saving shekels. Keep up the good work, and press forward!
    Dave

    Reply
  • Ken January 1, 2019, 2:39 pm

    Hi Pete

    You don’t know me, and don’t really know you except through your work. It *feels* like I know you, and for all you’ve taught me, I wish I could’ve taught you what you wrote under “How to stay married” *before* you learned it the hard way. Because I, too, learned it the hard way.

    There’s more useful advice in those few paragraphs than many people probably realize. In fact, staying married is *just like* getting rich in some fairly important ways – it’s just simple behaviors, made habit.

    If people can learn financial bad-assery, they can learn relationship/team bad-assery, too. You’re a good teacher, man. Please consider adding some of your hard-won knowledge to the regular syllabus.

    Reply
  • Bob January 1, 2019, 2:41 pm

    So you were a jerk – to me you always seemed like one. Get your act together and who knows.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 2, 2019, 3:33 pm

      Oh, hey Bob, thanks for the advice!

      I can tell that you would be a great resource for learning how not to be a jerk.

      Reply
    • Amy January 11, 2019, 11:04 am

      Actually, let me apologize now to Mr. MM….I just broke my own rule, to never respond to trolls and give them the time and energy they don’t deserve. It just feeds them. So I’ll say what I should have said in the first place…thank you, Mr. MM, for your vulnerability and honesty. I’ve learned so much from you over the years, and you were never under any obligation to share these details…I appreciate the trust you put into your readers, that the majority of us will respond with respect and kindness. I wish you and the former Mrs. MM the best!

      Reply
  • Rob from Montreal January 1, 2019, 2:41 pm

    Pete, what a class act you are! You and Mrs X sound like you have put your son first, each other second and your finances third. I divorced in 2000 and my X just sent me a “Happy New Year” wish, we too did it right by our two girls now 20 and 23, they are both out of the house living full independent adult lives. Never a bad thing came out of my mouth about my kids mom in front of them, I think this was one of the keys to happy kids. Keep the shit between the adults, actually got that from Doctor Phil 19 years ago lol. Wish you the best bro!! All three of you :).

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 2:43 pm

    So sorry to hear this sad news, very brave of you to discuss it so openly, and admire turning negatives into positives and using the experience to help others. My fiancé of 8 years left me in May 2018 and your story resonates strongly with me. You continue to motivate and inspire me. Sending peace, love and positivity.

    Reply
  • Jeff January 1, 2019, 2:49 pm

    Thank you for your courage and truthfulness. I went through this 11 years ago and also have one kid. Some unsolicited advice – don’t in any way try to show you’re the better parent. Also be honest with your kid and she’ll be honest with you. She’s 18 now and yesterday told me how weird it was to be the child of a divorce. Kids just want to be the same as everyone else and divorce is tough. I’m blessed that she is able to share her feelings with me even if sometimes the truth hurts a bit.

    Reply
  • Cinnamon Cents January 1, 2019, 2:58 pm

    MMM, I am truly sorry to hear this, and I wish you and your family the very best as you navigate the rough waters of the newly divorced. I’ve paddled my way through that experience myself after 24 years of marriage and have definitely come out the other side better and happier. You will, too. Thank you for sharing your personal stories and words of wisdom. You’ve inspired me in so many ways. Keep your chin up and know that the pain of heartbreak fades. You get to keep the lessons learned, and that makes you stronger, more compassionate, and wiser.

    Reply
  • anonymous January 1, 2019, 3:12 pm

    I’m sorry to hear it, Pete. You are a hero to me and always will be, and to many others, for showing us the way to earn our freedom. You’ve given us years of our lives back and have busted us out of the consumerism matrix. Our children are better for it. You have made an impact.

    Ignore the haters and those who don’t get it. We are all human and subject to the perils of life. I’m sorry so many sheeple think because you took on the cause of trying to shed light on a much needed subject, that you aren’t entitled to some human moments. Ignore.

    You will never regret taking the high road and putting your son first. Speaking from personal experience – my ex and I somehow (wasn’t easy) managed to put the kids first after our divorce 17 years ago; choosing to give up the anger, having holidays and family events together with a smile and a positive attitude, even when we didn’t feel it. Needless to say it was the right call.

    Living your best life and being your best self is the best way to win, in any situation.

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 3:16 pm

    I wish you guys all the best. I am so grateful to you for this blog, it has changed my familys lives. While we’re still far from our goals, we didn’t even have goals two years ago and racked up credit card debt when we had our first child. Only been married a few years, but this advice is great about the little things. Thanks for all you do MMM. Rooting for all of you.

