Does FIRE Prevent Divorces?

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In my last post about not losing yourself in retirement, reader Steve posted an interesting question in the comments:

“Any thoughts on the FIRE couples that get divorced? One would think that not having money issues (the #1 stressor for married people) and achieving a monumental goal together would strengthen that bond, but apparently there is more to it.”

–Steve

This got me thinking. If money, which is the #1 reason why couples break up, is no longer an issue, why are FIRE couples still getting divorced?

Now, I’m no relationship expert and this is me taking a wild stab at it, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt. Having seen some friends and family get divorced for reasons other than money, I’ve noticed that marital problems don’t just drop on a couple by surprise and then explode their marriage like a grenade. Instead, they pile on gradually like a gentle snowfall. And because it sneaks up on you, you don’t realize until it’s too late that you’re trapped in a blizzard, praying you won’t die a horrible frostbitten death.

I’m not sure how I stumbled on this, but marriage counsellors recognize something called the “Four horsemen of the marriage apocalypse.” These are patterns they see over and over again in seemingly predict marriages that are destined to fail. Intrigued, I started reading up on them and realized, yup, in pretty much every divorce I’ve witnessed, the patterns they describe are eerily familiar.

Curious? Well, here they are…

Horseman #1: Criticism

No relationship is perfect, and we’ve all playfully criticized our spouses from time to time. In fact, “taking the piss” and mocking your spouse just shows how much you love them. For example, Wanderer loves it when I make fun of his weak, little girl arms (Wanderer is glaring at me for some reason as I write this). And I love it when he laughs at me for not being able to figure out how to unlock a door.

But when that criticism happens on a daily basis with the intention to hurt the other person, it’s a sign that a relationship could bite it. And when I say criticism, I don’t mean complaints, which are related to actions, like “you didn’t do the dishes!” or “you forgot to take out the trash again!” I mean, nasty, soul-destroying insults that stab you like a steak knife straight through the heart.

Eg. “You’re so lazy! All your friends are more successful than you and all you do is bum around the house.”

Eg. “You’re so selfish! You never think about anyone else but you!”

If your spouse is bombarding you with more criticism than an overbearing tiger mother, this is one of the first signs that your marriage is in trouble.

 

Horseman #2: Contempt

One of the biggest aspects of marriage is forgiving your spouse for their flaws. For example, Wanderer’s self-proclaimed biggest flaw is “being too humble” (“I’m the emperor of humbleness”, he says), and he’s happy that I forgive him for that, and I appreciate his strengths (like sarcasm).

But when you have contempt for your spouse, you no longer respect them and think everything they do is wrong.

Eg. Your spouse buys new lingerie and wears it to impress you. You roll your eyes and think, “ew, you’re trying way too hard. Gross.”

Eg. Your spouse tells you they got a promotion. You think “that’s only because your co-workers are dumb, and your company has low standards.”

Eg. Any sentence that includes the phrase “You’re holding me back.” Is a HUGE red flag.

If you find yourself thinking your spouse can’t do anything right no matter how hard they try, this is another sign your marriage is toast.

 

Horseman #3: Defensiveness

It’s normal to be defensive sometimes but if your spouse completely stops taking responsibility and blames you for everything, or keeps making excuses for their behaviour, this is a third nail in the marriage coffin.

Eg. “Ok fine. I forgot to take out the trash yesterday, but last week you forgot to empty the dishwasher!”

Eg. “It’s not my fault I’m not happy. You’re the one who decided we should retire.”

Defensiveness is a natural human reaction but when the # of times your spouse takes responsibility is a big fat zero, your marriage could be headed for a big fat divorce.

 

Horseman #4: Stonewalling

This one is the most surprising one of all, because it always seems to come out of nowhere.

Stonewalling could look like your spouse ignoring you and pretending you no longer exist, or it could look like the exact opposite. The latter method of stonewalling is much more sinister. On the surface, your spouse might appear perfectly agreeable and be ok with everything you say or do. In fact, they’ve suddenly stopped arguing with you for no reason at all. This causes you to drop your guard, thinking everything’s fine. You might even feel grateful that you have the world’s best spouse and “wow, they’re so accepting of everything I do, and we don’t ever fight anymore! This is great!” For the record, every couple fights. It’s normal and healthy. If you stop fighting completely, that’s a red flag.

It could mean that they’ve given up.

