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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.

 

 

  • PrasannaK January 3, 2019, 4:15 am

    Sorry to hear this MMM. Hope things get sorted out for the better.

    Reply
  • Bill Muffi January 3, 2019, 4:49 am

    There is life after divorce. We as a community appreciate your blog and long for that next important focus.
    You have helped our family on the road to financial independence. # 1 Blog! MMM

    Reply
  • Raj January 3, 2019, 6:18 am

    As I write this, I am on my first vacation with my kids and my ex, three years post divorce. It’s hard to believe but the anger and pain have nearly passed that we are now able to travel together. It has been one of the best vacations I’ve taken in a long time. The kids are loving it too. I wish I knew life would be this good when I was in the middle of the split years ago. If it helps, I’m confident it will be for you too!

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 3, 2019, 7:03 am

    My wife is divorced. She is my sun and stars, and I am thankful for her every day. I am proud of her for being able to close the door on a relationship that wasn’t awful, but wasn’t working, and strike out in search of happiness. All of which is to say, the people you both meet in the future, friends or romantic partners or otherwise, will be grateful you two made this decision and made room in your lives for them. I really believe that.

    Reply
  • Jack January 3, 2019, 7:08 am

    Divorced guy here and in my experience it got more difficult before it got easier. I have a unique situation because I not only had an amicable divorce, but it had zero effect on my finances. I have a daughter, but no court ordered child support. I kept the marital home and didn’t have to pay a settlement because the market at the time basically made the house a break even asset. That all being said, I voluntarily pay child support AND alimony because I want my daughter to be well cared for and that means caring for her mother, who in my opinion is the ideal mother. I have not found anyone remotely as skilled at motherhood as my ex. She is kind and full of virtue; I admire my ex. Our marriage ended because I thought it was loveless due to there being no intimacy, but as the years went on I learned that love is much more than intimacy. I regret the divorce, but I do not regret where I am today spiritually, mentally, and physically. I regret that I was too immature to grow during the marriage, but I am thankful for where I am at today. I am FI now, having amassed more than enough to last me for the rest of my life. Not sure I could have done that with the mindset I had in my marriage. But so be it. I have the time to spend with my daughter, and I have taught her how to read, ride a bike, swim, rollerblade, and even potty trained her post divorce.

    In the western world with no fault divorce, there is absolutely nothing in it for a man to get married and be controlled by the contractual provisions of the State. I will never get married to the state again. I am lucky that I dodged a financial bullet. I am proud my ex is the mother of my daughter. I’m sure it makes it easier for her that I voluntarily have given her tens of thousands of dollars, especially since we were a paycheck to paycheck marriage with no savings and she doesn’t know anything about my FI other than the scarcity of money doesn’t seem to be an issue for me over the last several years.

    Divorce is devastating, there isn’t any other way to shine it. An amicable divorce is rare, and a divorce where there is mutual respect without any lingering bitter feelings of resentment is the rarest of them all.

    Reply
  • Ashley January 3, 2019, 7:50 am

    Many of the aspects of your story resonated and rang true for me. Our divorce started amicable and we used a mediator to help us come up with our divorce decree. And then 6 months after our divorce, my ex-husband remarried and decided everything in our decree was unfair to him and so fired our subsequent mediator and served me with a petition to modify. We’ve now been entangled in lawyer stuff for the past year. Unfortunately for us, things have not gotten easier. My take away or reminder from your article however is to keep in mind, the question…..despite these anger provoking circumstances, how can I send my ex kindness?

    Reply
  • João January 3, 2019, 8:02 am

    Pete, I’ll try to add my view as a son of divorced parents for more than 20 years and I hope it brings you peace of mind, if needed at all. My parents got a divorce when I was about the same age as your son. The only thing I remember being painful was to feel different from my friends and cousins and to witness my parents having arguments frequently. Divorced parents were not as common back then, but now it feels so natural and acceptable, as it should be, and you and your ex-wife still get along. I actually remember feeling like I had a boost of my freedom, with only one parent watching me at a time, which is hugely important at that age. Thus, your child will be more than OK, I’m sure. It’s a win-win-win situation and your divorce, although maybe unexpected for your audience, is just another sign of how ahead of the game your family is.