    Reply
  • Debbie January 1, 2019, 3:24 pm

    I was a bit surprised when I began reading your post. Saw the title and thought here we go, another blog posting telling people to stay marriage or divorce will ruin their financial plan. Had decided that was it! I was going to write a comment about divorce didn’t always have to be the gloom and doom financially. Was surprised to read you and former Mrs. MM were divorced. I never saw hints, gossip, etc elsewhere because I do my very best to not be involved in gossip and criticism. Most of the time, I am successful. Co-workers who get lazy eventually send me over the edge.

    I’ve been happily divorced for 7 years. We too, had an agreeable divorce, no kids other than sharing our two dogs which we managed to do for 5 years. The divorce was not really expensive in the scheme of things. I paid for the lawyer and we decided pretty easy on how to split things up. The upside was my health got better, my house finally turned into a home, and actually, my finances took a few years but got much better. I was the saver and he was the much lower income but quite the spender. Divorce isn’t always a bad thing but just like marriage, the new life does take time to get used to.

    Wishing you both the best. Life is short and sometimes it is better to go two different ways at the crossroad.

    Reply
  • Marcia January 1, 2019, 3:26 pm

    What a lovely post. At my age (a few years older than you), I know that sometimes people just grow apart. It’s a reminder to not take others for granted.

    Having a financial cushion is also grand. Many find themselves trapped financially, unable to afford divorce. When my parents divorced I was a teenager, and my mother literally left with the clothes on her back (and me). That made for a very very tough few years. (The emotional aspect notwithstanding!)

    Reply
  • Al January 1, 2019, 3:28 pm

    Very smart to keep the legal vultures out of your contractual process. I have witnessed friends and relatives go through this legal procedure and the only one that was smiling in the end were the lawyers. Most of them paid these leeches to split debt. One of my friends “I paid to walk away with less debt.” Financial issues cause the majority of marital problems is what they say, excessive debt being the number one cause. Regardless of the cause in your personal situation – it is wise to keep the lawyers out of the process. That is a smart piece of financial wisdom. All the best.

    Reply
    • The Vigilante January 1, 2019, 6:07 pm

      Well this is pretty scary advice to a divorce attorney. Not because I’m a leech and enjoy taking a client’s money – MMM’s advice to essentially focus on the future and amicably settle is the best path – but rather because when one person in the marriage is NOT amicable, lawyers are crucial. I make it a goal, when that is the situation, to leave my client measurably better off than he or she would have been, legal fees considered, than if they had not retained me, and I rarely fail in that regard. Most attorneys feel and do the same.

      Reply
  • Sparkle January 1, 2019, 3:48 pm

    I was so excited to see this post. This information is so important, please share more about how you were able to keep the lawyers OUT of it. We are at the very beginning of the process and are working through Terry Real’s book Thr New Rules of Marriage. He outlines 5 losing strategies and how to stop them. The book is great. I’m hoping that we can either fix this or at least own out parts and leave with a clear understanding of how not to get into this mess again with someone else.

    Reply
  • Cameron January 1, 2019, 3:54 pm

    Very sorry to read your news MMM, and though I’ve not ever met you I feel your pain. I was divorced (now remarried) 12 years ago and to this day I don’t really understand how it happened — she never really spoke to me about it, however “financial abuse” for wanting to save money instead of spend it was mentioned during the blur of far-too-late marriage counselling sessions.

    The two things that hurt the most were 1) never really knowing what I could have done differently (if anything) to fix things, and 2) having ‘friends’ either betray or ignore me as a result of the split. Thankfully we didn’t have kids so I was able to move on relatively quickly, but there were some seriously tough times in the immediate aftermath.

    For what little it’s worth, my thoughts are with you and hoping you’ll come out the other side better for the experience. It might take a while and it might seem like there’s nothing but darkness on the road ahead, but things eventually turn. Having good people around you will see to that.

    I’m with you in spirit, and thank you for the timely reminder about not taking precious relationships for granted.

    Reply
    • Laura January 1, 2019, 5:02 pm

      “…seem like nothing but darkness on the road ahead”. Going throu a divorce a moment this is how it seems sometimes- but thanks to posts like yours & the generous MMM , I don’t feel alone & many, many people survive it!