They don’t see the point of arguing, because there’s nothing left to fix. They just want out as soon as possible and they’re hatching an escape plan. Maybe there’s another person involved, maybe not. But whatever that plan is, they’ve excluded you completely.

This is the last nail in the relationship coffin.

By the time the 4 horsemen of the marriage apocalypse have arrived, it’s probably already too late to save it.

That’s why Wanderer and I have to be super vigilant to make sure to solve any issues as soon as they crop up. We never want to let it fester.

Again, I don’t have all the answers, but I want to share some insights from being in the same relationship for 17 years and working out our relationship kinks:

1. Communication is key

By far the most common issue is communication. Sometimes it’s not even obvious why you’re not communicating because you’re clearly trying hard to get the message across, but the other person just isn’t receiving it.

Even though we’ve been together for nearly 2 decades, Wanderer and I are still not immune to communication breakdowns. In fact, our biggest fight happened last year at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown.

Our big fight

For the past 6 years, we generally take public transit when we travel. This is pretty easy since Europe and Asia have cheap and efficient subways. At the start of the pandemic last year, though, we had to rent a car. This is so that we could safely get a COVID test at a drive-through test center and go see Wanderer’s Dad, who’s immunocompromised.

Not having driven much for the past 6 years was bad enough but combine that with having to do the mental gymnastics of trying to navigate the downtown streets of Toronto, which is a series of complex puzzles that you have to solve on the fly, while dodging cyclists, parked cars, dangerous impatient drivers, and streets that go in opposite directions depending on the day of week.

Wanderer drove while I navigated, and we quickly learned that driving downtown in Toronto is NOT conducive to a good marriage.

“Left! I said, left!” I screamed while Wanderer made a turn to the right.

“STOP! STOP! STOP!” I yelled as we zoomed through an amber light.

After several panic attacks from me, Wanderer pulled to the side of the road, threw up his hands, and said “That’s it! You need to shut the hell up! We’re going to get in an accident if you keep this up!”

To which I immediately yelled back, “then don’t drive like a maniac!”

After taking a breather to both calm down, we realized that the real issue is that my risk tolerance is lower and reaction time slower than his. So, in order for us to be aligned and communicate properly, he would need to let me know what he plans on doing, so I don’t freak out from not having control over what was happening.

He started narrating what he was going to do, similar to how soldiers acknowledge (or copy) instructions over the radio on the battlefield. I’d say “turn left,” and he’d copy it back by saying “turning left.” I’d say “stop” and he’d say “stopping.”

That did wonders for my nerves, because I no longer needed to panic and get louder when I didn’t think he heard my directions the first time.

Now we can drive in downtown Toronto without breaking a sweat. Well, okay, maybe a light sweat. But now I’m cursing at the roads rather than at him.

Did I mention we hate driving in Toronto?

 

2. Aligning Values

One of the things we’ve continuously been doing throughout our marriage (and especially since quitting our jobs) is checking in on each other to make sure our values are aligned.

We both still don’t care about having a house, a job, and living the traditional life. So, whenever anyone throws shade at us for our unconventional lifestyle, we both just laugh. Not caring what other people think is a value that we continue to share, and it’s been the main reason why FIRE has worked out so well for us.

 

3. Don’t let One Person be in Another’s Shadow

It’s never fun to be in someone else’s shadow. This can happen to anyone, regardless of whether they are FI. When one person is successful and the other is struggling, there’s always resentment and jealousy. This happened to us when we were trying to publish our children’s book, Little Miss Evil, and watched other writers leapfrog us and sign with our dream literary agents. Not fun.

We try to mitigate this by working on projects together.

The blog, the book, speaking engagements—everything’s more fun when our success is shared. Sometimes we branch off and do our own thing, but for the main passion projects, we tend to stick together.

 

So, to answer my own question, which is the title of this post, does FIRE prevent divorces? The answer is no. Because even though money is one of the top reasons for divorce, it’s not the only reason. 

Marriages shouldn’t be hard work. But you do have to be careful to avoid creating situations where one or more of the Four Horseman are likely to rear their ugly heads.

What do you think? For those who are married, do you have any advice to share? And for those who are single, if you’re perfectly happy being single and don’t feel the need to get married, how do you push back against societal norms?


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60 thoughts on “Does FIRE Prevent Divorces?”