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  • Dani January 3, 2019, 8:50 am

    Divorced, single, or married, you guys still rock – in my book! Even embarking on marriage and having a child is a risky feat for any of us. We appreciate the amicability and gentleness during this difficult time. You encourage us to be our best-selves and to not settle for a lesser lifestyle. For many, marriage becomes a life sentence – life is too short to accept this.

    Marriage is revocable – at any time. Divorce follows similar steps as the grieving process – its traumatic. I have been married for nearly twenty-five years, we have two teenagers, and we are not immune to divorce. After reading your post we went on a date night – thank you. We are married, close, and best friends. We have big families and are close to each. These families are full of long-time-marriages. Today, it’s working, and we are lucky. Staying together for an entire LIFETIME still just seems like a hell-of-a long time for anyone to stay together-I love my husband, but I’m just sayin’. What the hell?! Tomorrow we could both be different people – oops! Really, I think we’re genetically meant for serial monogamy in small tribes. Instead, for the sake of society, we choose this lifetime-marriage-thing. But, that’s another story to discuss with a beer in hand😊 If he ever wants to go or if I ever want to go, I hope that we handle it as gracefully as the two of you!! Keep posting! Even through this painful process, you continue to inspire. Blessings for you and your family in 2019.

    Reply
  • Jules January 3, 2019, 8:55 am

    “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.”

    YES. This was a heartbreaking post to read, but I so thank you for sharing. I’ve been divorced for five years, and wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, though we both walked away financially unscathed and had no kids to consider (we did the DIY paperwork route, too!). And the really great news? Life is more abundant, miraculous and exciting than I could have ever imagined had I stayed in a relationship that no longer served either of us. My understanding of love and what’s possible from life has grown exponentially (much like my bank account, since discovering your blog!). I hope that magical little key unlocks the same for you, MMM.

    Reply
  • Kay-Ell January 3, 2019, 9:03 am

    Kudos to you and the former Mrs MM on handling your divorce in just a respectful and adult manner. Doubly so for fiercely holding to your optimism and values through this difficult time. I’ll share the broad strokes of my divorce and coming through to the other side. I was married very young, and happily so for about 2 years. After that the “growing apart” had been so exasperated by the “growing up” that I became extremely lonely and depressed in our relationship. We should have ended it then, but tried for another 3 years, during which I’m ashamed to say I had an emotional affair. We eventually divorced, almost 7 years ago now and managed a very amicable and inexpensive split. From there both of us have grown a lot, made changes to our lives and I’m happy to say are both living our beat life with partners that nourish our souls. For me, being in an unhappy marriage forced me to confront my own weaknesses and taught me a lot about myself. I’m a better person because of it.

    Reply
  • Laura January 3, 2019, 9:06 am

    As the child of a horrible divorce, I very sincerely applaud you for keeping your son’s welfare at forefront.

    Reply
  • Mark S. January 3, 2019, 9:07 am

    MMM, Thank you so much for this post, it hit me at exactly the perfect time. My wife and I – who clearly still love each other – are in an extremely dark place right now that I’m sure if we’re going to get through. Communication has been bad to virtually non-existent recently. The current emotional and psychological strain is so overwhelming that it’s difficult to focus on work or anything else.

    Anyway. I’m focusing what I love about my wife, being calm, and not letting emotions boil over. Your approach and attitude are exactly what I’m striving for (easier said than done) and if things do end up in divorce, I’m keeping this post in the back of my mind to navigate this as gracefully as possible.

    Reply
  • TjMando January 3, 2019, 9:44 am

    Thanks MMM for the courageous, selfless post. It certainly contributes to normalizing this normal thing that people find abnormal! I am happily divorced and find it a perfectly natural transition through life’s stages.

    Reply
  • Steve P. January 3, 2019, 10:13 am

    Thank you for your level headed article on divorce. Using this and the other crap that life throws us as opportunities to grow personally is the reason why so many people love to learn from you. Best wishes to you and your family.

    Reply
  • Kelly January 3, 2019, 10:19 am

    To the women readers of MMM, please read Laura Doyle’s “The Empowered Wife.”

