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.



  • freddy smidlap January 6, 2019, 10:03 am

    i got divorced around age 33 after a short and ill-advised marriage. to be honest it was relatively easy with no kids. “i want the todd rundgren cd’s and you can have the dog.” being relatively poor on paper made the money part easy. fast forward a few years from that time and i married my present wife and have spent 15 years with hardly even a bad day or argument. if i had to nail down two big differences they would be: 1. we know and trust that we have one another’s backs. we ‘re on the same team. 2. that mutual appreciation and gratitude for the other that you mentioned makes a huge difference. even if you’re thinking it feel free to say the words from time to time. they don’t cost nothin’.

    all that being said i have a bunch of friends with kids going through the same thing and it really does suck. i look back at theirs and my own and there sure is a level of embarrassment, deserved or not. that’s why i think it’s a great idea to try and keep up your close friendships for when it’s time to lean on those folks. best of luck coming out the other side strong.

  • Partgypsy January 6, 2019, 8:07 pm

    Thank you for writing this post. I have also been advising those friends who are married to a decent spouse, to appreciate what they have. And even with trauma can come grace. My divorce was somewhere between the $265 filing and the horribly expensive divorces that are dragged through court. The fact that neither was unnecessarily punitive is helping in aftermath of co-parenting our kids.

  • Ire January 7, 2019, 1:08 am

    Reading this while fighting with my girlfriend lol

  • Concojones January 7, 2019, 12:14 pm

    MMM, you’ve always been an inspiration and I’ll be forever grateful and rooting for you. Whatever happens, we’ve got your back!

    I’d like to share with everyone here the best relationship advice I’ve come across (it’s so good that I bookmarked the resource for my own future marriage and sent it to my parents). https://www.marriagebuilders.com/graphic/mbi3550_summary.html

  • Lance! January 8, 2019, 10:39 am

    MMM, have you considered addressing how FI may present its own challenges to a marriage (I realize that it may be too soon to dispassionately reflect on this)? Shared goals bond people, but once the goal of FI is met and daily life is about personal fulfillment, it’s easy to see how a couple may drift apart when their interests diverge (no judgment here, I’ve been on the precipice and have several friends who have achieved a greater happiness for all after divorce).

  • Anonymous January 9, 2019, 9:43 pm

    Wow! Shocked to hear the news! Hadn’t seen or read of the rumors as I’ve been limiting my internet consumption to DIY and other how-to type stuff. I’ve been married for 20 years now with two teens. More recently I wonder if we’ll make it another 20 or another year. The relationship seems to be on the rocks at this time. I don’t like confrontation with my wife so I bite my tongue daily and focus on my work and chores around the house. I think I need to check out some of those books you mentioned! Thank you for sharing your story Mr. MMM! I’m sorry to hear the news but I’ll be thinking of you and sending positive vibes out to you! I do believe that it is important to “re-invent” ourselves every so often. Here’s to a bright and prosperous 2019 for everyone!!

  • Joe January 10, 2019, 2:26 am

    As a participant in your forums, I was very disappointed to see the thread you are referring to; not only to see it, but to see it KEEP re-emerging in my ‘unread’ section – signifying that people were STILL in there, discussing things as if they knew the people involved.

    However, your message was about not dwelling on the negative, and focusing on the positive. I’m wishing for the best for all three of you, and I’m glad to see you’re still doing constructive stuff! The new YouTube series with you and MMjr has been great to watch. I can’t wait to read more, and watch more from you. Cheers!

  • Alex January 11, 2019, 4:02 am

    Thanks for letting us know! It shows your respect and admiration for your readers. I’m truly appreciate that. Thank you.

    I was wondering if that would be mentioned here, but all of your guys in LTR or married, would benefit tremendously by reading this sub-reddit : https://www.reddit.com/r/marriedredpill

    A lot of good stuff in there, if you are willing to put in a work (And I guess most of you are). Thank me later!