  1. This is timely! It was gorgeous yesterday so my wife and I took the dog on an extended walk. For the first time we talked deeply about what “FIRE” might mean for us. She thinks she’s lucky that I enjoy errands, yardwork, minor home repair, and cooking; I feel super fortunate that she offered to keep working twenty hours a week at a job she enjoys to maintain health coverage (dammit USA, get with it) and pull in 75%+ of our living expenses. This rejiggers the math — maybe five more years and then I can tell my employer to EABOD. I could handle the nomadic thing but she wouldn’t like it, and we love our little old house and neighborhood, so we’ve settled on Januarys in Mexico and Julys in Europe.

    When imposter syndrome acts up I try to help her see in herself what everyone else does. We mostly avoid frustrating situations because we know ourselves and each other well enough to subconsciously preempt that crap. Twenty years in, we keep getting better at always having each other’s back… and that makes all the difference.

    1. LOL. I was going to look up the acronym in “I can tell my employer to EABOD”, then I realized I know exactly what that is from a Louis C.K set.

      Congrats on your twenty years of marriage! So great that you know each other so well.

  2. Your recount of the driving adventure, that made me laugh pretty hard. We’ve all been there! I think there might be a fifth horseman, boredom. While working, people are short on time and so while you might get bored at work you don’t have time to be bored at home. But when official J.O.B. work stops, you have a lot of time on your hands. And people, particularly us guys, often respond to boredom with stupid risk taking. I’m retired and have been married to my awesome wife for 42 years, so I’ve avoided stupid pretty well. But not everyone does and it sometimes destroys marriages.

    1. “And people, particularly us guys, often respond to boredom with stupid risk taking. ”

      Bwhahahaha. I never even thought of this. But now that you’ve mention it, I have seen it in a lot of my friends’ marriages. A lot them want to fly a tiny plane for some reason. Maybe they should’ve just started smoking weed instead. Less risk, more fun.

  3. I have a theory too. When couples retire, they spend a lot more time together. This can be difficult. We all need some space. If you can’t find that space, the marriage could unravel.
    Also, this is where early retirement is better than regular retirement. The earlier you find out that a marriage doesn’t work, the better. Then you can move on with the rest of your life.

    1. “The earlier you find out that a marriage doesn’t work, the better. Then you can move on with the rest of your life.”

      This is so true. It’s tough but sometimes it’s the right thing.

  4. On my little blog, I’ve written a few times about how FIRE can impact the relationship of a couple. To me, it seems a topic that is rarely discussed.

    My experience is that when we worked, and were raising our kids at the same time, we rushed about and apart from the stresses from work, all seemed to be OK for us as a couple. But since retiring early, it seems we don’t have much in common. I don’t want to waste this opportunity and deliberately search for new things to do, my wife would rather stick with things closer to how they were. I guess, in summary, the opportunities in early retirement have caused me to change, but not my wife. This makes things difficult, for example, I’m frustrated that she doesn’t want to do new things, while she says I can do them on my own, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of the relationship. Don’t worry, we’re not about to get divorced, but this is a real challenge that I hadn’t anticipated in the slightest.

    Sorry, that was a long comment!

    1. That sounds…challenging. I wonder if it’s similar to when kids leave the nest and couples have to learn how to spend time together again.

      Would your wife be happier if she worked part time?

      A similar thing happened to friends of mine who have 2 kids. The wife went back to work and she’s happier.

      1. My wife actually has started working part time and that is something that I believe she finds beneficial. By the way, I wouldn’t say we’re unhappy, I think a better word is frustrated – I see an opportunity to do new and different things whereas my wife is more in the if it wasn’t broken, why fix it state of mind, so we have two thought processes that are at odds with each other.
        I don’t think it’s the kids moving out. I more think that FI has let us have choices, and we’re finding that we’re choosing different things from each other. It’s something that I hadn’t expected at all. We didn’t have this problem when we had to work and needed to bring up our kids, because we didn’t have these choices.
        Someone in another comment said communication is the key, and I agree with that. I didn’t do well on that score ahead of retiring early. However, it’s also difficult to know what retirement might feel or look like, so not necessarily easy to figure everything out ahead of time.
        By the way, I wouldn’t change my FIRE decision, we just need to figure out some of the wrinkles. Overall, I still love my love, and although it seems like I’m complaining, I should also remember the wonderful adventures that we’ve had in the 4-5 years so far.

  5. All those plus in my case my (ex)wife didn’t want to live a “miserable” life with only 40k a year to splurge. She wanted the newest fast car, new house, Paris twice a year and ended up with another $man while I ended up with half of my FIRE savings !