    Have you ever had an “ah-ha” moment? I did after reading this book. My marriage is better, my health is better. I can’t recommend this book enough. You don’t need to be in a relationship to read this book. It will help you in all your relationships. I hope it helps you too!

    Reply
  • Mr. 39 Months January 3, 2019, 10:25 am

    My Condolences and I hope you and your family prosper in the years ahead. Make sure you take time for yourself, and allow time for your son as well. I think you’ve offered up a good example on how two adults can handle the issues surrounding divorce.

    Reply
  • Julie January 3, 2019, 11:33 am

    Thank you for sharing this MMM, but also a thank you to the wise commenters. I read your post with mixed feelings as I got engaged just last week. I know about the numbers (though not the 22% change of happiness) and we are still going for it. It’s a risk I’m willing to take because we’ve been together for nine years now, and besides that, I could do with a party ;-)
    But you post and the comments have made me thoughtful and we will definitely have some serious talks about the “what if” scenarios.
    Wishing you and your loved ones all the best for 2019!
    PS: if you could do with a party as well, consider yourself invited

    Reply
  • Kathy Gottberg January 3, 2019, 11:59 am

    As a person who has been very happily married for the last 41 years (!!!) I applaud you for knowing if and when a relationship isn’t working and making choices that will lead to greater happiness and wellbeing in the future. I think being alone is better than being with the wrong person. HOWEVER, I can honestly say that the last 20 years were far better than the first 20 but many who split don’t make it that long which is a bit tragic, especially if there are children (we consciously choose not to have kids and instead dedicate our lives to each other). It is helpful to point out what you feel went wrong, and like you I write about what has worked so well for us. But as you say, we are all different and have different needs and desires so that always influences our actions. Good luck to you, your ex and your son, may your decision turn out to be the best for everyone involved. ~Kathy

    Reply
  • One Nickel January 3, 2019, 12:03 pm

    Wow, talk about timing. I just recently completed my divorce and it was the exact opposite of yours. Mine was high conflict and no where near do it yourself. In fact, it was a complete financial devastation that took me from having a net worth in the low-mid six digit range into over $120k in debt, including around $75k+ in legal fees. Unfortunately, much of this debt is high interest credit card debt. The result is being cash flow negative by a couple grand per month right now.

    As a result, I actually launch my blog over the holiday with a post on the exact same topic about the financial impact of divorce based on my experience on the same day as this post. My goal being to walk through my journey back to solvency and right the sinking ship.

    Reply
  • James January 3, 2019, 12:19 pm

    Sorry to hear this, and sorry people couldn’t stop thinking of themselves and forced you to go public with it earlier than you would have liked. The forum thread on the subject truly was a shitshow.

    People do grow apart. I like to ask people: how many folks do you think would remain married for life if humans lived 1000 years instead of 80 or so. I think the number would be close to zero. Our personalities and tastes just aren’t that static. I do agree about the advice you said about taking steps to appreciate and mend before it gets to be too late. There is some research on this: https://www.gottman.com/blog/turn-toward-instead-of-away/ I have no idea how accurate this stuff is, since, as they say, correlation isn’t usually indicative of causation. But it stands to reason that we have to put maintenance into relationships like anything else.

    I hope that this episode is a chance for both of you to regroup and to go on to live the happiest lives you possibly can!

    Reply
  • S Grant January 3, 2019, 12:41 pm

    I was so surprised when my husband showed me this post – I found the section about staying married a great reminder. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  • Sal January 3, 2019, 2:21 pm

    Much appreciate the courage to write about what seems wide spread and is commonly called gray divorce.
    This MMM divorce reads rather light and suggests virtual/bloggy lightness. Fer the sake of all, one is well advised to go ahead and reel from life’s tsunamis and it is also essential to resist dating for at least one year. I think you could go ahead and concede the remarkable instability of it all. Happily dividing assets is unlikely for most readers living in reality. Venom spitting is about pain and no one is immune…we are human whereas happy divorce blogs are not.
    Best to You.

    Reply
  • Kimby January 3, 2019, 2:40 pm

    Thank you for this timely post. My greatest condolences to you and family. Kudos to you for getting thru it with as much peace and civility and continued ‘support’ –even at the basic communication aspects. Very admirable.

