The Great Divorce: The bank, the bedroom, and raising children

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

My wife and I have befriended multiple people with struggling marriages.  Maybe this shouldn’t be a big surprise given the majority of marriages end in divorce.  That said, every time we end up with friends struggling in marriage, it never gets any less challenging.  Every single time we run into this challenge, I am reminded of some sage advice I received before I got married:

The three most common causes for failing marriages and divorce are: The Bank and raising children.

A strange post topic, no?  Well, just let this sink in… there is probably nothing that will sink your financial goals faster than a divorce (or buying everything high and selling low).  So, one of the best things you can do for both your wealth and your wellness is to invest in your marriage.

(Caveat:  I recognize that divorce isn’t preventable in every case.  But I also don’t know anyone that gets married with plans to get divorced.)

Where did it all go wrong?

All of my friends who have gone through divorce often look back and say, “Where did it all go wrong?  We were so in love at one point.” A lot of the time there is not a single event or item at which to point a finger.

Truth be told, most relationships that struggle start out as a slow and inconspicuous fade.  There may be a defining point of no return, but it is often the case of things left unsaid or difficulties that weren’t dealt with until it was too late.

Really, marriage is one of the most important areas in life where expectations need to be close to reality.  When we don’t have intentional conversations about what each person expects, that is a recipe for disaster.  In very few areas in life is that more clear than marriage.

The Bank

I hope to explore this concept in more depth on this website, but the fact is that you have to be on the same page financially in your marriage.  Otherwise, you simply won’t achieve your goals.

If one of you expects to work til the day you die and spend every dime along the way, and the other expects to retire at age 50 and travel the world…that is not going to work.

Likewise, if one of you is a prolific spender and the other likes to pinch pennies, then you may spend an inordinate amount of time at odds with each other.  It is better to lay out some clear goals.

So, if you haven’t had a real conversation about finances, then sit down and write them out.  Where do you want to be in 5, 10, or 20 years?  How do you plan to get there?  What “number” will you need to be at to reach those goals?  How will you obtain that number?  When do you want to buy the big house?  How soon do you want to pay off all of your debt?  Is that important to both of you?

Get on the same page and accomplish your goals together.  Be willing to compromise.  Don’t fall on any unnecessary swords.

Raising your children

More of the same here, but a different topic.  Public school or private school?  (This may relate to the point above about your bank account).  How many kids? No kids? Which religion?  No religion?

Another important question that people don’t think about until its too late…

When your kids leave your house, will you and your spouse have something in common?  Will it be easy to live a life with an empty nest as you explore the common things you have found you enjoy through marriage?  Or will you find that you don’t have anything in common at all; maybe you don’t even recognize the person anymore.  This can happen when your kids become your only thing in common.

In today’s culture it’s extremely challenging to not let our kids become our idols.

Be intentional in raising your kids.

Know that one of the best thing for your kids is probably a healthy marriage with loving parents.  If you don’t invest time in your marriage, and make sure that your kids realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them… then it shouldn’t be surprising to you when there is nothing to say when the kids move out.

Take Home on divorce

For those that are in medical school or residency considering getting married, I encourage you to have these tough conversations.  If you are already married, then there is an even bigger reason to have these talks.

This might seem like a strange post topic, but I want to explore money and marriage more on this blog as both of those concepts are closely linked to both your wealth and your wellness.  We won’t leave you single friends out as we discuss other important topics!

For now, make sure you have clear expectations about the bank and raising your kids (if you want any).  Work to make reality close to your expectations.  It may just save your marriage.

What’s some of the best marriage advice you received?  Any tricks of the trade you’d like to leave the young and in love?  Leave a comment.



  1. Millionaire Doc

    Marriage and divorce are not written about enough in the PF blogosphere so thanks for bringing it up. The fact is divorce is very common. Even if two people are on the same page before marriage or in the early honeymoon years, life changes and people change too. If they don’t grow and change together, then they grow apart. Throw some kids into the mix and most people wouldn’t recognize themselves pre-kids. Communication and acceptance is important. I’d say get periodic counseling (even if there is nothing wrong), just to stay on track. Kind of like a health physical every year. Things can always be improved. If nothing else, a good counselor will teach a couple how to communicate effectively.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Yeah, I think this is something I’ll explore more. Not a lot on marriage and PF.

      I am all for counseling. It’s extremely important to stay on track and to make sure that your marriage is first. Otherwise, it’ll end up being last and long forgotten by the time its just the two of you again. Thanks for stopping by, MD!

  2. Dr. McFrugal

    A very important topic. Divorce is sadly so common these days. And it’s also the factor in our wealth and wellness that we have the least control over. It takes two to marry, and only one to divorce. Unfortunately, it’s possible to seemingly do everything right, but still end up divorced if a spouse makes the choice of divorce. All we can do is try our best. And I think you outlined what that looks like: clear and realistic expectations as well as constant and effective communication.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      I agree Dr. McFrugal. It’s a sad but true reality. It’s not always preventable, but when it is we have to do our best to prevent it. I am all about the intentional life whether it’s being intentional about your job, finances, raising your kids, or your marriage.

  3. Gasem

    We think it’s all about cortical notions, communications, common interests, cash, but a lot of it is sub-cortical. There is a whole cyclical and longitudinal biochemistry that goes along with living with someone. Infidelity for example is tied up with a compound called PEA phenylethyl amine which is an amphetamine analogue, along with dopamine and oxytocin. It’s the mixture that got you married in the first place. Just knowing there is a large measure of biochemistry involved can help with understanding what’s going on. PEA is cyclical and lasts about 6 months in the squash. I’m all for counseling etc and I’m definitely pro marriage, I celebrated my 29th 2 days ago. After a while marriages undergo maturing. Interests do change and separate but that doesn’t mean the marriage needs to separate. The marriage can grow to accommodate a new direction instead. Recreate the rules. The trick to that one is to let it mature organically and maybe not have a 30 year plan but have a commitment to nurture and feed what is there daily. Marriage is not so much either/or as it is both/and. If “you” can come around to accommodate both/and understand sometimes your not fighting a person but a person’s biochemistry you’ll last.

    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      I am certainly not going to disagree with science. And you may call me simple, but my philosophical way of thinking about this is the concept of choosing to love someone once the infatuation is gone. Studies show that the cyclical infatuation usually lasts about two years. After that point, it becomes less of an emotional response to the person you are married to, and more of an intentional decision to love them despite their failings. This is similar to others thing we “fall in love with” that can lose their appeal.

      I agree completely with your premise that it is our job to nurture our marriages naturally and feed off of that daily. That still involves being intentional, which is the key part here. If we ignore a garden that we planted thirty years ago, we shouldn’t be surprised when we walk by thirty years later and find it over run with weeds and producing nothing of beautiful worth. We have to both tend to it daily and allow it to grow in the direction that it wants to.


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