  6. Perhaps relatedly, I’ve seen a lot of couples have issues when one of the two spouses finally retires, joins the already retired spouse at home, and they are around each other AT LOT MORE. After years of living a different routine, this can be quite a challenge….

    1. I can see it being a difficult adjustment for some. Maybe in some households, it’s better if one of the spouse goes back to work or does volunteering. They might just enjoy that more than spending time with their spouse. Depends on the couple’s dynamic.

  7. My husband and I are semi-retired and will be fully retired in 2 years. We plan to move to Portugal and buy a house in the countryside. I want to move to Europe so we can do a lot more travel from there and he wants to enjoy growing veggies (and some travel) in our new home. Our goals are slightly different but when we talked about it, he made it clear that he is ok with me travelling with friends and family when he doesn’t want to.
    I am glad we identified our goals in advance so we are not disappointed when we move.

    1. I love Portugal. So many different places to visit, easy to get around by subway, and great value and weather. If we have to stay close to Canada for family going forward, we would split our time between Portugal and Canada. Have you been to Azores? It’s supposed to the Hawaii of Europe.

      Smart of you to identify your goals in advance and work it out ahead of time!

  8. I think for awhile, my job was creating a wedge in my marriage. Last minute business trips, early morning calls, the lack of flexibility compared to early in our marriage. We were at a tipping point.

    So when I left my job last summer, the wedge really started to dissipate and now I think our marriage is starting to become stronger than it ever was. We are communicating better, have more time for each other, and can give each other the breaks we both need from parenting and daily life.

    So far so good. But it has taken quite a bit of work on both of our parts.

    1. That’s great to hear! Glad it all worked out for you. I agree that it takes a bit of work (since quitting a job is a big transition), but it could be worth it in the end.

  9. I think one of the big issues with the FIRE movement is that mankind was meant to work. Work doesn’t have to be grueling or even profitable to be meaningful, but working is embedded into our nature. When God created Adam, He gave him the job of tending the Garden of Eden. It wouldn’t have been a hard job as the world was perfect, but it was still a job, and it was still meaningful.

    I recently read a blog post detailing life after FIREing. He mentioned his wife left him. I imagine that ignoring a fundamental part of what makes us human (working) took a tole on his wife. More-so than not having fancy new things. The FIRE community is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the US in realizing that consumerism doesn’t make us happy, but we often forget that having meaningful work does make people happy.

    The writer mentioned that his new fiance is fine with never retiring makes perfect sense. And it emphasizes something that we who are still working towards financial independence don’t often think about. You need to find something to work at and work at hard after you retire. You may volunteer for a charity or learn an instrument or start a business. MMM started a construction business. I’m sure he works harder now than he did when he was a software engineer. There’s a reason depression is more of a problem in developed countries. Retire early if you want to, but never stop working.

      1. Everyone agrees meaningful work leads to happiness. Sitting on your couch watching TV is what drives retires to the grave.

            1. Hi David. I think people need to be productive to be happy. This is very well documented. However human beings can be productive in hobbies, passions, learning, volunteering, etc. Productivity doesn’t necessarily mean a job. Giving back is a cornerstone of almost all the FIRE literature I’ve read, including Kristy’s book.

            2. I do disagree !!!! It only makes the company owner’s happy !
              But I do think the American propaganda has engraved the “live to work” stupid mentality in everyone instead of work to live !
              Uncle San doesn’t make his cut otherwise, right !?

              1. Oh I agree, the live to work mentality is stupid. What I said in my original comment was find something meaningful to do after you retire from a job. for example I said, “You may volunteer for a charity or learn an instrument or start a business.” Like Bryce and Kristy write. They may enjoy it, but writing is hard work.

          1. I don’t agree.

            I enjoy reading, walking, spending time with my wife and kids, and grandchildren, traveling, photography, keeping our home in a good state of repair, watching documentaries on science and history, watching movies, managing our money, even paying bills, and much much more.

            I don’t need work!

  10. I read the commentary above and it seems the biggest problem seems to be communication in general as well as communicating about each partner’s expectations. Looks like most everyone is living in a fantasy la la land. And denial.

    Also, I think a lot of people are using the excuse of work to explain the dysfunction in their relationship. It seems more that they don’t actually know the stranger they share the bed and children with and when the distraction of working is no longer in the picture, they have to face and deal with what they pushed off until it can’t be pushed off anymore.

