How physicians can save their marriage

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, the bedroom, 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 (infidelity, someone leaving, or some other impasse), 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 until 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.

The bedroom

I am not going to spend a ton of time on this one, but I am also not going to shy away from important topics that are worth discussion. After all, there is almost nothing you can do that is more detrimental to both your wealth and your wellness than divorce. (Though cheap, amicable divorces do exist, I’ve heard.)

I’ll leave it as simple as this:  If you haven’t had honest conversations about what you expect to happen in your wedding chamber — and how often — one or both of you is going to be disappointed.  Some studies have shown that 20 percent of marriages have sex less than ten times per year.

It is reasonable and healthy to have real conversations about your expectations.  If the other person is on a completely different page, then talk about it.

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 it’s 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 things 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 bedroom, the bank, and raising your kids (if you want any).  Work to make reality close to your expectations.  It may just save your marriage.

“The Physician Philosopher” is an anesthesiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, The Physician Philosopher.

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