  • Josh January 11, 2019, 11:47 am


    I’ve been a reader of your blog for at least the last 2 years and this post is one that hit me pretty deeply. I recently went through an amicable divorce (married 10+ years) with one of my best friends. We are still best friends and make time to see each other regularly. The reason for the divorce is less important than the life lessons we both learned from the process as MMM alludes to. A couple of the lessons I learned through the process are as follows:

    1. Beware of co-dependence. Co-dependence has a lot of different ugly flavors and these flavors are disguised as “normal” for many romantic relationships. Maintain your autonomy as a person to include personal boundaries, interests, goals, etc. Be yourself while growing your relationship and be aware of sacrifice for the other person. Sacrifice is a serious situation that should be discussed and agreed upon; never a flippant act.

    2. Maintain transparent expectations. The biggest “erosion” that our relationship experienced was that each of us developed assumed expectations for the other both big and small. You should never expect something from a partner in any relationship without first agreeing on what the parameters are. People are not mind readers and all assumed expectations do is create an environment of disappointment and eventually disrespect.

    3. Relationships are finite. Every relationship you have in your life is finite. Friends move away, family members die, co-workers get promoted, etc. Romantic relationships are no different. The “forever” fallacy in romantic relationships is a construct designed to encourage separation from other relationships and force stability. MMM has pushed a philosophy of appreciating everything you have and developing an understanding the worth of these things. This philosophy is probably the most important when applied to relationships. Cherish every minute you get with each relationship you develop in your life with the understanding that it won’t last forever. This includes friends, co-workers, family, and romantic interests. Not only does this mindset allow you to move on once the relationship inevitably ends but it also allows you to be actively present which IMO is the #1 thing that defines the core of any relationship.

    Thank you for your blog MMM and your courage to share parts of your personal life. I hope 2019 is one of the best years of your life!

    • anonymous January 16, 2019, 4:32 am

      mind blown :D thank you for sharing these points, especially on relationships being finite. I have never thought of it that way (at all), but I love that idea because, even after considering it only a few minutes, I have newfound appreciation for each of the really good relationships currently in my life. I do have to say I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced this is really true (i.e., if death is the separating event, it seems, in a way, the relationship is still there through memories), but regardless, it is an excellent thought experiment to stay in the present moment with people each time you seem them.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2019, 8:56 am

      Thank you so much Josh!

      This comments section has brought out so many incredible and positive thoughts , and yours sums up the best sentiments in the most concise way.

      Life is so much better if you can take every event as a potential positive change for your future. It doesn’t mean you won’t be sad or feel hardship sometimes, but your perspective will make the negative times a lot shorter, and positive moments will dominate instead.

  • Louisa January 11, 2019, 4:05 pm

    Wow, that was a really well written post, I honestly have to say I got a little teary at the end of it. I am new to the community and was just browsing through your posts and came across this one. My parents got divorced after 20 years of marriage, and it was extremely difficult for my mom for many years. But they also made the effort to stay friends and now get along really well. I wish all the best for you and your family, and from what I have read so far I can tell you are a survivor and an amazing person. Thank you for inspiring so many of us on our journey towards financial independence!

  • LLBigwave January 11, 2019, 9:49 pm


    As so many others have said, I’m very sorry you had to go through this, and I admire you for handling it as well as you did.

    My own experience with divorce wasn’t quite so simple. She was opposed to even talking about it, so I had to go undercover. Laying all the groundwork and finally making my escape took almost two years. But when she was confronted by my attorneys with divorce papers, she completely wilted and signed them without a fight.

    Today, a little over two years later, I’m a hell of a long way from where I was financially, but I’m not buried under a mountain of debt or living paycheck to paycheck either. Your guidance has played a part in that, and I’m grateful to you.

    Here’s to a great year ahead!

  • Carrie January 12, 2019, 6:26 am

    I felt horrible when I heard of your divorce. I have been a reader for some time. I agree with you on the fact that no one really know s except you and your ex.