    Yeah…FIRE can’t fix that issue.

    1. Yup. It’s easy to hide from not just your relationship problems but also from thinking about your life’s purpose when you’re too busy working. I definitely had that problem. That’s why it was very scary to let go at first, but I’m so happy I took the leap and don’t have to die on my deathbed wondering “what if?” and “what was the point of my life?”

      And sometimes people just grow apart. Whether they quit their jobs or not, they may have grown apart anyway, just because of priorities/values not being aligned. Such is life.

  11. I love the solution you came to with your big fight. Great idea!

    I’m one of the statistics, divorced a few years after retirement. Poor marriages struggle to survive, and the four horsemen certainly applied to my marriage. And my guess is that fewer divorces happen among FIRE than the general population.

    1. Aw, sorry to hear that, Laura 🙁

      I think you’re probably right that general population has even higher divorce rates since money issues would add higher levels of stress. But then again, no one has done a study yet so who knows? *shrugs*

  12. Another amazing article! Firecracker and Wanderer are definitely #couplegoals.

    I am divorced myself from a few years back, and I definitely resonate with the stonewalling (the sinister kind) and living in my ex’s shadows as causes of my marriage breakdown.

    After so many years of doing inner work and self-discovery, everything you suggested as solutions is what I found to be true as well.

    I think FI exposes a person to have time to truly reflect on their values, what works or no longer works for them. There’s no more work to distract them, to numb or deny. Although there are always strategies to do that post FI too.

    However, for those who take an honest look at themselves, might realize that sometimes, people grow apart or maybe the relationship was not working to begin with.

    I wonder if marriage is just another way society conditioned us to follow the crowd. Just like staying in the rat race, if we fall outside of that norm, we’ll be alienated and alone. Hence, there’s such a need to conform and settle.

    Marriage takes effort, but it seems like the ride will be a lot smoother if the couple is compatible, have chemistry, willing to put in the work, and have a deep sense of connection.

    I am still on the journey of finding my partner, but divorce was the best thing that happened to me. I wrote an article about it linked below if anyone cares to read about it.

    https://simplycloverliving.com/divorce/

    If we can come from a whole and complete place where instead of NEEDING a partner, we simply WANT a partner. That to me, it’s a lot more empowering place to be. Just my two cents!

  13. Contempt is so overlooked. Malcolm Gladwell’s book outlined just how much contempt matters in a marriage. It’s stressful when the person you love has contempt for you. Just downright stressful.

    Some couples actually divorced because they achieved FIRE, interesting enough. One person’s Reddit post said her husband divorced her because they were going too fast for FIRE. That was an interesting reader case.

    1. Hm, interesting. I love MG’s books. Don’t remember which one he mentions contempt in a marriage though.

      As for the reddit post, if your husband divorces you for being too financially savvy, then I’m not sure he’s worth being with in the first place. That seems more like a value misalignment disguised as FIRE issue.

  14. Interesting question to ask about FIRE and divorce rates. I used to think if someone said “marriage is hard work” they didn’t marry very well and maybe some of that is true but I do see it a little differently now with more life experience.

    John Gottman, is the one who put forth the Four Horsemen concept in his book “The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work.” I found it to be one of the more helpful marriage books so far. He talks about successful relationships that still have areas where they have unresolved conflict and there’s comes a point where accepting those tough spots as is makes the difference. He has another section that talks about figuring out your individual core values because a sizable part of conflict revolves around differences in values and the strategy is to understand that exists, is normal and to find ways to help each other meet those perspective values. It seems kind of obvious but having it said once again in this way helped me lower my frustrations.

    I’m inspired by couples who make a habit to go out together regularly for date night. I think it’s nice to look forward to something during the week that gives you a break from the day to say challenges. Ellen Kriedman, “Light His/Her Fire” told couples to have an overnight getaway where you will be alone, just the two of you and to do this quarterly at minimum. While I’m not a proponent of living outside your means, she said “put it on a credit card if you have to, but just do it! Getting divorced is a lot more expensive!” She’s very animated and energetic, so I crack a smile when I hear her voice in my head all these years later. “Just do it! I invite anyone who feels inspired to adopt this tradition. Getaway together and often even if it’s for one night and not all that terribly fancy.

    1. “put it on a credit card if you have to, but just do it! Getting divorced is a lot more expensive!”