    I am dealing with a separation — unwanted. 8 months now – not that anyone’s counting. ;-) I’ve found some of the things you’ve mentioned to be the greatest help – investing in growth/learning, meditation, yoga, health/fitness. I’m thankful for the FI community, and a return to a very simple lifestyle. I screw up – feeding self pizza n wine, crying thru many days and nights, researching ketamine infusions. . . Here’s to hoping by and large 2019 will be a better year!

    Love and props to all those walking this very difficult, lonely path.

    Reply
  • Rich January 3, 2019, 3:01 pm

    Thanks so much for all you’ve done for this community, and for having the courage to share this news, and doing it in such a thoughtful and balanced way. The advice on how to stay married is priceless and I’m trying to avoid those mistakes in my current relationship. I went through separation 5 years ago and divorce 3 years ago from a great woman who had the genius to realize that both we each deserved a great (vs. merely good) relationship and the kids deserved to grow up with parents in loving vs. cordial relationships. Seriously, this has ended up being one of the best things that has ever happened to me: I’ve rediscovered myself, I’ve learnt what I was doing that contributed to us growing apart, I’ve been through a ton of personal growth, the kids seem happy (fingers crossed!), and my ex and I get on betterthan when we were together. So keeping doing what you’re doing, you’re on the right track and it will all work out well :)

    Reply
  • Max January 3, 2019, 3:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing such an unfortunately common and trying life event that lots can relate to. I was also divorced after 18+ years and that happened about 2 years after my father passed away. Something about a significant emotional event can do radical things to people. I grew up and unfortunately outgrew my spouse but it’s never just one thing. The whole thing was some kind of devastating.
    And thank you for recommending The 5 Love Languages. Such events will definitely make you want to improve yourself for the next time. I believe sharing will help others!

    Reply
  • TJ Stevens January 3, 2019, 4:07 pm

    Hey MMM — quick question: do comments disappear off your site? I posted something yesterday (very complimentary, about you being my hero and such) but today it’s gone. I’ve posted a couple other questions in the past … and I seem to encounter the same problem. Am I missing something about how to properly comment, or is there a glitch on your site? Thanks.

    Reply
  • Just a thought January 3, 2019, 4:37 pm

    Do you think that there might be a correlation between money and social media versus live human relations?

    Money allows people the ability to rely on others less. You can just pay someone to do things.

    Social media allows one to have superficial relationships. Why work on the hard stuff when you can get your socializing online?

    Reply
  • Penny January 3, 2019, 4:57 pm

    My parents divorced when I was 8. They did not explain anything to me (the whys) and so my father disappeared from my life. The way in which it was done left me damaged for quite some time. I am glad to hear that you are considering the emotional health of your child by remaining close and involved. Ironically, I have now been married 40 years. Several times during this long marriage, there were some near divorce scenarios but it has become a lot sweeter and mellower as time has passed. I am glad we stuck it out…

    Reply
  • Marlous January 3, 2019, 5:08 pm

    Hey Mr MM

    I’ve been following you for a while and don’t always read everything, let alone comment. But I’ve always found your resources very helpful and will keep referring them to others.

    I wanted to comment on this blog because it really touched me. Thank you for so openly sharing your journey through a divorce and all that may come with it. I’m a newlywed myself and although I can’t imagine my hubby and I getting a divorce right now, I can relate as I’ve seen divorces up close. I also appreciate your nuggets of wisdom shared about life. I’ve taken away a lot from this. THANK YOU!

    Wishing you and your loved ones all the best!

    Reply
  • PlantBased January 3, 2019, 5:17 pm

    If at all possible do the work to make it work. We carry the problem of why divorce is an issue, then look to find a “better” partner, but never change what caused the issue in the 1st place, so we end up repeating the same problem with a different person. Also, there is a tendency to think dating will be like it was at a younger age, but it’s not. It’s probably the same for both sexes, but I find quality of potential partners takes a drastic nose dive past 35. On-line dating is completely worthless for guys (35+), also true for most women simply because of how they are wired. New partners also come with baggage (call it what you will), but it’s no longer simple.

    Many who get separated, end up getting back together, even after years of being apart. Many get out there and think, “Wow, I did not think it would be this bad!”