    I am recently divorced after 29 years and 3 kids. It was not what I wanted and has been incredibly painful. The worst experience of my life.

    Being financially stable, no debts, paid for house, money set aside for college, plenty in savings and retirement helped a lot. It was much more peaceful knowing that there was enough money.

    I was shocked to see how expensive divorce can be and what a crazy industry has developed around it. We kept our expenses reasonable, but only because of being organized and doing research and NOT fighting over things that are unreasonable.

    Take care.

  • Hurting January 13, 2019, 12:24 pm

    “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. ”

    This line makes me feel sad, and jealous. I’m going through a divorce, and I wanted it to be amicable. I wanted us to come to an agreement ourselves, without lawyers. We would use spreadsheets, and come to an agreement ourselves about the division of assets, and then we’d use lawyers (if needed) only for the formalized filing. I wanted it to be inexpensive and friendly.

    He said that he wanted the same. But what he REALLY meant was, “only if you agree to MY terms.”

    He emailed me a proposed division of assets. I disagreed with several major points, so I emailed him back a reasonable, detailed counterproposal. He didn’t reply. He went cold and stopped communicating. Three months later, I got a knock on my door and got served with a lawsuit for divorce.

    Unfortunately, it only takes ONE person to decide to go to war.

    That’s been the hardest lesson about this divorce: it only takes one. It takes two to enter into a relationship, but only one to decide to leave. If one person wants to work things out, but the other wants to leave, then the relationship ends.

    Likewise, if one person wants to resolve things amicably, but the other one decides to stop communicating, ghost the other party, and file a lawsuit, then that’s how things will go.

    It only takes one. And that’s the most helpless feeling in the world, especially for someone who is accustomed to feeling like, “I have a choice” and “things are within my control.” Of course, I still control how I respond — I hired an excellent lawyer and asked him to draft an alternate settlement offer — but it hurts me that, again and again through this breakup, his modus operandi has been to stop communicating and ghost me. He did that when he broke up with me (he didn’t tell me that he was breaking up with me, he simply stopped returning calls, texts and emails), and months later, after we finally talked and we agreed to work things out without lawyers, he ghosted me again, and then filed a lawsuit.

    It’s also frustrating that he uses the phrase “let’s come to an agreement” as a euphemism for “you must agree to my terms, as-is, or else I’ll sue you.”

    They say that you never really know someone until you divorce them. I’m discovering a lot about his flaws over the course of this divorce.

    You are quite fortunate that you and Mrs. MM parted amicably. I wanted that, but as I’ve painfully discovered: BOTH parties need to be on board with that. Unfortunately, it only takes one.

    • pissedinPA January 24, 2019, 9:41 am

      Hurting, I am right there with you. It sucks when you are thrust into litigation that you did not want. I’m currently going through something similar. Married 25 years with 3 kids. The last few years he prioritized his parents health over our family. When his dad died in 2017 he decided he wanted his inheritance for himself and filed for divorce in June 2018. No explanation given to me other than “you would not understand”. When I asked him to try counseling he didn’t want to because he didn’t think it was worth it! He said he wanted our divorce done by end of 2018. Yet, early December I received a 2nd set of interrogs from his lawyer. Lucky me! He now lives in his inherited Mcmansion with 150 plus acres and whatever money he received from his dads estate and expects me to be happy to split our assets which results in me selling the only house our 2 youngest kids have ever known. 2019 has got to be better than 2019! Good luck to you.

  • Matt January 13, 2019, 6:05 pm

    Divorce is not easy but you seem to have navigated it very well, good job!

    Most importantly, you have kept a clear focus on your responsibilities to your son. You and your former wife seem to have your heads screwed on.

    … shame my parents didn’t manage to do it the same way.