      LOL. This is true. I agree, date nights are definitely important. Especially after kids come along.

      Thanks for finding the original source of the 4 Horseman concept.

  15. I think we all just need to commend you on your marriage surviving Toronto driving. If there’s anything that could tear a couple apart it’s that. Someone call up the professionals and add that to the four horseman list. Idc if five horseman isn’t catchy.

    1. “your marriage surviving Toronto driving. If there’s anything that could tear a couple apart it’s that.”

      Preach it, sister! Stupid Toronto streets. It’s like it was designed by a blind parakeet!

      That should be the ultimate test before getting married.

  16. Great post!

    IMHO, communication is by far the most important foundation to keep any relationship strong and alive.

    In 2018, when we left our 9-5 to start the nomadic life that we still have today, we started including monthly “relationship check-ins” with Mrs. NN. The agenda is pretty simple and looks like this:
    1 – What is one thing I did last month you appreciated?
    2 – What is one thing I did last month you did not like?
    3 – What can I do for you this month?
    4 – Is there anything else you want to talk about?

    We take turns to answer each set of questions and alternate who go first each time. The key for these meetings to be efficient is to pick a quiet environment (park, beach, coffee shop) and be away from your usual distractions (laptop, cell phones…)

    This has been a great way to strengthen our relationship while keeping a pulse on it. I believe that if you don’t take the time to communicate and create an environment for effective communication you might end up with cracks in your relationship that would likely become ditch that would be impossible to fix by the time they become huge crevasse.

    Value is also something interesting. We did look at our values before we met and how they changed as we started our relationship + reached FI together. (for details: https://www.nomadnumbers.com/our-life-journey/). While our values were pretty similar it was interesting to see how they ranked differently. I do wonder however how couples manage their relationship if such value starts to diversege. Any insights?

    1. “relationship check-ins”

      LOVE this! Great questions. Will steal that going forward.

      In terms of the values changing over time, it depends on what the value is. If it’s something that can be compromised, then the couple can stay together. But if there’s no middle ground (like both people don’t want kids, then later one person wants to have kids and the other doesn’t) then sometimes divorce is inevitable.

  17. I think a good case can be made for fire resulting in divorce.

    A couple FIRE guys decided to get divorced once they felt financially secure they no longer needed their partners.

    And if you start getting famous as well, it might go to your head where you want to “upgrade” your partner.

    Hence, be careful becoming FI. It the quest for security is what may bind and keep couples together!

    Tell Wandered to work out!

    S

    1. I think that Kristy thinks Bryce’s weak, little girl arms are hot. Otherwise, she wouldn’t keep bringing it up. And maybe, just maybe, Bryce likes it that way.

      Don’t always assume the guy wants to be on top. Being under is way more relaxing. All the fun. None of the work. 🤣

    2. Heh heh can’t imagine who you’re referring to here

      I think FIRE either helps your marriage or kills it, since you are less distracted by work commitments, and you are under less financial pressure, there’s more time to confront your other issues and overcome them – or not

    3. Ha ha, nice try, Samurai (hey that rhymes!). If their values are misaligned, they will break up due to that. Don’t blame FIRE.

      Wanderer doesn’t need to work out. All this sharp angles can be weaponized–if you’ve ever been elbowed in the face by his little girl arms, you would know 🙂

  18. Marriage is a big part of your life, but it is not your whole life and it’s not your whole self. Sometimes one person loses sight of his or her individuality. It’s common for people to grow apart when someone it’s not committed with one’s own improvement and fulfillment. No one can give you that. You need to achieve it by yourself. After 20 years together, my husband and I learn how important it is to cultivate each one’s individual space and individual interests. I love literature and to have my time alone to read novels keeps me happy and energized. My husband has his own hobbies. With a toddler at home we committed to support each one to have some time alone. We retired early in order to have more time together and to be dedicated to raising our child. But we are aware that we also have our individual interests and we need some time for that.

    1. Good points, Angie! It’s definitely important to retain your individuality after marriage. Very easy to lose that if you’re not careful. Glad you guys are doing well!

  19. It goes back to that expression “money can’t buy happiness.” Of course money and financial stability is really important, but you can’t buy inner peace, compassion, patience, love for self or love for others. Hence why so many super wealthy people die of drug overdoses or go through a string of divorces. It’s important to have a foundation of inner peace and self love before entering a relationship or building up tremendous wealth IMO.