    Reply
  • Leo January 3, 2019, 5:53 pm

    Hello MMM, I’ve read all of your posts, love your blog, this is my first time commenting.

    Recently I’ve had a break up described well how I was acting: “focus on how unfair the situation is, how we were right and we tried our best and the world still mistreated us”. It’s been a few days since I started actively trying to look at things differently. This post will help for sure.

    I just started working on finding things I enjoy doing alone, trying to know myself better. This is not easy after so many years together. Hope I can focus on working hard, studying, starting a carrer in engineering and maybe even move abroad for the next year or two.

    Wish you the best!

    Reply
  • Jeff January 3, 2019, 6:34 pm

    I’m of the opinion that being FIRE can be a “risk factor” for divorce, mostly because of the amount of time that could potentially be spent with a spouse. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt.

    In my case, my divorce was in large part caused by being with my wife 24/7. We ran a business together, had the same friends, socialized together, vacationed together…. you get the idea. I don’t think it would have ended if we had worked regular 40-hour-a-week jobs.

    Being FIRE potentially puts you in the same position, where there’s a strong possibility you’ll spend much more time together than most couples. Sometimes working on a relationship means giving one another time to do their own things. Gotta find balance.

    Reply
  • SpiritualManChasingFI January 3, 2019, 7:12 pm

    Hello Mr. Money Mustache, I am awfully sorry to hear about your divorce but I am glad to hear you have taken the higher road (which tends to be challenging at times due to our ego). I went through a divorce about 3 years ago and was able to workout the separation process and finalize everything in the most amicable way. We were able to maintain our friendship intact which had started to be damaged due to trying to make it work when in reality we knew that time was gone, unfortunately.
    I took the opportunity to spend time focusing on improving and optimizing several aspects of my life to make a positive impact in the world around me. In the process I started practicing meditation more seriously and found out that it can be a fantastic pillar to ones’ happiness and balance (I more than recommend it!). Meditation lead me to look for simpler ways to live and being more frugal helped me to save way more than I normally saved usually. Looking for ways to improve the return of the money without greed and to allow me to spend more time on balancing material and spiritual life, I became acquainted with your blog last year and the FI path of living. Now, after reading through a good chunk of your posts, I have setup a plan for FI, even if a little later than the usual 20-30 year olds.
    I mentioned all of this to say thank you for always being so open, genuine, and positive in your posts, no matter how personal or general they are. I hope you and all the Mustachians reading have a fantastic 2019, full of growth and positive experiences!

    “A man who reforms himself will reform thousands.”

    Reply
  • Tim January 3, 2019, 8:14 pm

    MMM,

    I’m sorry to hear about your major life changes… but growth comes form discomfort and I can see you have already worked thru this change at home and are heading towards a bigger and better future because of this!

    I am recently going thru very similar and your timing, words, and philosophy on it could not have come at a better time!!!

    Thank you for sharing and being so open!

    I wish the best to you and all of the family involved!! It is never easy, but I know you all have done the right thing moving forward!

    Reply
  • Brian January 3, 2019, 8:50 pm

    MMM, one of my favorite articles is “Selling the Dream” from 2012. Do you still stand behind that? Now I can’t shake the feeling that my wife is just pretending to agree with me while I’m the breadwinner, but eventually she will tell me she’s had enough of bicycles and keeping the heat down and she wants half the money (plus alimony?) to live in luxury.

    Reply
  • Amanda January 3, 2019, 9:09 pm

    My heart goes out to you, Pete. It is brave of you to share your experience with everyone and to move forward with your life.

    Don’t forget that you don’t have to put on a happy face if you aren’t feeling it. (And what’s more, people will know you are faking it!) If your true face on a given day is more “meh” than your usual upbeat calm, so be it. You’ll just look more like us mere mortals out here in the short term.

    Take care!

    -Amanda (Ecuador 2017, Meat Lab)

    Reply
  • JediInTraining January 3, 2019, 9:50 pm

    When I first read this article two days ago, I was shocked. You two had so many similar values about living simply and frugality. Like another reader posted, you two have become like my family and role models who achieved that happily ever after that I sought for. But then again how real are fairy tales anyways?! The fact that you can live down the block and you both can remain retire is proof that achieving FI is a valuable goal to strive for. I hope you two will continue to heal in the coming months!