      Reply
      • Cameron January 7, 2019, 4:54 pm

        Not sure if you’ll ever see this reply Laura, but I’m with you in spirit too. One of the things MMM talks about on this blog is the benefit of hardship and while divorce is in a league of its own compared with what MMM writes about, the philosophy is the same. I’m a *completely different* person since my divorce, in a good way. The opportunity to benefit from the horrendous situation you find yourself in is there… I really hope you find it. xo

        Reply
  • Minimise With Me January 1, 2019, 3:56 pm

    Saddened to hear about your divorce but glad to hear everyone is doing well. Some great advice. My parents divorced when I was a teenager and we were not as financially secure which turned life a bit upside down but it definitely taught me some valuable lessons. I’m sure your experience can help others facing this and everyone can use some hindsight advice with marriage. All the best, Pete and to Mrs MM and your son.

    Reply
  • Anon January 1, 2019, 4:15 pm

    Sorry to hear you have been going through all that. It’s quite a life event, being one of the Big D’s (divorce, death, diagnosis, depression) not to be taken lightly – but as you said, big life events are an incredible chance for growth and change.

    As a child of divorce, all I wanted was for my parents to be happy and nice to each other – whether they were together or not was not the important bit to me – but how they handled it was. That doesn’t mean hiding your emotions from him (kids pick up on them anyway!), but talking through your growth mindset can show him that even when life can have hard moments, you know there is a better time coming on the other side of that.

    What a kids needs is confidence that everything will be okay. That they are loved and that even when things don’t turn out the way you planned, it can still be just as good. Probably better. That you can have a crappy day but the next one can still be great. It sounds like you guys are being the grown ups your boy needs – all the rest is logistics. All the best.

    Reply
  • ST January 1, 2019, 4:22 pm

    Pete, I appreciate your candor when writing about a very painful subject.

    I was raised religious in the Middle East, and married out of social pressure to the first woman I had ever dated after one month of seeing her. I was 22 and she was 19, and within two years we had two kids.

    Six difficult years full of depression, trauma, and pain later we separated and then divorced. It was the second hardest decision I ever made. The hardest one was leaving my home country and two kids and creating a new life in North America.

    For a year and a half I suffered every day through the guilt of being away from my kids, for having “abandoned” them for the sake of trying to create a better life for myself and them.

    It was during this time that I first discovered your blog, and it blew me away: there is another way. It gave me hope that one day, I too will retire early and live a badass life. Right now, I pay very high child support payments, but deep down I’m very frugal and I’m saving what I can.

    December marked two years since I left my kids and ex. We now live together again in Hamilton, Ontario, down the road from Mac. I live in the basement, and we co-parent out of the same house.

    This is a feat that not everyone could do, I know, but we’re trying our best to overcome the obvious challenges that come with that for the sake of being as close to a functional family dynamic as possible. We still love each other; our divorce was so amicable we walked out of the court holding hands. Yet my ex-wife is not someone I’d like to spend the rest of my life with, we are incompatible on many levels.

    I dream of freedom and badassery, but as you often say, the more difficult choice is usually the better one.

    Thank you for being a continuous of inspiration.

    Reply
  • Josh January 1, 2019, 4:30 pm

    May I add to the suggestion above about John Gottman’s excellent material that anyone interested/in need of help understanding a relationship check out Harville Hendricks’s excellent book Getting the Love You Want as well as Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight and Created for Connection. All three are informed by contemporary attachment theory and excellent for understanding the good/bad/ugly of our closest relationships and how to make them better.

    Reply
  • Anita January 1, 2019, 4:37 pm

    I’ve seen countless divorced couples move far away for a new start, and active parenting becomes that much harder. Fortunately my former husband and I never lived more than a few miles apart, until our child was out of high school.
    I’ve also encountered former spouses falling in love, getting married and throwing their children together like puppies, thinking it’ll be great because they love each other. A few years later they have a holy mess on their hands.

    I stayed single for 20 years.

    Reply
  • Bitcoin January 1, 2019, 4:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. The same way your financial advice has helped me in more ways than you know, this story also helps – to know we are not alone – divorce, relationship difficulties happen to many of us – even though we often don’t talk about it. May peace, kindness and happiness continue to be with you and your family.