  • Hannah January 14, 2019, 9:56 am

    Hi MMM…

    I’ve been reading your blog for 3 years. I’m sorry for what you’re going through, it must be really tough. You have millions of supporters rooting for you. Best of luck.

  • Karyl January 14, 2019, 1:06 pm

    Dear MMM,

    Just opened your email, and when I saw the broken heart image, I thought, “Oh no, oh no, oh no—is this going where I think it may be going?” And it did. So very sorry to hear, and I totally get it. We all start with the best hopes, and people and circumstances do change. I agree with some of the thoughts here, really the honeymoon period lasts only a few years, and then you just somehow become more like roommates raising kids together at best. Sometimes it’s worse, when you drift apart and just get
    snippy/take each other for granted. At which point you have to ask, stay together and make the most of it, for the kids’ sake, or make a break for it? Each couple’s circumstances and answers to those will be very personal and individual. Kudos to both of you for making it work practically seamlessly. I wish you nothing but the best going forward.

    Reminds me of a recent interview on tv with Michelle Obama. Might have been on Ellen. She said even they go to Couples Counseling just for fine tuning the marriage, and I don’t remember the exact number she said, something like if you have 10 good years in a 40 year marriage, you’ve done good :-). Just another perspective on the whole marriage thing.

    I just want to say thank you for all that you do. You’ve been an inspiration in our house for many years now. Thanks to you, I think we’re now at FI level but choose to keep working just for the fun of it/cool benefits.

    Thanks for sharing, I think our marriage is at the holding pattern right now, but good reminder to at least show appreciation and keep at it for now.

    Wishing you nothing but the best for you and your family, thank you once again for all that you do. Chin up!!!



  • Bryski January 14, 2019, 4:02 pm

    MMM. Thank you for sharing this personal experience. I wouldn’t think of passing judgement on you, but I can’t help but add my own advice to your post:

    1. Make sure whoever you decide to marry shares your same values and basic life goals. Whether those values and goals involve finances, raising children, religious or nonreligious practice, and even to some extent political beliefs, make sure your partner is basically aligned with you. Shared interests are less important; shared values are of paramount importance.

    2. Although I agree that people who are in certain kinds of unloving or abusive relationships shouldn’t feel trapped, I also think that if children are involved divorce should be a last resort, not just something you do after you’ve “drifted apart” over the years. I’m speaking generally and not implying that is what happened with you MMM; I haven’t a clue about your relationship nor do I presume to speculate. It is just my opinion that if kids are involved, parents shouldn’t simply pursue what they believe to be their own personal happiness on a whim by divorce their partner without really really trying to make it work first.

  • Joe January 14, 2019, 8:21 pm

    It’s impossible to find and keep a good woman these days. The world is ruined. Seems the best a man can do is continue dating, developing, and have kids out of wedlock. That’s depressing. Divorce rates are much greater than 50% for our generation considering how little time has passed.

    The book called the rational male helped me a lot, but it’s a bit dark. Keep contributing. You are unique and have so much to offer the world. Your atypical advice changed my life a lot for the better. The Alchemist is another great book, very uplifting. Had the most important advice inside that I’ve ever heard in my entire life and the story was worth the journey.

    Just wanted to say, I appreciate you Mr. Money Mustache. If you ever want to talk/vent my emails above. Best wishes.

    P.S. – your site is no longer HTTPS, only HTTP. :sadface: :p

  • Taufiq January 15, 2019, 7:37 am

    Thank you for this blog post, sharing your private matter with us. A timely reminder for me to put more effort to my marriage. Immediately grabbed the book you recommend and it really resonate with me.

    Best of luck to you and your family

  • L5pKel January 15, 2019, 8:57 am

    So sorry to hear you’ve been going through this! Thank you for sharing your experience and lots of tips for keeping things positive (or moving towards that)!

    My own marriage (now 25 years) nearly ended a few years ago, but we managed to dig ourselves out of a downward spiral that, at the time, felt too deep to ever dig out of. I attribute our success, in part, to a book called “The Good Karma Divorce” (ironic that a divorce book helped to save our marriage).