    Reply
  • The Investor January 4, 2019, 2:38 am

    Very sorry to hear this news @MMM. Hope you all get through it as best you can, and that as you are aiming to you eventually see some positives from the whole experience on the other side.

    Here’s to that starting in 2019!

    Reply
  • Me January 4, 2019, 3:16 am

    MMM – long time reader, first time posting. I’m sorry to read about this. I hope that your optimism and positivity is even half as strong as conveyed, and that the hard and dark times of making a decision like this weren’t too painful. I wish you and your family every success and happiness with this change of circumstances. Thank you so much for your helpful blog to date, and I will continue reading and learning from you. I read a cool saying once : “Getting divorced is hard. Being divorced is easy”. I wish you the easiest road possible. Sending you all our love from Australia. PS Ignore the trolls. Haters gonna hate.

    Reply
  • J January 4, 2019, 3:31 am

    You mention $265 for the divorce paperwork and also finding a new house and leaving behind the Leaf. But what about other costs associated with a deteriorating marriage, such as therapy?

    From my own perspective, if I am going to pay multiple dollars per minute to have a professional listen to my marital problems, then things must be pretty bad, to the level of HOLY SHIT, I HAVE A MARRIAGE EMERGENCY! I entered therapy with my wife yesterday after much nagging on her part — although in all fairness to myself, it was the first time she ever presented me with a concrete plan, rather than just vaguely talking about how we should seek it some time. I am very concerned because I don’t feel as if the level of emergency is appreciated on her end. She arrived 20 minutes late to our first session for entirely preventable reasons. To me it shows a disrespect (i) for my time and willingness to be there; (ii) to the therapist and the process of therapy; (iii) to the money and resources we are spending on it; and (iv) ultimately to our marriage itself.

    At what point would you recommend counseling for an aspiring Mustachian? Do you think that our personality type makes us more prone to putting it off due to its high cost, and that we might actually live higher quality lives if we weren’t so hesitant to seek it?

    Reply
  • Keith January 4, 2019, 7:34 am

    I’m sorry to hear you drifted apart, but proud of you both for the maturity to make sometimes difficult decisions. I also divorced about 15 years ago, and it followed a similar path. We found our life goals were no longer aligned in some critical areas to each of us, discussed it with some friends, family, and professionals, and went through the court paperwork and process on our own. I think the whole process cost us around $300.

    On the final day, we went to a restaurant near her place for breakfast, drove to the courthouse together, then spent the day at the DMV changing her name and address on the license, ran some errands, then went to see a musician play that night. We’re still friends to this day.

    Divorce doesn’t have to be shameful, hurtful, or expensive. I wish both of you and your son the best future and great success!

    Reply
  • FordTough January 4, 2019, 8:20 am

    I am sitting around worried about finances and fixing used cars cars . I realized I haven’t cooked for my wife or bought her flowers in over a year I do not help out with our toddler enough.. I got off of work stopped at the grocery store grabbed a dozen roses. picked up our toddler from daycare went home and cooked my epic spaghetti. When she arrived home I saw a smile I hadn’t seen in a long time. Fiances and relationship need to be equally important.

    Reply
  • SED January 4, 2019, 8:27 am

    Very much appreciated the thoughtful post about a difficult experience. Sounds like you and ex-MMM are handling it well, and your son will benefit tremendously from that.

    Sorry to hear that you have been subjected to some internet gossip and opportunism. Those that want to use this as some sort of proof that FIRE is a hoax will do so. Because your average spendy consumer types never get divorced, and even if they do, it’s way better to be in debt when the impossible happens. /s

    Reply
  • Daniel Lee January 4, 2019, 10:51 am

    It is a sad story and I hope that all those affected can heal and find hope through this time. As a child who’s parents divorced at a young age it is incredibly difficult. And although my two brothers and I have handled the situation very differently over the years my state of mind as always been to keep moving. If you do not keep moving and do what you need to do you’ll never find joy again. It is profound but you can technically be at the Top and at the Bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid at the same time (see MadFient post on Hiearchy of Financial Needs and the Meaning of Life). Whether you have reached FI and are unhappy in life or you don’t have a chance at FI but are content and have found your purpose and joy in life. What matters most is finding your JOY even if that means FI is not part of the journey. God Bless.