    Reply
  • Laura January 1, 2019, 4:51 pm

    Incredibly shocked to hear the news of your divorce! No-one is immune to such a devastating situation.
    I am going through a divorce at the moment after 20years of marriage & 2 teenage sons. The idea of amicable is a lovely way to deal with it BUT my ex (for the first time in years!) is playing nice because he wants me to sign a very unfair financial agreement !
    Women tend to want peace over conflict -including me, however getting a bit of legal help to ensure a fair distribution of assets isn’t bad advice . You can still be nice & protect your future

    Reply
  • Louisa January 1, 2019, 4:58 pm

    I too am very sorry to hear about your divorce, especially for your son’s sake, even if, as others have said, it might be the best thing. I have been happily married for 40 years to a man who had been married before to a woman with whom he had twin daughters. I knew his ex-wife and have known the girls almost their entire lives. Here is my hard-earned advice, from a long perspective:
    1) Take your time with new relationships. It can be a very helpful to be alone for awhile and reflect on your part in what led to the divorce. Also, new intimate relationships can be very confusing for kids. Even after my husband and I had been married a year, one of my stepdaughters, who was then nine, said to her mother, “Will you and Daddy go back to being married?” In her mind, even though she knew me, knew her father & I were married, and acknowledged me as a mother figure, still had hopes.
    2) Always keep the end goal in mind: your son’s health, wellbeing, and love for both parents. I truly believe we are as strong as our root structure, and a child who grows up alienated from one parent is at a serious disadvantage. Be very careful that both you and your ex always speak well of each other to your son. Sarcasm, unkind remarks and even silence can have long-term outcomes you might never dream of. It happened to us. My husband’s ex remained bitter & resentful of him until her death. I see the same pattern, still, today: divorced parents saying mean things about the other, either not realizing it may damage the child’s relationship with the other parent, or wanting it to. In our case, partly as a result of his ex’s chronic criticism & ridicule of my husband, one daughter cut off contact from him about ten years ago. I find it tragic for everyone’s sake, and very sad that at age 48 she cannot see that there is more than one side of the story, and at least attempt a relationship.
    And finally 3) it sounds like ex-Mrs MMM is very comfortable financially, but if there are future issues to do with money, be sure to be more than fair. Fair might not be enough; be generous. Men usually gain from divorce financially, women almost always suffer. Anxiety about financial survival can make anyone become manipulative and willing to use whatever resource at their disposal for leverage, even one’s own children. Women are by no means alone in being manipulative, but they are more likely to be in financial survival. My husband regrets deeply that his anger and sense of betrayal at his ex-wife kept him from being more generous. His wife died two years ago, but he is still paying the price in his difficult relationships with his children for the mistakes he made during and after their divorce.

    Reply
  • Wendy January 1, 2019, 5:05 pm

    Wow. It never ceases to amaze me–the class with which you conduct yourself. And, all the while, still offering material of substance that enhances the lives of your readers, even when going through a difficult time yourself. You don’t just write about it; you model it. Impressive.
    Sincere best wishes to all involved.

    Reply
  • Steve in the mountains January 1, 2019, 5:06 pm

    I, also, am sorry to hear about your situation. I know that one of the main reasons you retired early was to spend more time with your family so you could be a good husband and father. I hope can find another wife soon, perhaps someone more compatible with your ideas and philosophy. Best wishes for the future.

    Reply
  • Laura January 1, 2019, 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the post. I admire and can relate to your positive approach to life and the importance of making choices. I have always felt that way.
    I am a single mom of two boys (7 and 9) and have spent a lot of time reading personal finance blogs to get myself into a better financial space after divorce. It has really helped. I came across a blog of yours a while ago about buying ingredients for salads and healthy eating in general, and how it affects how you feel every day. I 100% agree!
    Glad to hear you are navigating the divorce with care. Being able to provide insight to others about your situation seems to be a solid sign that things are moving in a positive direction for all involved. I’m happy for you, and thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  • Half Full January 1, 2019, 5:41 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I too am divorced so I can relate to the rawness of your pain and optimism of your future. Ironically, it was after my divorce that I discovered your blog because I was trying to figure out my personal finance journey after such a major life event. Thanks to your blog and other research I did, I have found myself on a very bright financial path. So much so that I am now a Wealth Strategist, working independently to show folks the truth about money. It’s become a new business and way of life. I have also found a great person to share my life with again so keep your chin up. You and the former Mrs. seem to be very rational and that will help both of you and more importantly your son, have positive future experiences.

    Reply
  • Tigermom January 1, 2019, 5:43 pm

    Thank you mmm. I was speaking with my spouse last night and realize the toll a high demand family situation (both parents with dementia, no sibling support, some sabotage). Looking at putting in more boundaries at work and having more downtime. I have blocked a friend on social media who is still trolling me through other means and different phone numbers. My husband is wonderful and I will be focusing on my wellbeing, his and that of our child. Thank you for the wake up call, I wish you great happiness- many blessings-Tigermom

    Reply
  • Bakari Kafele January 1, 2019, 5:45 pm

    Hey, sorry to hear it, but glad you can find the positive even in this.
    I went through that once, many a year ago. It was hard. We tried, (and failed), to stay friends, but we did have as amicable (and uncostly) a break-up, paying nothing but court fees. At her suggestion, my mother was the moderator while we determined how to split all our shared possessions. Neither of us was close to financially independent, but we were both employed, and we shared the desire to not have it be the typical contentious battle.