    Thank you again for sharing and I hope this post inspires others to strive for positivity… especially while co-parenting!!

  • Guy January 15, 2019, 11:20 am

    My wife and I are growing apart and we feel it happening.

    We used to be together all the time when we were students (even with different majors), but work and kids take a lot of time.
    We try to make some time for ourselves, but it feels like we manage to only get a fraction of what we used to have.

    We still love each other very much, but also afraid that in the future we’ll be strangers :(

    • Stephen January 15, 2019, 2:40 pm

      With respect, I don’t get this. I get MMM’s scenario – that after a number of years you can look up and realize you’ve become different people – but what you are describing is being in the middle of it.

      I’m hoping/assuming you’re doing something about it – couples therapy, date nights, every day affirmations, etc., but your last sentence and the fact that you’re afraid in the present tense makes it sounds like you’re in a theater watching a sad movie play out in front of your eyes. Outside of paying for a sitter you can have dates that don’t cost a fortune. You can also do things every day to show each other that you care even if it’s within a family/kids setting.

      Again, I get how sometimes this ‘just happens’ to people, but given your fortune to recognize it in the now and the fact that you love each other very much don’t *let* it happen to you.

      Just my two cents

  • Andrew Mullen January 15, 2019, 12:41 pm

    So, you’re pretty much my hero, and I’m sorry to hear that we’re going through the same thing (much more conflict in my divorce though). Stumbling across your blog has completely transformed my life in so many ways and for that I will be forever grateful.

    Over the last few years I have started aggressively adopting your philosophies into my/our lifestyle….I bought a duplex and rent the upstairs on Airbnb, I drive an electric clown car for trips over 5 miles, ride a bike for everything under 5, installed solar, and have saved a substantial amount of $. I was so pumped and thought life was great, but my wife absolutely hated everything and insisted on fighting me every step of the way. I was also paying over $1,000 a month on her student loans, paying all the household bills (she wouldn’t pay a nickel), and paying off her spending sprees (which including things like botox) that all ended up on my credit card. She ended up finding a spendypants Dr. with a $70,000 clown truck and just couldn’t resist, so I decided to end it and filed for divorce. The whole thing was very demoralizing, as she didn’t grasp that my courage to reject the consumerist mentality to forge a new path for our family was my way of showing love (she would prefer diamonds, lol). It’s like you said though, you just have to get back to work, and that’s what I’m doing.

    Thanks for all the inspiration; I will continue spending your message! I wish you and the fam the best.

  • D* January 15, 2019, 3:09 pm

    I heard your name mentioned on a podcast I listened to today. My marriage is also ending. I have felt extremely wronged by my husband of over 15 years. I have been angry and full of rage at the unfairness. Stewing is all the “how could he after everything I’ve done for him” swirling around in my head. We have children together. We love them more than anything. You story stopped me dead in my tracks. I need to pick myself up and realize I’m not the only person this happens to. I have to be the best mother I can be. Thank you so much.

  • Aussie Girl January 15, 2019, 7:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing the 3 of you the very best going forward.

    My marriage ended August 2016. The first six months felt like a hand grenade had gone off in my life. Like you, my ex and I agreed how to split the assets and avoided going to Court. Being in a good financial position before the split made things a lot less stressful. So did working with my ex rather than against her in the process. We are on amicable terms and still communicate from time to time.

    I am in a new relationship (one year in) and happy how things are going there. I put a lot of work into eating healthily, meeting new people and trying new activities after the breakdown of my marriage. For everyone going through separation and divorce: this is probably the worst thing you will go through emotionally, so be kind to yourself. And your ex. Life slowly gets better, and heartbreak leads to happiness.