    Reply
  • Jeff January 4, 2019, 11:04 am

    MMM, my only advice on this matter is no matter HOW GOOD it seems your SON is doing, it’s not really that good. Divorce is super painful for children. My own son is 27 now, I got divorced when he was about 10, and deep down, there is still pain buried in him. I encourage you to give him many opportunities to talk about when you two are hanging out… no matter what age he is. God bless.

    Reply
  • Ian D Miller January 4, 2019, 11:32 am

    My wife and I both survived what we call our practice marriages. We have a deep appreciation for each other and gained a lot of perspective after our first marriages. One thing I would add as a tip to help with keeping a marriage on good grounds that will yield dividends even if the marriage does end: make sure you help your spouse stay aware of the family finances. I think too often one person in the marriage carries the load of the financial planning (investments, expenses, etc.) and maybe they don’t mind doing it. But if both spouses are savvy, they’ll better understand and appreciate the decisions that get made. If it ever comes time to divorce, it can do a WORLD of good to know that you both have the same understanding of where you stand financially.

    I made this mistake in my practice marriage. My wife didn’t care anything about financial planning or investment and left it to me to handle. When it came time to divorce, it was 2008 and we needed to short-sell our house, I was between jobs and so was she. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Because I had a few investments (401k, rental properties) and was solely in charge of managing them, my wife generally transformed her personal financial stress into distrust for how much she could/should get in the divorce. She assumed I was hiding some financial assets somewhere. The lesson I learned here is that it’s crucial that your spouse understand what the pair of you are doing financially, even if your spouse shows no interest in financial planning, investments, etc.

    My current (and forever) wife isn’t interested in our personal finances, but I make an effort every couple months to review our assets with her anyway. In general, we have more trust and connection than my first wife and I ever had, but this specific financial transparency piece gives me the comfort to know that if anything were to happen, we would be better prepared to discuss and divide assets.

    Reply
  • E family January 4, 2019, 12:11 pm

    I seem to travel back and forth between frugal ideas and spending money on stupid shit. I got divorced 11 years ago from a man who was my friend. It was a terrible and awful time for both of us, but we also seemed to continue a mutual respect. We had a young daughter to raise and we both agreed that she was more important than our stubbornness. We did the same as you, we simply paid the fee at the courthouse and went through the separation and custody agreement ourselves. We both agreed that giving any money to anyone else was bullshit. That was our money! We’re both remarried now, and both of us are so much happier than we were before. I spent a lot of time wondering if we had done the right thing, but it’s obvious now that we did. We get along amazingly and our families even do things together! It’s probably pretty ridiculous from an outside perspective, but we both decided we weren’t going to be assholes to each other. We’ve had some times where we were anyways but we have moved past those and I believe my daughter is better off for it. good luck to you in the future, both with your new path, and with all the obnoxious, nosy, and bored people out there. My husband and I love your blog and it’s changed our lives for the better. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 4, 2019, 12:58 pm

    “Sorry, sorry, sorry…” With all due respect, divorce is awesome! We should be congratulating MMM! I’ve been divorced for 5 years now. Have a great co-parenting relationship with mom. Our son is now in high school, happy and healthy.

    I’ve been meaning to write to you MMM. I’m in Boulder and I’ve become a Mustachian through and through in since I started reading you blog (3 months now). Sometime I’d love to ride my e-bike over to the MMM headquarters and enjoy a beer with you.

    Joel

    Reply
  • Amit January 4, 2019, 1:24 pm

    Sorry to hear about your divorce. I have always appreciated you for choosing path that might look simple but not easy. I am sure you will move on and look beyond what everyone is advising you. All my hearty prayers are with you and your former Mrs. MMM. This article is impressive and motivates anyone who is going through similar situations to stay focused & positive.

    Reply
  • ms blaise January 6, 2019, 2:47 am

    I applaud your decisions. I once stopped seeing a man who was considering moving to another country even though he had very young children and an ex wife who needed his co-parenting in order to manage her business. Our ethics and values were not aligned. Just down the road is awesome.

    Reply

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