Divorce and FIRE: Liz from Rose Colored Water
For an audio version of this post, please click on the speaker icon (top left)
I am honored to present the next submission in my Divorce and FIRE series from an incredibly talented fellow blogger, by the name of Liz, that I came across through yet another blogging friend (Andrea from Saving Joyfully who is amazing in her own right).
Liz graciously accepted my invitation to tell the tale of her divorce and the lessons she learned from it.
Some of you may know me, but for those who don’t, my name is Liz and I blog over at Rose Colored Water.
When Xraysvn asked me to share my divorce story, I was honored and surprised.
No one ever asks about it. [As my readers will soon come to realize, I lack social grace and start topics others avoid in polite conversation]
I think we’ve become accustomed to tiptoeing around this topic (like personal finance) because we feel like we’re dredging up old wounds.
I am always happy to share my story if it might help another, so I gladly accepted.
I am 28 years old, and I chose to divorce my ex-husband exactly two years after we married.
We were set-up by a mutual friend in January 2012.
Though we did not feel compatible at that time, we became quick friends.
Over time, our friendship developed and we began dating in June 2013.
In May 2014, we moved in together, eventually marrying right after my 25th birthday in May 2015.
I can’t aptly describe our marriage without providing background on my ex-husband.
When we met, he was what I would call a wayward ship.
He had dropped out of college and worked a slew of low-income jobs.
He was part of the National Guard, and volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan in an attempt to restart his life.
It was on his mid-tour home that we took our relationship to the next level and began dating.
He told me he wanted his life to be more than what it was and that he was ready to grow up and pursue a better future.
I always told my friends I would never have dated him pre-deployment because he was immature and childish.
His deployment gave him a “reality check” and made him want more out of life.
I thought we would build an amazing life together.
All the red flags were there when he returned home, though.
He was still a mess financially and emotionally.
I knew he wasn’t financially responsible when he spent nearly all his deployment money on a brand new car, ignoring mine and his family’s warning.
I also learned his credit was in the 500 range because he had two collections from his college days.
I ignored the signs because most of his mistakes were “in the past.”
I helped him find a well-paying job, and we were able to move in together.
We were happy in that “broke with big dreams” way, but that quickly faded as money stress mounted.
He was fired after six months, and continued to bounce around until we moved to Colorado in 2016.
Why would I agree to marry him even after all this?
I can only call myself blind, foolish, and in love.
His inability to hold a job is what ultimately led to me joining the Air Force (the best decision of my life).
I knew I would never be able to depend on him to provide for us, so I needed to find a reliable, well-paying career that could always cover us and help achieve our financial goals.
I hadn’t realized that we were never on the same financial page and my financial goals weren’t in line with his.
One of the things I regret most was letting him convince me that we needed a big wedding.
It’s “what his family expected.”
My family encouraged us to elope and not go into debt, but he refused.
I remember crying while calling venues because we couldn’t afford any of them.
We had no money.
I had a great credit score and high limits available on all my cards.
We were living life on my credit and that’s how we paid for everything.
In hindsight, I know our relationship was a mess before we got married.
I remember wishing I hadn’t gone through with it a week after the ceremony.
It took four years for me to see that my partner was immature and irresponsible who always played the victim.
I don’t say that lightly, as I defended him until around our second year of marriage.
He lost every job he found, and it was always someone else’s fault.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
I honestly thought everything would be okay once I got into the Air Force because I would finally be making enough money to cover us.
His job losses had become a part of life.
I never expected him to keep one.
Things only got worse when we moved to Colorado and my first duty station.
Even though he did find a great government job with great pay (which are tough to get fired from), he hated it and was never happy.
Every day after work, he would launch into how much he hated his job, the people, and that he was the only one who worked hard.
THE AIR FORCE CHANGED ME.
The Air Force teaches you to be strong and confident, something I hadn’t been for a long time.
My section became like family to me, and soon I had an entire support system that made me feel invincible.
The military is a male-dominated work environment, and this was the first time I had experienced friendships with mature, adult men.
My bosses and supervisors were amazing role models.
Most of them were financially secure, responsible, and put their families’ needs first.
I didn’t want to divorce him, but the realization that I was married to a man-child started to hit home.
I already resented him for the financial recklessness and job losses, but it began growing into bitterness and embarrassment.
I AM A STATISTIC.
In May 2017, I hit my breaking point.
The moment had been building, and it all came to a head when he missed my birthday gathering.
I know that sounds trite, but it was a light bulb moment for me.
As I sat surrounded by my closest friends, I felt deeply embarrassed, ashamed, and hurt – and I knew I would be better off alone.
My goal in this post is not for you to dislike him.
He is a very loving, kind man, but he was not a good partner.