  • anonymous January 16, 2019, 4:24 am

    I appreciate you opening up to share such a level-headed, no BS account of what a Mustacian divorce can look like. Everything you said here was very helpful to me as someone who is going through a difficult part of my marriage–it is very reassuring to know there is a way through if we elect to divorce; it is equally compelling to consider what you shared on steps to stay married.

    While this is only a simple comment, written in a fog of sleepiness early in my time zone, I hope it conveys my appreciation for your ability to compassionately and honestly address a topic that can be so hard sometimes in real life to even broach (but is sorely needed).

  • Reade January 16, 2019, 1:15 pm

    So sorry to hear about your divorce, I went through a divorce a few years ago and even though it was something I wanted, it was very tough and I wouldn’t wish the experience on anybody. Sounds like you and your former wife acted like adults and were able to work through the process effectively. I am happily married again with a wonderful little girl so everything worked out in the end.

    The news of your divorce really surprised me. I have always enjoyed reading about your adventures in retirement and I looked forward to my own pending FIRE date. I envisioned that once I stopped working for money, life would be imminently less stressful and abundant happiness would be everywhere. Your post is a reminder that you need to constantly work on your relationships, and just having freedom from work won’t solve other issues in life.

    I’m in a position to FIRE soon, but my wife, though extremely frugal, isn’t ready to pull the plug on the firehose of cash yet, especially if it involves moving to a LCOL area (we live in Toronto). Rather than make this a big issue in our relationship, I’ll work with her on a compromise where we are both comfortable. Relationships are more valuable than money anyway :).

    Good luck on your new journey, I’m sure it will work out for the best.

  • sphinx January 16, 2019, 10:18 pm

    I literally moved out of our home of many years and a relationship of 15 years the same week as you posted this. We also have a 5 year old. While our separation is less amicable then yours seems to be I would love to keep reading of how you co-parent together. Because in spite of our differences, my ex and I do want the best for our child. Also thank you for sharing this. It helps a lot with the de-stigmatization and shame associated with divorce.

  • Crystalized1 January 17, 2019, 4:24 am

    If I can offer up a couple of very good reads, a friend of mine suggested them to me after my divorce and they were life changing! The Mastery of Love and also, The Four Agreements both by Don Miguel Ruiz. I cant recommend them enough!

    After my divorce, dating took me thru some awful lessons. But realizing that they were exactly that, lessons, was the best part. It’s TRUE what they say about “when you least expect it”. I had learned so much about myself and was content and HAPPY with me, and then in walked this man that had gone thru a similar story and was happy with who he was! We dont MAKE each other happy, we are already happy and that spreads to everything we do!

    We have 6 kids together and MMM that’s where I’m excited to follow your blog. We want to retire early as well and are working to do this beautifully but everyone gives advice on having no kids or just 1 or 2 but 6? Any advice or articles anyone can give about this would be much appreciated! It’s hard to house hack with 6 kids 😂

  • Married to a Swabian January 17, 2019, 4:30 am

    So sorry to hear of your divorce. My parents divorced when I was a teenager, so just know from that perspective that’s it’s not easy. My parents being friendly and civil with one another at that time and the years that followed, did make things a little easier for my sisters and I. It sounds like you’re on fairly good terms with your ex.

    Pete, you’ve been a tremendous inspiration to us improving our path to FI as well as many other areas in life.

    Based on the outpouring of support here, the same holds true for many, many others!

    Wish you the best during this transition.

  • JamsODonnell January 18, 2019, 7:10 am

    Listen MMM, just in the very unlikely case that you’re starting to get overwhelmed with all the sorryness and feel like escaping to, say, Europe, please know that mi casa es tu casa aaand I could do with some help laying my tile floor this year. :)



  • Duncan January 20, 2019, 11:26 pm

    I read the Love Languages book back in the day. it made sense, but felt superficial. maybe that’s a harsh word… let’s paraphrase and instead say, it only scraped the surface. same meaning but nicer connotation. :)

    anyway, not sure why you’re recommending a book that clearly didn’t have a beneficial result. I recommend anything by Harville Hendrix — it cuts to the bone.

    as for the situation… well, you chose it. i hope it works out for the three of you.