    1. Working on inner self is definitely important. If you’re suffering internally, no matter how much money or fame you have, nothing will fix it. Gotta fix yourself first. Well said.

  20. I actually saw that comment last week and wondered the same thing, and really appreciate the article and your thoughts. I think the 4 horsemen you discussed certainly are signs of impending doom, but i also think that there is something that happens in FIRE that, doesn’t necessarily require those to lead to divorce as well; namely, that FIRE puts the responsibility for your life, firmly back into you hands.

    Marriage and a job seem to me to be something akin to bumpers on the side of a bowling lane. They are social constructs that provide a relatively simple (although not always easy) path to follow. While we are in this lane, self growth and development is relatively slow, and most personal time (outside of work) is spent with your partner. (all obviously large sweeping generalities, and clearly do not apply to all or even most situations)

    When you FIRE though, your main job becomes self discovery. Understanding yourself better, what you like, what you want to do. Fundamentally you are asking questions that you haven’t asked since High school or College / Uni , and most people wouldn’t ask again until their mid-life crisis; these questions lead to growth and change. sometimes its in the direction of a partner, and sometimes it isn’t, which is ok. We are meant to change and grow and relationships don’t necessitate permanency, even if that is a baked in assumption to modern day marriage (although less and less every year).

    i personally like to think about my marriage as something which could and will end if either partner wants it to, and that this is a very very real possibility; we live long lives now, and people change. Whos to say what someone will want in 10 years, 20, 50… But this thought also make the time i have right now very precious, and reminds me that it is an active choice to participate in my marriage, not something i am doing because i set down a path. I think FIRE has the potential to open peoples eyes to this idea and re-assess if they are chugging along on a path because of ?reasons?, or if it is something they want to actively engage in. because that’s exactly what FIRE forces you to do with the rest of your life, makes sense it would apply to your marriage too.

    1. “FIRE puts the responsibility for your life, firmly back into you hands.”

      This is exactly it, RJ. It forces you to think about what you want in life instead of just living it on autopilot. It’s scary to take the wheel, but once get the hang of having control over your own life, it’s an amazing feeling.

    2. “…When you FIRE though, your main job becomes self discovery…”

      Wow! I FIRE’d 18 months ago and this exactly represents my experience. Read this comment yesterday, and have been mulling over it ever since. Thanks RJ!

  21. An intimate relationship is constructed with 4 main ingredients…

    Time – it will take years for relationship to fully blossom…

    Money – it will require financial stability to nurture the relationship…

    Health – it will require good health to build, maintain and experience the relationship…

    Humanity (Compassion) – it will require kindness and understanding of partners to weather tough times.

  22. Married 24 years. My wife always says I’ll die “by my hands or natural causes” 🙂

    I married my best friend. My mother in law has said “I don’t like the way you two talk to each other”. Why? Because we tease each other and joke a lot (and sarcastic) and it can come across as mean. When we are mad and emotional and argue about stupid stuff, we let it go. It was just in the moment, not personal. My mother in law on the other hand is divorced. She was the critical one. My father in law couldn’t anything right. That lead to the stonewalling then buh bye.

    1. I’m with you on the whole “marry your best friend” thing, Scott. Best decision I ever made.

      Glad it worked out for you too and congrats on being together for 24 years!

  23. At the end of 2020, I sat down and, with some projections on finances, came to a projected FIRE date- January 1, 2024. I then thought of what are the three biggest risks I face in have a successful retirement. They are, in order of risk: (1) my marriage; (2) my health; and (3) my finances. The fact that finances were #3 surprised me since it has consumed such a large percentage of my energy the last few years. But, the fact was, I had (or would have) a strong portfolio that should work like the math says it will and, beyond that, the markets are out of my control. My health is also, principally, a math problem, I just needed to get under control. It was my marriage, and not because my marriage isn’t strong (I think it is, relatively anyway), but because I know that my vision of retirement does not exactly mirror my wife’s. Broadly speaking it does (nomad-like traveling), but our approaches to that can be very, very different. That is going to require compromise and — sometimes — some time away from each other as we pursue our own paths, only to meet up later. We have talked about this some already, but I know that we will need to discuss it often as we ramp up for our FIRE and then beyond. We will also need to be flexible. The part that drives me crazy is that, unlike the health and finances risk mitigation, this risk cannot be mitigated through well-designed, math driven solutions.

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