    I met my second (hopefully last) wife indirectly because of you, and while we have our conflicts now and then, I feel it is actually much better than it would have been because I had a “practice” marriage first!
    Hopefully you share the same fate,
    Best of luck, and happy 2019

    Reply
  • sandhya January 1, 2019, 5:52 pm

    I am truly sorry to hear about this. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with all readers, even something as difficult as a divorce. As well thank you for sharing your financial wisdom in the past. Here is wishing you the best for 2019 and the future.

    Reply
  • Leslie January 1, 2019, 6:01 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about your divorce. I went through a divorce last year with two kids. We got married young and had two kids back to back. My ex husband became an alcoholic and lost several jobs. By the end of our marriage I had a rare condition that was causing extreme pain (since I have had two surgeries and feel better than ever). I was stressed out and not the mother or person I intended on being. I was devastated that we were not able to have a United house. I was worried about supporting two homes. And we share a business. I always thought it would get better. But it never did.
    After the divorce I am thriving. I went on a journey of self discovery. After over ten years of being treated terribly I now know my self worth. My business is more than thriving. I have made leaps and bounds towards early retirement. My kids are doing awesome and for the first time in over a decade I am truly happy and pain free. We are friendly and my ex finally got to AA. It truly was the best thing for all of us. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you all the best!
    For anyone at the beginning of this. Take care of yourself. Be patient with yourself, you will not heal overnight. Work out, be around friends, read and find joy again. It’s still within you.

    Reply
  • KY January 1, 2019, 6:31 pm

    Sorry. Been there, done that. An amicable divorce is still difficult and heart-rendering. I feel for you. Blessings to you.

    Reply
  • Linda January 1, 2019, 6:39 pm

    Glad you finally publicly addressed your divorce. Although you don’t divulged the details of what led to the divorce, it’s good you finally confronted it.

    What are some of the things you would have done differently? JD also got a divorce as soon as you made a lot of money. Thoughts on how money and FIRE changes a relationship?

    L

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 1, 2019, 11:40 pm

      I’d say that financial independence and a secure base of money are VERY good things for a relationship, because they remove the single largest stressor to most marriages.

      And sure enough, when you look at divorce statistics, they drop drastically at higher wealth levels. (https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/marriage-and-divorce-patterns-by-gender-race-and-educational-attainment.htm)

      But while money is one factor, it’s not the only one. So it was helpful, but still wasn’t enough to make up for the other differences between my former spouse and myself.

      I would encourage you NOT to talk about JD Roth’s personal situation in public like this and behind his back, nor to speculate on the reason behind anything in the life of anybody else you don’t know. He and I have been good friends for about six years now, so I feel I have a good handle on that part of his life story, but none of it is going into this comment.

      Never say anything on the Internet, that you wouldn’t proudly say to the actual person in real life. And even then, check with them (in person) before putting it out there.

      Reply
      • Florida Mike January 3, 2019, 12:58 pm

        “Never say anything on the Internet, that you wouldn’t proudly say to the actual person in real life. And even then, check with them (in person) before putting it out there.”

        Man, this statement should be the ground rules for anyone with an email address, twitter handle or internet access.

        Well said MMM!

        By the way, another divorcee here. Wife bailed out after 20 years together for reasons I still don’t know other than I did not in her eyes make enough money. But I am remarried now and happy so life goes on and that’s just a past chapter in my life history book.

        Best of luck Pete!

        Reply
      • Jian January 9, 2019, 4:48 pm

        Sage advice, as always! Thanks for a measured, thoughtful, and graceful post on such a deeply personal and painful subject. Wishing well and a happy, healthy, fulfilled 2019!

        Reply
  • brooklynmoney January 1, 2019, 7:01 pm

    MMM — wishing you, your ex and child health and happiness in 2019. Thank you for everything you do. Your wisdom and generosity in sharing what you’ve learned and facilitating that sharing via the forums is life-changing for many people.

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 1, 2019, 7:15 pm

    This… How to stay married “being genuinely excited and greeting your partner warmly at the door if they’ve been away”

    So true. It’s the little things.

    Quite heartbroken for you MMM and your family. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. All the best.

    Reply

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