  • Kevin Coleman January 21, 2019, 7:57 am


    In addition to the links you gave regarding how to stay married, this is a good read as well.

  • Troy January 21, 2019, 6:26 pm


    I was a young child when my parents went through divorce. It was a very difficult time, due to all the arguments and the fact that my parents lived 1,000 miles apart from each other by the time all was said and done. I often hear of people who stay together “for the kids”, and let me tell you, they are 100% WRONG to do so.

    I commend you on your handling of the divorce. I wish the end of my parents’ marriage was as amicable. I am sure that everyone involved, including your kid, will be better off because of this change.

  • Kat January 22, 2019, 5:43 pm

    Big hugs, Mr MM. I’m sorry to hear of it, but confident you will come out of it happier and perhaps even more whole than you were before.

  • Sandy January 22, 2019, 9:25 pm

    No one gets married hoping to divorce. Sorry this has happened. There are some great blogs that can help with relationships. My favorite: GaryThomas.com. I highly recommend it!

  • F.G January 23, 2019, 4:53 am

    Hello, MMM.
    I hope you are feeling better and I want tô show my support to you and her.
    Keep going day after day and the hard times will be in the past.
    A long time reader

  • Ann January 23, 2019, 6:37 am

    Yes, thank you for sharing. I’ve been divorced and raised two kids (now adults) for many years now. Actually I’m surprised how popular the whole marriage thing is given the high divorce rate and all the unhappy marriages out there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trend towards civil partnerships that makes it easier to split up. I mean we don’t live with our parents, siblings, or people we’re naturally connected to forever, why does it make sense to meet and live with basically a complete stranger you don’t get along with over time for life? People and situations are constantly changing…change is the only thing we can count on in life.

    Anyway, best wishes to you and your family, everything will be fine. Thank you also for a great blog. I retired early several years ago before I became aware of the whole FIRE thing, it’s very doable and of course highly recommended.

  • Kim-Pacific Northwest January 23, 2019, 4:06 pm

    Glad to hear both of you were able to work things out in a rational matter-best for all concerned.
    30 years ago when I got divorced, things did not go well. He took great joy in keeping me miserable. I ended up spending a good $100,000 over several years in attorney fees. It was worth it to keep some stability for my child’s life but oh how that put me behind financially for life.
    I could be retired right now doing what I enjoy but no need to dwell on the negative. I was able to recover and do my best financially and I truly enjoy the work I do so no regrets on my part.

  • Paul January 24, 2019, 12:24 pm

    I respect your transparency. Thank you and Blessing over all of you!!

  • Anonymous January 24, 2019, 12:30 pm

    Well divorce is never a lot of fun. My ex left me with a two year old and a nine year old to raise. Thirty one years later my life has been incredibly joyous so I feel lucky.

  • Boricua_in_WA January 24, 2019, 4:34 pm

    Sending you, your ex-wife and family internet hugs and hoping the best for all of you. It’s not easy being in the public eye and I am sorry for any negativity directed towards you.

  • Bastian January 25, 2019, 12:43 am

    Sorry to hear about your divorce. Been there myself almost a decade ago – and I admire you taking the high road. I had been a lot less layed back about everything back then, though yes, you are right, after some time things get easier. And by now I am no longer holding a grudge about my exwife.

    One world ends and another one can begin.

    I wish all of you all the best.

  • Jeff January 25, 2019, 10:48 am

    First, I know it doesn’t help too much but, sorry to hear about the divorce. It’s always tough to hear of things like this from people we look up to. I’m glad to hear by the lack of financial details and subtle jokes that it sounds like it was a semi-peaceful process.

    Your post is very helpful though. My wife and I have been sort of in limbo land lately, or at least it feels that way sometimes. Probably one of the warning signs of drifting through are marriage like you talk about. We have a young son that may have autism so that makes things kind of hard right now.

