In today’s post, I talk about our most important investment of 2020. It’s probably the best $1000 we’ll spend this year.
A few weeks ago before our most recent Covid lockdown, the Dr-ess and I enjoyed an outdoor date night on a still-warm November evening in Los Angeles. As we ate some really marvelous baba ganoush, we pulled out a notebook and did our homework together. We listed the top things that we like about our marriage, and also the top things we dislike. It was an uncomfortable conversation. Thank goodness we had a nice bottle of wine to help us out.
Why would we do such a thing on an otherwise pleasant night? Well, we’re taking a relationship course. Hot off the success of the real estate investing course we took from the Semi-Retired MDs, we decided to make an important investment in our marriage as well.
Long relationship, long list of issues
The Dr-ess and I have been married for over a decade and together twice as long as that. Recently, we officially tipped over into the phase where we’ve spent over half of our lives together as a couple.
Over this time, we’ve gradually build up a list of grievances with each other. We discovered over dinner that there’s nothing earth shattering on the list. But it’s a robust list of minor complaints that left unattended could spell trouble down the road.
Insurance against disaster
As a high earning professional, a lot of my financial planning is about risk reduction.
There are a handful of things that can really spell disaster for a physician. They include job related things like malpractice, handicap, and job loss. There’s also the regular life things like car crashes and fires.
To mitigate these risks, I’ve got almost every type of insurance out there. It’s expensive, but I consider them an important part of our investment strategy. I even have a Tesla Model 3 with Autopilot to reduce my risk of crashing on my commute. At work, I try to be empathetic and conscientious with my patients to reduce my risk of being sued.
But when it comes to marriage, there’s no insurance policy I can buy to protect against disaster. What kind of disaster? Well, divorce (of course).
One house, one spouse
When I started residency training after medical school, I got a lot of unsolicited financial advice. Most of it was pretty good, like not taking on too much debt and shopping at the 99 Cent store. Another piece of advice that I heard repeatedly was the adage, “One house, one spouse.”
This advice mainly came from divorced attending physicians, who were either remarried and tired of paying alimony, or still single and embittered with life.
I’ve clearly violated the “one house” rule, although I think they weren’t really talking about rental properties. But I hope to never violate the one spouse rule.
The costs of divorce
Clearly many people are divorced and happier than ever. But the dissolution of a marriage usually comes with significant emotional and financial sacrifice, at least in the short term. For more on this, read blogs like Xrayvsn and his excellent “Divorce and FIRE” series.
Since I’m still married, I won’t presume to speak of the emotional aspects of divorce. I imagine it’s not fun.
I do understand that the financial consequences alone can be devastating. Lifelong alimony for the higher earning spouse. Forced sales of assets to allow for the splitting of wealth. Suddenly doubled living expenses due to one spouse moving out. Legal costs. The list goes on.
And finally, there’s a toll on the kids. Even in the most amicable divorce, kids go through big changes in routine and identity.
Change is tough
The Darwinian Dr-ess and I enjoy what I would consider a good marriage. We care about each other. We are invested in the well-being of our children. We value many of the same things.
But as I’ve gone through my mid-life crisis, our relationship has been stressed like never before. Through uncomfortable talks, heavy silences and sidelong glances, it became clear that we may not see eye to eye on our long term life goals anymore.
Many of our conversations on the topic became arguments. We clearly needed new tools to have these conversations successfully.
So we decided to make an important investment in our marriage. We spent a thousand dollars and signed up for an online course, taught by a relationship guru from Canada.
Now, during our weekend nap drives with our boys, we listen to the online modules and Q&As. And on our Sunday night date nights, we drink wine and go through communication exercises.
So far so good
We’re about halfway through the course, and we’ve already had some breakthroughs. Our respective visions for the future are more compatible now. We’ve aired out some long-standing simmering discontentments. There’s a renewed sense of closeness and partnership in our marriage.
In summary, my wife and I decided to spend $1000 to take an online course to improve our marriage. We’re about halfway through the course, and it’s already made a big difference. If it continues along in this way, I imagine I’ll post a glowing review of the course at some point to share the resource with you as well.
This course comprises only a small part of the money we’ve invested in 2020. But I believe we’ll look back on this as the most important investment of the year, by far.
How have you invested in your relationships this year? Please comment below and subscribe for more!
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