Divorce brings out every person’s worst sides, and my ex was destroyed and angry when he realized I was serious about our separation.
I did not want to work it out or continue trying, and this hurt him even more.
MY FINANCIAL DOWNFALL
This is where people get confused.
I took all our debt as my own to avoid lawyers and more fighting.
Let me explain.
Without going into long and laborious details, I was committed to our debt freedom.
Because I never thought I would divorce him, I made some dumb decisions a few months prior to my decision.
I moved all our consumer debt and his high-interest vehicle loan to low-interest credit cards that were in my name.
He had been an authorized user, but held no real accountability to pay them.
Because the debt was under my name, he refused to pay for the portion that was his.
At that time, we had about $65,000 in combined debt, though $47,000 was my student loans and car.
“His portion” was about $15,000 between his car and the split credit card debt.
We agreed to put off filing for a few months, and he would stay in the apartment and share rent/bills while he saved up enough money to move out.
This helped me a bit because I was paying all the bills and couldn’t afford to break the lease.
Of course, that arrangement didn’t work out long, and he eventually stopped paying me anything.
In late August, he demanded we file immediately because he wanted to be done with it.
I couldn’t blame him for that.
Things were so bad that I agreed to stop bugging him about the debt if he would go quietly.
I didn’t want to involve lawyers because we had no money.
I felt that by the time we fought over who owed what, anything he would be forced to pay me would be eaten up by lawyer and court fees.
Aside from taking on our cumulative debt, the actual divorce cost $233.
Everything was settled out of court before we filed.
We have no children, so it was a straightforward process.
We printed the paperwork from the Colorado state website and filled it out together at the courthouse.
He was so angry with me that he didn’t take any of our furnishings except the television and the new bedding we’d just bought (that he picked out).
Our divorce finalized on November 30, 2017.
I found a roommate to help cover the costs of the apartment until the lease was up.
In the last year, I have reduced the debt to $47,000.
This involved downgrading my car and cutting expenses.
I also kept a roommate until I moved to Florida in August.
Though it required sacrifice, I am proud of how much debt I’ve paid off so far.
It is more than my ex-husband and I ever paid off when we were together.
I don’t speak with my ex anymore, but we have mutual friends and I’ve heard he is doing well now.
He is doing much better than me financially.
He traded in his car for another brand new vehicle, which I guess he could afford since he had no debt.
I’m still a little bitter about that, considering I am still paying for his old vehicle, but I chose to divorce him.
I am happy with where my future is going.
I have never regretted the decision to get a divorce – only that I allowed my partner to impact my financial values and use my credit cards.
If I get married again, I will not combine finances with my spouse.
We will find another alternative for building a financial life together.
From a straight money perspective, my divorce set me back a few years.
However, the financial and emotional wisdom I gained is priceless, and I think I’m better with money because of it.
I never want to feel burdened by money again, and I like knowing that I can blame only myself if mistakes are made.
Telling my spouse I wanted a divorce was the most freeing moment of my adult life.
For months, I went back and forth, fighting against the guilt and failure I would feel if I “actually went through with it.”
I never actually thought I would… It was tough.
The hardest part was telling our family and friends.
Once that part was over, I began recovering and turning my financial life around.
I admit, divorce was the easy way out for me.
Trying to work it out would have been much harder, and I often tell people who are struggling in their marriages to seek counseling and other alternatives if they truly want to make it work.
I was done fighting and struggling.
I wanted a new life and a fresh start.
To those that feel the way I did, please stop living in fear.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what anyone else believes is the right decision.
You are the one living in an unhappy situation.
They don’t know the full story and they will never fully understand what you are going through.
Do not let fear of the unknown, guilt, or worry keep you miserable.
Thank you for reading my story.
Feel free to ask me any questions.
I am very open about this topic and will do my best to answer.
I really want to thank Liz for this wonderfully written account of what must have an incredibly trying time in her life.
This submission alone has exceeded what I had hoped to achieve by starting this series in the first place.
I do hope that her words of wisdom can help someone who may be stuck in a very unhappy place have the courage to seek help and make changes for the better.
Life is too short to be unhappy or feel trapped with someone you are not meant to be with.
I wish Liz well and hope her financial journey continues to be on the upward trajectory she appears to be on.
If you, or someone you know, would like to submit a Divorce and FIRE story, I would love to hear from you.
You can remain anonymous unless you specifically give permission to reveal your identity.
I have created an outline of some of the topics you might want to consider elaborating on in your submission.
NOTE: The website XRAYVSN contains affiliate links and thus receives compensation whenever a purchase through these links is made (at no further cost to you). Although these proceeds help keep this site going they do not have any bearing on the reviews of any products I endorse which are from my own honest experiences. Thank you- XRAYVSN