    I think after typing this ill go try to get some good family time in. Maybe its time to put the calculators and blogs down for a bit and re-align some good old fashioned family values. I write about them quite a bit but sometimes I do more thinking about them than actually practicing them. Good luck to you!

  • Mary January 27, 2019, 12:53 pm

    I know it’s not the same, but I made this choice when I was 23 with no children. Even with the world at my fingertips, and being the one to initiate the divorce, it was devastating. I punished myself for years, though I didn’t realize it at the time! It was a clean, amicable divorce but still excruciating for the shame on so many levels in my mind. We were just too young and had made a mistake in my opinion and I could feel it in my bones that I had to let him go. He remarried fairly quickly and had children. I would have robbed him of all of that joy and myself of the life that was ahead of me! I am now going to be 37 and engaged to someone I am so excited to see everyday. It has been my choice to wait this long to remarry, it is quicker for others. I just happened to really, really need the space to heal from deep rooted scars that I allowed to come to the surface and I needed to live completely on my own terms despite people’s nagging of when I should get married (“don’t waste the pretty”… yeah fuck off!). Even in the darkest times these last 13 years, I never regretted that decision. I have traveled the world (and will continue), made loving and healthy friends, learned to set boundaries with dysfunctional family, given back to my community and have begun to march to the beat of my own drum. That is truly liberating 😁 And it was worth the wait to meet someone I’m excited to marry and who is excited to marry me. To embark on this intentionally, knowing nothing is guaranteed, but taking the risk from a place of giving and playfulness and passion rather than just “the next step”. Okay, I think I’ve babbled enough… your work is part of what has shaped my ability to see that I can do things outside of the norm. I wish you and your family the brightest of days ahead as they will certainly be near. ❤

  • Robert Howard January 27, 2019, 9:21 pm

    Sorry, brother. I pray you, former Misses Mustache and your little one find healing and work through this the best as possible. Much luck to you, sir.

  • Jeff Friedman January 28, 2019, 2:58 pm

    Sorry to hear about the divorce. Thank you for sharing this with your audience. 2019 will be a good year for you and your ex-wife I predict.

  • Joe January 29, 2019, 9:47 am

    Seems like this would kill any other FI couple that doesn’t have a large income to replenish funds. Splitting investments in two and doubling up on expenditures… Seems like she could push to force you to get a job to pay alimony for the rest of your life. This is something I actually worry about sometimes. I would like to see more data on how FI can be maintained even after a divorce.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 29, 2019, 10:42 am

      Hi Joe,

      I agree that there are BIG legal pitfalls – the system allows either partner to screw the other over in so many ways. But remember that this is true DURING a marriage as well. The only solution is to not marry someone who is irresponsible with money, and of course also to set up a prenuptual agreement if you are coming into a marriage with existing, separate money.

      After having gone through the paperwork of divorce and seeing how surprisingly complex and fussy it is (because the state has found they have to babysit a lot of people in order to deal with things like deadbeat dads and such), I now feel it might not be all that useful of an institution for modern people who are comfortable thinking for themselves. Especially if two people are not planning to raise children together. Just declare yourselves “In Love” and leave the government out of it!

  • Deborah January 30, 2019, 8:19 am

    Wishing all of you the best for the future. xxx

  • Kelly January 31, 2019, 12:11 pm

    Thank you for being open and sharing with us! I am happily married but ever since my husband and I had our daughter 18 months ago, it’s definitely been harder to “keep the fire alive”. I really enjoyed your advice on how to stay married – thank you and best wishes in 2019!

  • Jess Connor February 1, 2019, 7:19 am

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I haven’t had a chance to keep up with your blog, and just read about you divorcing. I too have gone through a divorce, and it feels like the end of the world in the beginning. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and you will feel like yourself again eventually. Wishing you the best and thank you for all the advice you have given.



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